Introduction & Background
God speaks through the Prophet Zephaniah, little is known of him apart from his name and pedigree. Zephaniah means - ‘Yaweh has hidden/protected’ this name given could indicate the families piety as they trusted in God during the godless reign of Manasseh. In regard to Zephaniahs pedigree the genealogy 1:1 Indicates Zephaniah is a descendant of Hezekiah the pious king before two wicked kings assumed the throne.
(1) He prophesised during the reign of Josiah (640-602 BC) who was 8 years old when he began his reign and reigned for 31 years, he was a righteous king and brought much reforms to Judah ( 2Kings; 22:1-23; 2 Chr 34:1-35; Jer 1:2). But even his righteous actions were not able to revert Gods judgement upon Judah and its officials and inhabitants.
At this point in history the Northern kingdom is already exiled 722BC. So when Israel is mentioned in this book it refers (2:9, 3:13-15) to the remaining southern Kingdom of Israel which is Judah and its capital Jerusalem (1:4).
The prevailing theme of Zephaniah, his prophetic message ( 610/15BC) is of coming judgement,
1. The Prophet proclaims Judgement is coming; The day of the Lord is at hand. ( Zeph: 1:7 WARNING).
This prophecy of judgment was fulfilled approx 25 /30 years later the wicked were swept away, when the Babylonian forces took Judah into captivity in 586 BC also the surrounding nations were crushed. Exactly what Zephaniah prophesised ( 610 - 615BC) all actually happened, to the letter.
( v1 The genuine Word of the Lord ) Judgement is the authentic Word from the living God and not the Word from the false teacher/preachers/Pastors/Priests/Vicars who preach and tolerance. . Both contemporary prophets Habakkuk (1:6) and Jeremiah (5:14-15) like Zephaniah both prophesised this coming judgment to Judah that if they do not humble repent, turn back to Gods covenant then forthcoming judgement is at hand.
Our Response is like a TWO SIDED COIN Side 1 Those who continue to sin and rebel against God judgement is coming as it came to Judah and the surrounding nations (1:2–18)
Chapter 1. Zephaniah prophesised Judgement was coming to the earth (2-3) to the nations (2:4-15); even against Gods own people to Judah and its inhabitants of Jerusalem (4) , towards its officials and priests who were still involved in Idolatry of Baal worship and other idolatry practices of false worship (4-5) , those who have turned away and no longer seek the Lord (6) On that day every mouth will be silenced (7) judgement will fall upon the wicked who will be consecrated for sacrifice (7). All Kings, the lofty, all who practice injustice, violence and fraud will be brought low ; Specific neighbourhoods in Jerusalem wailing will be heard (10-11) , businesses will cease, homes and goods plundered, their labours in the vineyards will be futile (13), the complacent in Jerusalem will be punished (12).
You can almost experience judgement, the heaviness coming through the pages in these verses (V14-16) The clouds are now thickening with gloom over Judah and Jerusalem, reeling from its effects, it tastes bitter, a day of wrath, distress and anguish, a day when Jerusalem lies in ruins, a day of darkness and gloom ( imagine the sight, the stench, the atmosphere of such a battlefield, the bodies, the decay, the death).
Not even the most secure places in Jerusalem are safe the day of the Lord’s righteous wrath. All humanity will be brought to judgement (1:17-18) In chapter two he becomes specific with neighbouring nations are not immune from this judgement to come (4-5) Philistines (8-11) Moab and Ammom (2:12) Cush (13-15) Assyria All will come under the Judgement of God, through the Babylonians.
Note to self - Judgement is coming to our earth to all of humanity - In the form of aggressive enemies ( consider the rise of militant Islam) but more importantly the day of the Lord Himself, the Son of Man appearing on the clouds with all his holy army of God.
This is still the prophetic Word from the lord (1) a prophecy still to be fulfilled. We must take note, and make sure we are right with God that we have turned from our own wicked ways and called upon the name of the Lord.
Warning Application - The danger for us is that we simply compartmentalise this as in a place of history for a time and for a certain group of people, as a historical event, informative words of historical significance for the mind, good historical teaching material, but applicable for us today; But we would be in grave danger if we did just that and carried on regardless, because this is a prophetic word from the Lord to Israel, to the nations and to his Church, although this prophecy fulfilled in part many OT prophecies still have a future fulfilment.
• The day of the Lord is near and Jesus is returning to Jerusalem, to judge the earth and restore his elect Church; The prophet Zechariah 14:1-11 speaks of this awesome day; he will gather the nations and do battle, Jerusalem will be secured, his people restored; Daniele the prophet writes in detail of this awesome day
• Jesus testified to his own 2nd coming Matt: 24 3-12 HE IS THE LORD he spoke of terrible signs of the close of the age (v29 -31) of His Coming 25:31 -46 of the final judgement .
• His apostles testified and awaited his 2nd coming (1Thes 5:1-11 ). 1 Peter 3:1-7 The day will come
So what is our response? This coming judgement, do we scoff like so many, do we speak peace, when there is no coming peace, do we publish lies, do we the prophetic Word and put our hands over our ears and carry on regardless, in unbelief, like many in Judah and the surrounding nations how do we respond? If so Judgement is coming and it will be knocking on your door.
2. The Prophet proclaims a gracious offer 2:1-3
Here we see the other side of the coin in chapter 2 God’s gracious offer 2:1-3 towards a shameless nation (1) Repentance and salvation is still possible (3).
First we here the hard truth about the nation (Israel/Judah) a nation God regards as shamless, their actions (Chapter1 exposed) demonstrate that they are not covenant followers of Yahweh, that they have no right to be considered Gods people, unless of course they repent .
What is true of the people of Israel is true for all nations upon the earth, and it is true of our own nation U.K we ourselves live in times of shameless acts, ( false worship, idolatry, immorality, violence, injustice) where we despise God, His covenant love, we have transgressed his laws, We have abolished and abrogated his laws, we are decadent and full of own pride and self righteousness , that which is wicked has become right and that which is right and true has become wrong.
The Bible states We have all sinned (Rom 3:23) and fallen short of his law, fallen short of the glory of God. Judgement is coming to our shameless nation, a nation which we espouse to be fundamentally right and true, once enriched with a great Christian heritage is all but left in shameless ruins, Yet despite this charge, there is still time, there is still an opportunity to turn to God in repentance and faith.
In the midst of this shameless nation there is still time ! The day of the Lords judgement has not come yet (2) There is an urgency in the Prophets voice (20 before the decree takes effect - come on wake up! - before the day passes away like chaff – Judgement will come and go, and you will be no more, Judgement will come quickly and there will be a quick departure of those who abandon God, it will be inevitable as they are burnt away like chaff. before there comes upon you the burning anger of the LORD, then its repeated before there comes upon you the day of anger of the LORD This highlights the judgemental nature of Gods coming predicted righteous anger judgment towards Judah and the nations (3:8) Must read.
A Gracious offer is declared V3 Seek the LORD all you humble of the land , who do his just commands, seek righteousness; seek humility, perhaps you may be hidden on the day of anger of the LORD.
On the other side of the coin (2:1-3) Those who have kept his covenant, those who humbly repent and seek the LORD will show himself just in punishment and in the midst of this day they will be filled with anticipation praise.
V 3 Judah is called to seek the Lord, this is a sign of true piety Psalm 27:8, 105:3-4) this is the opposite to others in Judah (1:5-6).
Isaiah 55:6 Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. 7Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.
Have You sought the Lord, have you turned from your own wicked ways as Gods child are you then continuing to seeking the Lord.
V3 All the humble of the land - So not everyone is apostate, there are those that rely upon God rather than themselves, a remnant who keep his covenant who are humble and lowly ( who are the meek) and that they need to turn from themselves for help. Those who do his just commands, who seek after right living on that day.
v3 Perhaps you may be hidden - theological important word which highlights Gods grace and sovereignty will be manifested to towards them. (Ex 32:30, Amos 5:15)
Application how can we apply this, there is still any opportunity here in our own nation judgment is pending, it will be soon be upon us, but there is still a call to people to seek the Lord while he may be found, if we are prepared to humble ourselves to repent, of our wicked ways, to keep his commandments.
Today we must look not to ourselves but to another, The LORD himself the one who fulfilled all these requirements of true humility, servant obedience to the law, and fulfilled all righteousness. Righteousness, in him and in him alone we can be hidden, Gods grace is found in Him Jesus Christ our righteousness
• 1 Cor 1:30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,
• Phil 3:9. and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith.
• 2Cor 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
American pioneers who were making their way across one of the central states to a distant place opened up for homesteading. They travelled in covered wagons drawn by oxen, and progress was necessarily slow. One day they were horrified to note a long line of smoke in the west, stretching for miles across the prairie, and soon it was evident that the dried grass was burning fiercely and coming toward them rapidly. They had crossed a river the day before but it would be impossible to go back to that before the flames would be upon them. One man only seemed to have understanding as to what could be done. He gave the command to set fire to the grass behind them. Then when a space was burned over, the whole company moved back upon it.
As the flames roared on toward them from the west, a little girl cried out in terror, “Are you sure we shall not all be burned up?” The leader replied, “My child, the flames cannot reach us here, for we are standing where the fire has been!”
What a picture of the believer, who is safe in Christ! On Him Almighty vengeance fell, Which would have sunk a world to hell. He bore it for a chosen race, And thus becomes our Hiding Place. The fires of God’s judgment burned themselves out on Him, and all who are in Christ are safe forever, for they are now standing where the fire has been. Isaiah 55:6 Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. 7Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.
2. The Prophet proclaims hope for a remnant 2:6-7
The Day of the Lord, is a day of Judgment, but for a remnant (believers) its a day of Hope, when things will be restored, for a chosen few, despite this coming judgment, good would preserve and care for a group of refugees in a foreign land, all hope is not lost.
We have seen the offer of grace to a shameless nation (2:13) and how we should magnify his grace towards us, in offering repentance to the humble; we have seen the devastation of Judgment (Chapter 1 upon Israel and the nations, on the day of judgment) GODS DIVINE JUSTICE. And we see God himself keeps a remnant of Gods faithful people, who kept his covenant, although taken into exile, in a foreign land, Babylon. (605 FIRST WAVE OF EXILES /586 BC TEMPLE DESTROYED 2nd wave )
Yahweh always had plans for them (Jeremiah 29:10-13) even in exile; A remnant have a great hope; God promises they would later return to the land of Judah and Israel v6- 7 pleasant pastures shall be supplied for them for the shepherds of the flock: The seacoast shall become their possession of the remnant of the house of Judah on which they shall graze and in the houses of Ashkelon the shall lie down at evening for the LORD their God will be mindful of them and restore their fortunes.
V6-7 God is mindful of his remnant in a foreign land he will not forget them he cares for his refugees, with an ongoing care for their needs, he prospers them in exile, a coming punishment upon Judah’s opponents will result in good for Judah (Persians) who will ultimately receive again the land that was originally taken from them referring to the Philistines long time enemies of Israel, the Philistines dwelling in the coastal towns southwest of JUDAH - ( Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod Ekron v4-5). (3:20).
( This time Zephaniah speaks about is what (Jer 29: 14 prophesised) & 23:3 I will gather a remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and bring them back to their fold and they shall be fruitful and multiply Deut 30:1-10 a return from exile to the Land a remanant had an expectant hope of Gods ongoing care
Background exiles return ; And in 539 BC the Babylonians were conquered by the Persians and under King Cyrus and a year later Jewish exiles were free to return to Israel and Judah and start to rebuild the temple (2Chr 36:22-23). A restored people a restored temple led first return under Zerubabbaal (538-535 BC), temple rebuilt (516BC 70 years from its destruction) then Ezra (458 BC) restored much of the worship and law and then under Nehemiah 445 - 423 BC who rebuilt the walls, the cities defences; this faithful remnant were to be Gods continued witness to the world. The land had been given back to them he promised hope for the remnant would be realised.
Application - All restorations of a faithful remnant of Gods people, in Israel and Judah ultimately point to the Day of the Lord, the final inauguration of the reign of God, to which all previous restorations have pointed us too this is our future hope!
When God will defeat all our surrounding enemies, whilst we inhabit a foreign land, he continues to care for us, a remnant of his people; In Christ God has poured out His righteous judgment upon His Son and poured out his grace upon us, The judgement to come wont destroy us, it will refine us, the last enemy of death and sin will be destroyed, the devil will be defeated and face the 2nd death, the wicked of men and nations will stand before the great white throne and face judgement, the whole earth will be laid bare by fire, and all that is opposed against God will be conquered on the Day of the LORD and Christ shall reign on the new heaven and the new earth with the new Jerusalem his Holy bride coming down from heaven and we shall dwell with the LORD forever, as he cares for us upon Gods new earth and the temple of God will be with man.
• This is our wonderful hope we still proclaim today for a remnant of Gods people!