Summary: To show the conditions before, the condemnation by and the comfort in the Day of the Lord.
The Day of the Lord
Text: Zephaniah 1:1-7
Introduction: I would dare say that not one person in a thousand has heard a message from the book of Zephaniah. This little prophecy just three chapters long is one of the most overlooked passages of Scripture in all God’s Word. Unquoted from in the New Testament, Zephaniah is perhaps the least known book of the Old Testament. And yet this book has much to offer us.
In the opening verse Zephaniah identifies himself for us, tracking his lineage back four generations to king Hezekiah. He is of the royal line. We know not only where he came from, but also when he ministered. His prophecy came during the reign of king Josiah. King Josiah you may recall was the king credited with bringing about spiritual reform in Judah. He overturned much of the idolatry implanted by his grandfather Manasseh, and father Amon. But the changes that he made in Israel whilst sincere on his part produced only a superficial form of religion. There was no real heart change among the people. There was reformation, but little regeneration. This was the day in which Zephaniah ministered. His ministry coincided with that of Jeremiah, and his message is clear, he spoke of the coming Day of the Lord.
The phrase “Day of he Lord” appears some 30 times throughout Scripture, and it refers to any time that God intervenes in the affairs of man with judgment, but ultimately it refers to the last great move of God in human affairs when Christ Himself shall appear to judge the world in righteousness. In a "general" sense the term refers to the period of time after the Rapture and lasting for one thousand and seven years to the time just before the Great White Throne. But the "specific" usage of the word is in reference to the day that the Lord Jesus Christ returns to the earth.
It speaks of a time of retribution, which is followed by a period of restoration. And when Zephaniah speaks of the day of the Lord, which he refers to 19 times in all, he is speaking the first place of the Babylonian captivity, followed by the return of the captives seventy years later, but in the second place of a much greater event which encapsulated the whole earth, in which God would judge the Gentile nations and save Israel unto Himself. So this is a prophecy that impacts upon our time. It speaks to us of the imminence of Jesus’ return, the reality of God’s judgment and the promise of Christ’s kingdom on earth.
Let’s take a look then at Zephaniah’s prophecy and see exactly how this prophet portrayed the Day of the Lord.
I. The Conditions Before the Day of the Lord
A. What will the world be like before Jesus’ return?
1. It will be how it was in the days of Zephaniah the prophet and Josiah the king.
B. Understand Josiah was a good king.
1. His intentions were honourable. He rid Israel of idolatry and he restored the worship of Jehovah.
2. He brought about great spiritual reform. Some even speak of revival, but if it was a revival it was a very shallow revival.
3. That is why when you read Zephaniah you read no mention of revival or reformation. You see God sees beyond the surface. God doesn’t read man’s publicity, he reads the human hearts, and the hearts of men, even in good king Josiah’s day, were very far from God.
C. Those were days marked by an appetite for sensuality – vs 4
1. Although outwardly people were giving their allegiance to Jehovah, inwardly they were still worshiping Baal.
2. The Old Testament abounds with warnings against Baal worship.
3. According to the Apostle Paul those warnings "are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." (1Cor 10:11)
4. But who is Baal? and what is Baal worship?
5. Why God so incensed when His people worship Baal? Are we wrong in assuming that Baal was some ancient god that has nothing to do with us? Or could it be that Baal worship is something of which our society is guilty?
6. Baal was the pagan god of nature and fertility.
a. "...Baal worship apparently had its origin in the belief that every tract of ground owed its productivity to a supernatural being, or Baal, that dwelt there.
b. The farmers probably thought that from the Baalim, or fertility gods, came the increase of crops, fruit and cattle ...
c. The worship of Baal was accompanied with:
(i) Lascivious rites (1 Kings 14:24),
(ii) The sacrifice of children in the fire by parents (Jeremiah 19:5).
(iii) Baal was also associated with the goddess Ashtaroth (Judges 2:13), and in the vicinity of his altar there was often an Asherah, a phallic symbol which was central to the worship.