Summary: Zephaniah show us that we can avoid complacency by gathering together, seeking Jesus and obeying His commands.
Each month the Conference Board computes what is known as the Index of Leading Economic Indicators. This index is computed based on economic data and is supposed to be a predictor of the future direction of our economy here in the United States. That index is used by government officials, businesses and individual investors as they make plans for the future.
But a little over 2,600 years ago, the prophet Zephaniah described an index of his own. But rather than focusing on the economy, his index focused on the spiritual condition of the people in his country, Judah. This morning we’re going to use the words of Zephaniah to help us both look backward and evaluate where we are spiritually and also look forward to see what we can do in our own lives to avoid the spiritual complacency that is the cause of God’s judgment on His people. So go ahead and turn in your Bibles to the Book of Zephaniah and in just a moment we’ll read the first chapter. You’ll find Zephaniah near the end of the Old Testament right after the Book of Habakkuk that we looked at last week.
But before we read our passage, let’s take a moment to look at the background of Zephaniah’s prophecy.
Fortunately, Zephaniah provides us with some information about his ministry. Verse 1 of the book reveals his heritage, including the fact that he was the great grandson of Hezekiah. We can’t be sure whether or not this is the same Hezekiah who served earlier as the king of Judah. You might remember that we ran across him when we looked at the prophecy of the incarnation of Jesus in Isaiah 9. But if Zephaniah is a descendent of King Hezekiah, that would mean that he had royal blood and that that he was related to the current king, Josiah.
Zephaniah’s name means “YHWH hides”, perhaps a reference to him being hidden away as a child during the evil reign of Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh. We’ll also see later this morning that his name is quite relevant to the message that God gives him to proclaim to the people.
As I mentioned, Zephaniah reveals that his prophecy took place during the reign of King Josiah, in the southern kingdom of Judah. Josiah was a reformer who removed much of the idolatrous worship that had crept into Judah. Although he reigned from 640 to 609 BC, it appears that Zephaniah’s prophecy took place early in Josiah’s reign, prior to the fall of Nineveh in 620 BC and before many of Josiah’s reforms were put into place. That would make Zephaniah a contemporary of Jeremiah, Nahum and Habakkuk.
With that background, I’ll read the first chapter of Zephaniah:
1 The word of the Lord that came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.
2 “I will utterly sweep away everything
from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
3 “I will sweep away man and beast;
I will sweep away the birds of the heavens