The Book of Zephaniah Survey

The Book of Zephaniah Survey

The Book of Zephaniah Survey

Pr Edi Giudetti

03-12-2017

 

There is no doubt that the book of Zephaniah deals with the tribulation period, it is, as usual in the Old Testament, reffered to as the day of the Lord. The Tribulation period is a time of history that is yet future to us and yet is the most impactful day of history for all who will undergo a time never seen and never to be repeated.

Other than the books of Obadiah, Habakkuk and Malachi, its seems to be much the norm among the balance of the twelve minor prophets, that a genealogy or an historical placement is provided for us at the introduction of their testimony as to the word or the burden that came to them of the Lord.

Zephaniah is no different.

1:1 The word of the Lord which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.

 

Zephaniah gives his genealogy but this is not easily traced. The mention that he is the great, great grandson of Hizkiah many refer to King Hezekiah. Other than the timing, it remains difficult to trace as there is no mention of a son of King Hezekiah named Amariah. This does not deny the assertion, but it does draw out the difficulty in linking the line with confidence.

 

What can be said however is that, unlike all the prophets before and after him, Zephaniah goes into the largest detail to describe his genealogical line, perhaps this is a hint that he desires to make known his pedigree, perhaps this is the best argument that his decent is of a royal line.

 

He does also tell us exactly when “the word of the Lord” came to him, it came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah. This was the last godly king of the nation of Judah, this was the final spiritual revival of the people of God prior to their fall, and the judgement of God landing upon that nation for their sin through history.

 

Within twenty-five years of Josiah, no less than four kings will follow his death just prior to the fall of Jerusalem.

 

Zephaniah was contemporary with Jeremiah who also began his ministry in the thirteenth year of Josiah right up to and including the Fall of Jerusalem. Both Jeremiah and Zephaniah preached to the Southern Kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem.

 

Jeremiah was the last of the Pre Exilic Major prophets, Zephaniah is the last of the Pre Exilic Minor Prophets.

 

The relationship to other books do not rest however with Jeremiah, you cannot read the book of Zephaniah without immediately linking its main theme with that of the book of Joel. “The Day of the Lord” is directly referred to seven times in Zephania.

 

Almost 50% of all occurrences in the Old Testament of the phrase “The Day of the Lord” occur between these two short books of Joel and Zephaniah. We see then that the basic theme of the book relates to that of the final judgement of the Lord upon both The nation of Israel and the Nations of the world.

 

This knowledge is vital for our survey understanding of Zephaniah, it is also vital for our ability to know more about the context of that Day, a day that includes the return of the Lord to dwell in the midst of the people he has purchased, the people he has protected, defended and hidden from the wrath of God

 

Perhaps you will not be surprised to learn also that the Name ‘Zephaniah’ means “The Protected of the LORD” or “The Defended of the LORD” or “The Hidden of the LORD”. It has amazed me how often the name of the Prophet summarises the book of the Prophet.

 

 

 

Wrath will Rain Upon the Wicked Of The Nation

 

Zeph 1:7-18

 Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God:

For the day of the Lord is at hand:

For the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice,

He hath bid his guests.

And it shall come to pass in the day of the Lord’s sacrifice,

That I will punish the princes, and the king’s children,

And all such as are clothed with strange apparel.

In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold,

Which fill their masters’ houses with violence and deceit.

10 And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord,

That there shall be the noise of a cry from the fish gate,

And an howling from the second,

And a great crashing from the hills.

11 Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh,

For all the merchant people are cut down;

All they that bear silver are cut off.

12 And it shall come to pass at that time,

That I will search Jerusalem with candles,

And punish the men that are settled on their lees:

That say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil.

13 Therefore their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation:

They shall also build houses, but not inhabit them;

And they shall plant vineyards, but not drink the wine thereof.

14 The great day of the Lord is near,

It is near, and hasteth greatly,

Even the voice of the day of the Lord:

The mighty man shall cry there bitterly.

15 That day is a day of wrath,

A day of trouble and distress,

A day of wasteness and desolation,

A day of darkness and gloominess,

A day of clouds and thick darkness,

16 A day of the trumpet and alarm

Against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.

17 And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men,

Because they have sinned against the Lord:

And their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung.

18 Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them

In the day of the Lord’s wrath;

But the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy:

For he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.

 

 

Such wonder and joy it has been to learn of the nature of the Lord God in all the books of the Bible that precede this book. All that we have learned of the Character of God helps us put into perspective who he truly is and we discover that his nature and his being is consistent.

 

Friends it is not the stranger that can rightly judge the nature and character of a person when they act in ways unpleasant to the beholder of the action. It is the familiar person, the friend, the close relation. It is those that know all the surrounding influences that can rightly judge the actions of man that has been angered.

 

Many people are willing to read and see the nature of God in the New testament and single out John 3:16, but they don’t consider Zephaniah 3:17 to see the same Lord.

 

Zeph 3:17

 

The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty;

He will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy;

He will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

 

They see the judgements and wrath of God expressed in Zephaniah and think it’s a contradiction of God who IS LOVE.

 

The professional gardener will be looked upon by the stranger who known nothing but the giving of water to grow their greenery, they see the gardener take to the rose or to the vine or to the previously bloomed fruit tree with a sharp instrument and see him hack away at the tree.

 

The stranger thinks purposeful damage is being inflicted and have no knowledge that it is for the blossoming benefit of the plant that is pruned.

 

As we look at Zephaniah and consider this first point that Wrath will Rain Upon the Wicked Of The Nation, I would like to first give an illustration that we may rightly know and understand what is occurring.

 

An observer who only now comes unto the scene of a small house.

 

His witness is that of a dark figure, almost a silhouette, a man who opens the door to the bedroom of a young child. The Child screams and cries for her mother and the mother rushes into the room to embrace her child.

 

The man who stepped back into the shadows comes forward again to take the child from the arms of the mother and rushes out of the house, the mother rushes after him but, in sorrow, stops and picks up the phone and animatingly speaks to the person on the other end of the phone in tears.

 

The man flees from the house with the child, into the car and stops outside another building. With the child gripped tightly, he flings open the door without knocking, takes the child upstairs to a brightly lit room.

 

A while later, the man enters the room and takes a knife to the sleeping child.

 

The scene is more than just a little disturbing. Immediately we think the worst of the situation and would call the authorities, it is plain to us that a violent crime has been committed. As strangers who have just come on the scene, we would feel justified believing our care of that Child is our prime motivation and our love of justice the source of our contempt for the kidnapper and murderer.

 

But if we were not the stranger, but a familiar person who knows the details, we would have known that the kidnapper, the dark figure of a man, who opened the door to the room of the child, was the child’s father.

 

The child herself was suffering from appendicitis and the mother called the rooms of the physician to prepare for the child’s arrival due to an emergency rupture of the apendics. The Childs father was also the surgeon.

 

What we now see is that it was not a violent wrong being done to the child, but a motivated love that would work to remove from the body of the child something that, left untreated, would have killed her.

 

 

This first chapter of Zephaniah reveals to us an account of the long suffering father who will no longer permit his child to suffer a growing malignant cancer to continue to corrupt the body he called his own.

 

The context of the account given in Zephaniah we see is in the far distant future yet spoken of as at hand and immanent. This was written five to six hundred years before Christ, the event Zephaniah refers to is still future to us.

 

The Day of the Lord, known also as the Tribulation Period, is a period of seven years that will occur in the world with both the nation of Israel and the nations of the world as Gods focus.

 

It is a day that is near (v14)

14 The great day of the Lord is near,

It is near, and hasteth greatly,

Even the voice of the day of the Lord:

The mighty man shall cry there bitterly.

15 That day is a day of wrath,

A day of trouble and distress,

A day of wasteness and desolation,

A day of darkness and gloominess,

A day of clouds and thick darkness,

16 A day of the trumpet and alarm

Against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.

 

This is a time unlike any other time in history past and it will come upon the entire world, this will be a global problem, a time when the cancer of evil that would otherwise destroy the world, will be cut out.

 

Zephaniah begins with identifying Israel first.

 

Remember it is known as;

 

Evil has filled the land of Jacob and this period will be the time the Lord will destroy all the evil, and a remnant shall be saved.

 

Contrary to the thought of many strangers who know little to nothing of God, there are not two Gods in the Bible. There is not “The God of the Old Testament” and “The God of the New Testament”.

 

We have seen the compassion and love of the Lord, and we have also seen his justice.

 

Jesus purged the Temple of God from the evil works within it in the New Testament, So too does the father purge the nation of all the wicked within his land.

 

Wrath will Rain Upon the Wicked Of The Nations

 

Zeph 2:10-3:4

 

10 This shall they have for their pride,

Because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the Lord of hosts.

11 The Lord will be terrible unto them:

For he will famish all the gods of the earth;

And men shall worship him, every one from his place,

Even all the isles of the heathen.

12 Ye Ethiopians also, ye shall be slain by my sword.

13 And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria;

And will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness.

14 And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations:

Both the cormorant and the bittern shall lodge in the upper lintels of it;

Their voice shall sing in the windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds:

For he shall uncover the cedar work.

15 This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly,

That said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me:

How is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in!

Every one that passeth by her shall hiss, and wag his hand.

3 Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city!

She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction;

She trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near to her God.

Her princes within her are roaring lions;

Her judges are evening wolves;

They gnaw not the bones till the morrow.

Her prophets are light and treacherous persons:

Her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law.

 

We are all largely familiar with the sins of Judah and the nation of Israel, how, as the people of God to whom were committed the oracles of God, they obeyed not the God of the oracles they kept. But they turned to vanity, to the idols of the nations that surrounded her, they turned to the sins of the world and disobeyed the Holy one of Israel.

 

And when he sent her prophets she sinned all the more, and finally when the Lord of the harvest sent his own son, the people of Israel gathered themselves together and conspired to put to death their own saviour.

 

Yes, we are familiar with the sins of Israel and we can give true assent that her trespass against the Lord is justly dealt with by the Lord.

 

But in our own typical fashion we, as usual find it easier to point out the sins of others than we do our own sin, so it is not often readily apparent to understand why God would exercise such wrath against the nations of the world as he does for Israel.

 

Verse 3 of Zeph chapter 3 begins this outpouring of Gods anger on the gentiles of the world with this warning;

 

Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth,

Which have wrought his judgment;

Seek righteousness, seek meekness:

It may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger.

 

There will be none of the wicked hid from the Lords anger, but our Lord told us that the meek shall inherit the Earth, it is to them this warning is given,

 

Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth,

Seek righteousness, seek meekness:

It may be ye shall be hid….

 

We will see in the next point how the Lord is able to deliver those not appointed to wrath, from wrath.

But against the nations, the Lord has this most vital complaint;

10 This shall they have for their pride,

Because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the Lord of hosts.

 

Yes, so many are the complaints of God upon the people of the earth but the most terrible relates to how they have treated and magnified themselves against the people of the Lord of hosts. Against a people who witnessed the reality of God to them. They had seen through Israel that God is merciful and just, slow to anger and pardoning transgression to the thousandth generation to those that love him.

 

But when these same people who know the Lord, are treated with such evil by those they came to save, God will avenge them and will do so speedily.

 

Egypt was our first picture, a people who first welcomed them and received the blessing of God for accommodating the people of God, but when they enslaved them and entreated them evil four hundred years, God judged both them and their Gods with plagues never before seen.

 

Amelech, Moab, Edom, the Syrians and all who despised God came against his children and he dealt them the curse promised to Abraham.

 

Gen 12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

 

Zeph 2:10

10 This shall they have for their pride,

Because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the Lord of hosts.

 

And the Assyrians we have already seen in the book of Naham how they lifted up their heart in pride against Judah. We witnessed the history directly in Isaiah and in the books of the Kings and the Chronicles, the proud heart of Sennecherib against the wall of Jerusalem.

 

Assyria and Nineveh were the first Empire dealt with by the Lord

Babylon also lifted with pride and God dealt also with them. But it is with Nineveh and the Assyrians that we find the peculiar focus of Zephaniah.

We recall that Nineveh recieved of the Lord opportunity to repent of her sin, Jonah that great prophet who reluctantly persued the nation, preached to them that Gospel of God that warned of his wrath to come, “Yet forty days and Nineveh should be destroyed”. The repented and recieved to themselves that mercy of God so vital for their longevity and life. But it is agains the people of God that God is wrath with them.

A secular nation will of its own accord fall into disrepute, it is only when the voice of the suffering people is come before the Lord that he deals with them.

So too it has been with the world today.

But with the coming of Christ the Lord began to bring the word directly to the gentiles, for the death of the messiah promised from long ago had placed the word of God in the heart of the gentiles who believed.

First the middle east, then Asia Minor came to Christ and the spread could not be contained, to Galatia and across to Rome, to Thessalonica in Greece, with a ship wreck bringing the word of the Lord even to Malta.

All of Europe and the UK and then across the seas to that great land of America, founded for the very purpose of the Gospel to live in accord with the Gospel of Christ. To the southland of Australia, to Malaysia and China, Burma and India, the deepest parts of Africa.

A stay of wrath was accomplished by the Lord and this will continue until “The fulness of the gentiles be come in” (Rom 11:25). During the last two thousand years as the knowledge of the Lord had filled the land and the word of the Lord filled the languages of the world, the evil in the heart of man was curtailed. The more people came to know Christ, the more they interceded for the people of the world. During these years both men and women stood in the gap and prayed for the nations.

 

By the 20th Century however much of what was going on in the heart of man in the previous century was beginning to manifest itself in reality on the world.

Two great Wars had broken out in the 20th Century, forced upon the world by a nation that forgot God. Germany was the first nation to create doubt in the word of God. They prospered so greatly in the few centuries after Martin Luther, but the devil wrought well in the Scholar and pride lifted their hearts to cause the doubt required to turn them from righteousness to recalcitrance. The 20th Century was known as the bloodiest century in the history of the world, it came as men began to forget God.

 

Today the world has almost forgotten the Lord completely and the word of God is hidden in obscurity so much so that the greatest cause of doubt has become the impossibility of choosing equivalence. That is, when everything looks the same on the outside, and there are so many to choose from, how can we know which is right? Whether this be Gods many or Books many.

 

The leaders know nothing and hurt their subjects, the pastors are become vain and worthless and reject the law of God, happy to starve the sheep and goats that follow them.

 

Consider Zeph 3:3-4

 

Her princes within her are roaring lions;

Her judges are evening wolves;

They gnaw not the bones till the morrow.

Her prophets are light and treacherous persons:

Her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law.

 

Until the Lord gathers the nations to battle, there is when he begins and makes an end.

 

Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord,

Until the day that I rise up to the prey:

For my determination is to gather the nations,

That I may assemble the kingdoms,

To pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger:

For all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.

 

Joel tells us that the Lord will “Gather all nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat(Jl 3:2)

 

Micah tells us that many nations will be gathered against Zion but they have no idea that they are gathered like sheaves to the floor and will be threshed as wheat (Mic 4:11-13)

 

Zechariah tells us of the time when all the world will be Gathered against Jerusalem and will be cut in pieces (Zech 12:3) he tells again that the nations will gather themselves to battle against Jerusalem to battle (14:2)

 

All this speaks of the same timeframe

 

Zeph 3:8b

That I may assemble the kingdoms,

To pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger:

For all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.

 

 

Wrath will Rain Upon the Wicked Of The Nation and

Wrath will Rain Upon the Wicked Of The Nations

 

Zephaniah warns today that The Day of the Lord is near.

 

The Remnant Hidden By The LORD in the midst.

Zeph 3:12-20

12 I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people,

And they shall trust in the name of the Lord.

13 The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies;

Neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth:

For they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.

14 Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel;

Be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.

15 The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy:

The king of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee:

Thou shalt not see evil any more.

16 In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not:

And to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack.

17 The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty;

He will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy;

He will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

18 I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, who are of thee,

To whom the reproach of it was a burden.

19 Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee:

And I will save her that halteth,

And gather her that was driven out;

And I will get them praise and fame

In every land where they have been put to shame.

20 At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you:

For I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth,

When I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord.

 

We had some serious rain this weekend and it always amazes me that when I look at the radar there might well be a map covered in rain, but there is so often a small patch where the rain seems to move around and is left unaffected.

 

There are times we have had that happen to us at work on the building site. All around us seems to have rain, but we are left with clouds without water. Of course there are also times we feel like we are in a shower with a single faucet overhead.

 

The point is that even during this terrible time that will come upon all the world the Lord can and does protect a remnant.

 

12 I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people,

And they shall trust in the name of the Lord.

13 The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies;

Neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth:

For they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.

 

Either the Lord removes them from the hour of temptation that will come upon all the world (Rev 3:10) or he keeps them from the darkness as he did for them in the land of Goshen where there was light.

 

2 Peter 2:9 tells us “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished

In that day the Bible teaches us that the Lord will reign in Israel, from Jerusalem,

 

V 15 says The king of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee:

 

V 17 says The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty

 

Zephaniah confirms to us that the Lord will once again be in the midst of Israel and he will rejoice over his people with Joy. Our passage tells that He will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

 

When the father had removed from his child that which would have killed her, there was nothing other than joy that his daughter was returned to him pure and whole.

 

The stranger only sees the evil that seemed to have been done to the body of the Child and concludes that no good can come from it. Just as those who don’t know the Lord think the evil that will come upon the whole earth is only evil. But those who know the Lord also know that God never promised sunshine without rain.

 

The world we are in today is one where this is so true. There are both good and bad mixed together. The Bible says that it rains both on the just and on the unjust.

 

A wonderful poem by a lady named Annie Jonson Flint illustrates this;

 

God hath not promised skies always blue,

Flower–strewn pathways all our lives through;

God hath not promised sun without rain,

Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

God hath not promised we shall not know

Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;

He hath not told us we shall not bear

Many a burden, many a care.

But God hath promised strength for the day,

Rest for the laborer, light for the way,

Grace for the trials, help from above,

Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

 

All this until the day the Lord does indeed separate the good from the evil and the holy from the profane.

 

Those who have their sins washed in the blood of the lamb, those redeemed by the sacrifice for sin Christ had paid for them, redeemed by faith.

 

These and only these will be saved. Those who have rejected the price paid for their sin will pay it for themselves.

 

1 John 5:11-12 summarizes it well

 

11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

 

The days Zephaniah refers to are coming quickly, only those who have the Son of God have life. Only those who have the Son of God are the remnant that will remain.

 

Please don’t wait till that day

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