Notes from Zephaniah
We had another great Bible study this past Saturday and we really missed it for those few weeks we took off! Just having the opportunity to read and discuss God's Word with other believers is a wonderful thing.
We looked at the Minor Prophet book of Zephaniah which shows a beautiful contrast between the judgment of God against sin and His wonderful promises and love for the faithful remnant. The book also has an emphasis on the coming Day of the Lord.
Our next Bible study will also be at our home this coming Saturday at 10:00am! See you then!
So we’re in Zephaniah today! Here’s the big themes from the book:
· Judgment of God
· Day of the Lord
· The faithful remnant
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.
Like many of the prophets, we don’t really know anything about this guy. Some people think that Hizkiah his ancestor might have been Hezekiah the King of Judah, but we don’t really know.
However, he tells us the Word of the Lord came to him in the days of Josiah the King.
Jeremiah 3:10 says, “And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord.” So they turned to God outwardly, or in pretense, but not in genuine worship. However, the book of Jeremiah (who also prophesied during Josiah) has a lot of references to a faithful remnant, and the letter to the church in Philadelphia in Revelation says, “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” And that fits with the topic of Zephaniah to warn the phony religious people of coming judgment, and to comfort the hearts of the godly remnant who had a little strength, and had not denied His name.
And there’s always this remnant! And Zephaniah talks about this remnant. I think that verse, Jeremiah 3:10, really is a good description of the United States. If we forget this year for a minute, most people would conclude that the U.S. is generally a “religious” nation or even call it a “Christian” nation. A 2017 Gallup poll said that 87% of those asked answered “yes” to having belief in God. Also in 2017, only 24% polled said the Bible is the actual Word of God. This is not a Christian nation but there absolutely is a remnant that follows Christ. That’s us right here. We are a part of that. Whenever I see polls about “a god” I always think of James 2:19.
And I think that’s one of the biggest lies that people believe. They’ll say, “yeah, I think there’s a god and if I live a pretty good life then I’ll go to heaven…” That’s not at all what the Bible says.
Isn’t that the U.S.? Hasn’t that been us at times? We go through the motions, go to church when it’s convenient, but generally let the pastor do the work. But we are called to make Christ the center of our life that we should seek first above all else. That’s what I think we’ve seen this year is that people that want to follow Christ are pursuing Him with greater intensity and those that were just going through the motions have chosen CNN. That’s why it’s so important to stay grounded in the Word of God.
It's why the fake pastors and charlatans get so popular, because they say nice things to fool people and the people are fooled because they don’t know what scripture actually says!
2 I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the Lord.
What an opening statement eh? This verse mostly sets the tone for this book, but like we always see in the Minor Prophets there is never prophecy of judgment without the mercy and love of God as well.
3 I will consume man and beast; I will consume the fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea, and the stumbling blocks with the wicked: and I will cut off man from off the land, saith the Lord.
The ESV has here, “I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth, declares the LORD.” So the message here is that the final approaching judgment will be general over all the earth, and as complete as the judgment of the flood.” Like we often see in prophecy there are steps towards fulfillment, such as individual judgments of God against wicked nations, and there’s the final fulfillment, such as judgment of the whole earth in this case.
4 I will also stretch out mine hand upon Judah, and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the name of the Chemarims with the priests;
5 And them that worship the host of heaven upon the housetops; and them that worship and that swear by the Lord, and that swear by Malcham;
Who are the “host of heaven” these people are worshiping? (Jeremiah 19:13)
Your translation might have Molech or Milcom, it’s all the same idol. Probably the worst of the false gods in the Bible. Let’s read Deuteronomy 32:16-17
So when something is worshiped as an idol, what is actually being worshiped?
So looking at this verse, they were worshipping the sun and stars, the Lord, and Molech. This was common in ancient Israel to just “add gods” to your collection. My brother-in-law reminded me of that scene in the Mummy where the comic relief character was in front of the mummy and started praying to different religions. He did Christianity, and Islam, and Buddhism, but that was basically what they did in Israel. Their idols were like Pokémon; Gotta catch them all! And actually I just saw some “Christian” ministry on Instagram where it had a cross and a Yin Yang symbol on top of it.
And what’s the problem with this? Matthew 6:24
6 And them that are turned back from the Lord; and those that have not sought the Lord, nor enquired for him.
Your translation probably says, “turned back from following the Lord” or something close to that. So it begs the question, what were they following? What do verses 4 and 5 tell us?
It should be obvious to others who WE are following.
7 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.
Here’s the first mention in this book of the Day of the Lord. This is obviously something God wants us to be familiar with because it is so often mentioned in these Minor Prophets.
What is the prepared sacrifice? Judah.
8 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.
It’s always the leaders that fail the people and that God reserves His judgment for. Same that we have here in California. Our secular government leaders have failed us and our Pastors have failed us.
“Clothed with strange apparel” is a funny phrase but it instantly makes me think of the wedding feast parable. Let’s look at that: Matthew 22:1-14.
Let’s go back to Zephaniah verse 12.
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.
The NKJV has here: “And it shall come to pass at that time that I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and punish the men who are settled in complacency, who say in their heart, ‘The Lord will not do good, nor will He do evil.”
I wish Pastors had been preaching on this verse last year and hammering on the complacency of American Christianity. I wish I had been reading this verse last year. You know where Christians are definitely NOT complacent? North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, India, and so on. And now it’s happening in the United States.
Let’s go to verses 14 and 15.
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,
This is where Dies Irae came from, the hymn from the 13th century. “Day of wrath, O day of mourning! See fulfilled the prophet's warning: Heav'n and earth in ashes burning….”
This chapter is all incredible poetic literature describing the destruction that will come. Verse 18:
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.
The ESV has, “Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them on the day of the wrath of the LORD. In the fire of his jealousy, all the earth shall be consumed; for a full and sudden end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.”
So remember that, keep your finger there and let’s compare with 2 Peter 3:7-13. It will happen. God said so and He cannot lie.
1 Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired;
2 Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you, before the day of the Lord's anger come upon you.
3 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.
So what should we do? Seek the Lord, obey Him, seek righteousness, and His wrath will pass over us like the Angel of Death passed over the houses in Exodus 12 with the blood on their door posts. This is the Lord’s call to repentance.
The rest of this chapter is judgment on nations that were basically surrounding Judah on the North, East South, and West: Philistines, Moab & Ammon, Ethiopia, and Assyria. God judged all those nations just as He will judge all the earth at the end of it all.
Let’s take a look at Malachi 3:16-18, almost to Matthew. This is the remnant that God will save.
1 Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city!
This is talking about Jerusalem and the next several verses are judgment against that city and against her priests and prophets.
Then we get to verse 8, which is the center of this chapter and clearly describes the Day of the Lord.
8 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.
Revelation 16:14 describes this and says, “For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty.”
And the beginning of this verse, Zephaniah 3:8, says, “wait ye upon me” which is directed at the remnant of all ages, “who oppressed by the general wickedness of mankind and tending ever to discouragement are told to wait patiently for the fulfillment of God's purpose upon the earth.”
9 For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent.
Now from this verse through the rest of the chapter is really cool. This “pure language” and serving “with one consent” likely refers to the time of Jesus and the unity of believers worshiping God with one Spirit when we are all one in Christ Jesus.
10 From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring mine offering.
11 In that day shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings, wherein thou hast transgressed against me: for then I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride, and thou shalt no more be haughty because of my holy mountain.
This speaks plainly of the time when Jesus came, when we are no longer ashamed, no longer condemned because of our sin because God has removed it and nailed it to His cross. Psalm 34:5 says, “They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces will never be ashamed.”
Did you know that in spite of our sin we can come boldly before the throne of God? Because God the Father sees us as He sees Jesus Christ, and His wrath against our sin was satisfied on Jesus on the cross. It’s the substitutional atonement and it’s beyond amazing.
And in the gospels, who were the proud and haughty one?
Why were they so proud? Romans 2:23 says, “Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonor God.”
What does Ephesians 2:8-9 say? Nobody can boast anymore! Just as God said in Zephaniah 3:11. The NIV says, “I will remove from you your arrogant boasters.”
There’s the gospel in one of the most obscure books of the Bible. Why? Because the whole Bible points to Jesus Christ. All of it. He is the central person.
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.
Or “humble and lowly people.” Acts 4:13 says, “Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.” I think that puts us in pretty good company.
And also an important point here is that, people should recognize when you have spent time with Jesus.
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.
This is either talking about Jesus on earth, the Holy Spirit in us, or the Millennial reign of Christ, or all three as prophecy often does.
And then let’s look at verse 17. If there’s one thing to remember from Zephaniah it’s this verse. This is how God sees us now; this is the love God has for us.
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.
I love it!