THE BOOK OF ZEPHANIAH
THE BOOK OF ZEPHANIAH
T R E A S U R E... S E E K E R S ... I N ... T H E ... O L D ... T E S T A M E N T - ZEPHANIAH
'Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path......Where your treasure is
there is your heart also'
BIBLE STUDY ON THE BOOK OF ZEPHANIAH
Written 20 years before the book of Habakkuk, shortly before 621 BC, the book of Zephaniah is speaking to the people of Judah, and also the surrounding nations.
He was followed by Jeremiah, Habakkuk and Ezekiel who also all had a message for Judah.
Part 1: Prophecy of God’s judgement (1:1-2:3)
Part 2: Judgement on specific nations (2:4-3:8)
Part 3: Promise of future blessings (3:9-20)
Zephaniah was the first prophet to be sent to Judah before its fall in 597BC. He was also a member of the royal family! He was the great-great-great grandson of Hezekiah, king in Judah from 715 to 686 BC.
His name means “hidden of Jehovah”, but it is not clear whether it means that God has hidden Himself, or if Zephaniah had been hidden by God.
However, Zephaniah would have been a child during the reign of Manasseh, when royal children were sacrificed to the god Molech. It is likely therefore, that Zephaniah was hidden by his mother to avoid the slaughter.
His social standing would have been aristocratic, and he was in a unique position to comment on those of equal and lower standing.
Manasseh was an evil king, condoning child sacrifice, worship of false gods, sexual immorality, belief in the occult, amongst other things. He reigned for 55 years, and was succeeded by Amon who was too weak to improve the situation.
Following Amon’s assassination, Josiah was proclaimed king – as an 8 year old boy!! It was not clear who Josiah would follow, his great-grandfather Hezekiah, or the evil Mannasseh, and it was into this situation that God appointed Zephaniah as prophet.
Before Zephaniah, God had been silent for 70 years following the death of Hezekiah and the murder of Isaiah, so the time was ripe for a message from Him!
Zephaniah includes many elements from other prophet’s work, and mainly concentrates on the “Day of the Lord” which is mentioned 23 times in the book. He spoke against the popular belief that it meant complete deliverance from their enemies without any judgement of themselves.
He describes God’s anger as “simmering”, but the day would come when God would hold it in no longer and release it with devastating consequences:
Chapter 1: 2 "I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth," declares the LORD. 3 "I will sweep away both men and animals; I will sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. The wicked will have only heaps of rubble when I cut off man from the face of the earth," declares the LORD.
This has parallels to the promised destruction by the flood in Genesis, but the Day of the Lord would not be a time of flood, but a time of fire!
14 "The great day of the LORD is near — near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the LORD will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there. 15 That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness, 16 a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the corner towers. 17 I will bring distress on the people and they will walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD. Their blood will be poured out like dust and their entrails like filth. 18 Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORD's wrath. In the fire of His jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for He will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth."
In Chapter 2, Zephaniah goes on to prophesy against the neighbouring nations – none will escape the judgement of the Lord.
As in Habakkuk, Zephaniah describes how God will use nation against nation to serve His purposes.
Chapter 3 deals with the future. Zephaniah warns the people of God’s judgement, and tell s them they have been stubborn, rebellious and resistant.
But it ends on a high note with descriptions of God’s mercy:
8” Therefore wait for me," declares the LORD, "for the day I will stand up to testify. I have decided to assemble the nations, to gather the kingdoms and to pour out My wrath on them— all My fierce anger.The whole world will be consumed by the fire of My jealous anger. 9 "Then will I purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and serve Him shoulder to shoulder. 10 From beyond the rivers of Cush My worshipers, My scattered people, will bring Me offerings. “
God is not just talking about the nation of Judah here; He is referring to people from all nations who will one day call upon the name of the Lord.
The final verses of Chapter 3 are especially for His chosen people and their restoration in Him:
13” The remnant of Israel will do no wrong; they will speak no lies, nor will deceit be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid." 14 Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! 15 The LORD has taken away your punishment, He has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm.16 On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. 17 The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." 18 "The sorrows for the appointed feasts I will remove from you; they are a burden and a reproach to you. 19 At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you; I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered. I will give them praise and honour in every land where they were put to shame. 20 At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honour and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes,” says the LORD.
What an awesome promise that is – and what an incredible picture.
The remarkable thing about Zephaniah was that King Josiah actually heeded his warnings and made sweeping reforms as a result! Initially heavily influenced by the High Priest, Hilkiah, he became gradually more and more influenced by Zephaniah.
At the age of 16, he ordered the destruction of all the pagan altars in Jerusalem; at 20 for them to be destroyed throughout the entire country.
When he was 28 he realised how shabby the Temple of God had become and gave orders for it to be put right. At the beginning of this work, a copy of the Law of Moses was found abandoned in a cupboard.
Upon reading it, Josiah realised that no-one had been reading or obeying this Law for many, many years. He ordered the Law to be read again, and obeyed throughout the nation.
Unfortunately though, these reforms were not to last. Josiah was killed in an ill-fated attacked on the Egyptian army, and eventually the nation went back to its idolatrous ways.
Zephaniah and the book of Revelation:
There are amazing parallels between the books of Zephaniah and Revelation:
Both books begin with judgement on God’s people, Israel and the Church; they both deal with the judgement of the nations, (Zeph 2; Rev 4:1), and they both deal with the Day of the Lord (Zeph 3:1-8; Rev 20).
At the end of both books, God promises to give a place to His people, (Zeph 3:9-20; Rev 21-22). In Zephaniah it is the old Jerusalem; in Revelation it is the new Jerusalem. In Zephaniah, God comes as the King; in Revelation, Jesus comes as the King.
I want to end by going back to verse 3:17:
17 The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing."
What an incredible image of God!!!
How many of us can really appreciate what it means to be delighted in by God?
To be quietened by His love?
To be rejoiced over by His singing?
I find that verse alone just to be absolutely mind-blowing!!!
The Lord our God is with us!
He is mighty to save us!
He delights in us!
He quietens us with His love!
He rejoices over us with singing!
But does He do all of those things without any action on our part beforehand??
The answer is in Verse 12:
12 “But I will leave within you the meek and humble, who trust in the name of the LORD.”
We must play our part!!
We need to be meek!
We need to be humble!
We need to trust in the name of the Lord!
Are we willing to do all of those things?
Speaking for myself - to have as a reward the delight of God; to be quietened by His love; to be sung over by our awesome, glorious God, the Creator of everything – my answer is yes – whatever it takes Lord!!!!