Welcome to our Bible Study Series on the Minor Prophets.
Click on the link above for the study session. Find the notes below.
Zephaniah, Judgement & Restoration in the Day of the Lord:
• Let’s recap: We’ve looked at Hosea from the North with the message of God’s Loyal Love. Joel was in the South with the message of the Day of the Lord in View. Amos, who was from the South, but served in the North – had the message the Social Injustice that took place in Israel.
• Then again Obadiah in the South had the message of Edom’s Judgement (Esau’s offspring). And then Jonah, a prophet from the North who tried to outrun God’s call being sent to Nineveh to preach repentance.
• We’ve looked at Micah, a prophet from the South who rebukes anyone who would use social status or political power for personal gain, had the theme of God’s Justice. Then we looked at Nahum, from the South, who preached against Nineveh 150 years after Jonah.
• This brings us to Habakkuk who ministered during the death throes of the nation of Judah with the theme of Faith & Doubt as Judah had to trust God as they would fall to the Babylonians. Now on that note, we come to Zephaniah and tonight we’ll see yet again the language of judgement on the nations.
1. Zephaniah’s Setting:
• Zephaniah’s ministry took place during Josiah’s reign when a “revival” which produced outward change but it did not remove the inward heart of corruption. And so Zephaniah hammers home his message repeatedly that the day of the Lord, Judgment Day, is coming
when the distortion of sin will be dealt with. Therefore, Israel and her gentile neighbours will soon experience the crushing hand of God’s wrath.
• But after the chastening process is complete, blessing will come in the person of the Messiah, who will be the cause for praise and singing. Now what’s striking about Zephaniah’s ministry, his name means “Yahweh Hides” or “Yahweh Has Hidden” which is true to the context of this time.
• And even better, look at the first verse, Zephaniah traces his lineage back four generations to Hezekiah. Now because Zephaniah was the great-great-grandson of the godly king Hezekiah, he was the only prophet of royal descent which may have given the prophet freer access to the court of King Josiah
• Now contextually, Josiah reigned from 640 to 609 B.C. and chapter 2, verse 13, indicates that the destruction of Nineveh (612 B.C.) was still a future event. Thus, Zephaniah’s prophecy can be dated between 630 and 625 B.C. Now unfortunately, Josiah’s reforms were too little and too late, and the people reverted to their insensitive idolatry and teaching soon after Josiah was gone.
• And so the Prophet Zephaniah issues a fierce and grim warning that announces the coming day of the Lord. Desolation, darkness, and ruin will strike Judah and the nations as a result of the wrath of God upon sin.
2. Zephaniah’s Purpose:
• The majority of the book describes the coming Day of Judgement upon Judah and the nations. God is holy and must vindicate His righteousness by calling all nations of the world into account before Him. The sovereign God will not only judge His own people but
also the whole world. No one is able to escape His authority and dominion.
• The “Day of the Lord” will have universal impact. That “Day” came for Judah and all the nations – 2:4-15. Yet there is a future aspect when all the earth will be judged. Zeph.3:9-20 speaks of another aspect of the “Day of the Lord:” it will be a day of blessing after the judgement is complete.
• Here’s how the prophet reveals this to the people. Firstly, he moves from universal judgment to judgment upon Judah (1:1–2:3); Secondly, he becomes more specific as he moves from judgment upon the surrounding nations to judgment upon Jerusalem (2:4–3:7); and Thirdly, from judgment and cleansing of all nations to the restoration of Israel (3:8–20).
3. Zephaniah’s Message:
• Zephaniah was also written as a warning to Judah and a call to repentance – 2:1-3. God wanted to spare the people but ultimately they rejected Him. His judgement would be great, but in His covenant loyalty God promised His people a future day of hope and joy. Wrath and mercy, severity and kindness cannot be separated in the character of God.
• As you might remember, the Day of the Lord has two applications: the judgment in the day of the Lord (1:1–3:8), and the salvation in the day of the Lord (3:9–20). But specifically to Zephaniah’s ministry, this day of the Lord refers to judgment that results in the destruction of Judah by foreign armies, but also restoration and hope for the people of God.
4. The Book’s Application:
• The last chapter of Zephaniah records the two distinct parts of the day of the Lord: judgment and restoration. Following the conversion of the nation, Israel finally is fully restored. Under the righteous rule of God, Israel fully inherits the blessings contained in the biblical covenants. However, the Day of the Lord is ultimately fulfilled in Christ. See Jesus referred to Zephaniah on two occasions: Zeph. 1:3 in Matt. 13:41 and Zeph. 1:15 in Matt. 24:29.
• Both of these passages about the day of the Lord are associated with Christ’s Second Coming. Although the Messiah is not specifically mentioned in Zephaniah, it is clear that He is the One who will fulfil the great promises (3:9–20). He will gather His people and reign in victory: as 3:15 says, “The LORD has taken away your judgments; He has cast out your enemy. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall see disaster no more.”
• Zephaniah teaches us that:
o We should praise God that: God will judge the whole earth for sins
o God’s judgement is not simply to punish for sins but His desire is to purify from sins.
o Judgement will be just revenge for those that refuse to repent
o Judgement will be redemptive and purifying for those that turn to God
o God will not keep the Jews from wrath but will preserve and purify those that believe in Him through His wrath.
o Our personal response to God determines whether His judgement is retributive or redemptive.
o God disciplines those He loves to purify them from their sins and make them righteous
o The only way to avoid God’s retributive judgement for sin is to be hidden (“sheltered”) in His righteousness.