Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of King Josiah. He was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah. Although there was a great reformation in the days of Josiah, triggered by the discovery in the temple of the long-lost Book of Deuteronomy, Zephaniah makes no reference to any revival. This is likely because the reformation was superficial. King Josiah may have been repentant, but his subjects were probably going through the motions of religious piety, due to external social pressure, rather than a change of heart.
It is likely that the King was sincere and loyal in his turning to the Lord. He was a popular ruler, and out of respect the people followed his example and began to externally conform to new religious habits. But there was no true repentance.
Zephaniah cuts to the chase and announces fierce judgment coming upon Judah. Although there had been outward reformation, idolatrous Baal worship kept its hold on the people and their priests.
The prophet picks up the theme of the judgment that will be felt in Jerusalem. It is a foreshadowing of a greater global judgment known as the ‘day of the Lord’. There is more written about the ‘day of the Lord’ in the Book of Zephaniah than any of the other Minor Prophets.
God sees through the religious veneer of the human heart.
He deals with the sin of indifference.
Zephaniah 1:12 12 “It will come about at that time that I will search Jerusalem with lamps, And I will punish the men who are stagnant in spirit, who say in their hearts, ‘The LORD will not do good or evil!’
The ‘day of the Lord’ includes the imminent judgment of the Babylonian conquest, but also looks beyond to the Great Tribulation in the future. Its impact will be felt in all the earth.
Zephaniah 1:15 15 A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, A day of destruction and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness.
And here is a word of warning to the materialist:
Zephaniah 1:18 18 Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them on the day of the LORD’S wrath; and all the earth will be devoured in the fire of His jealousy, For He will make a complete end, Indeed a terrifying one, of all the inhabitants of the earth.
The prophet gives warning of the coming day to provoke repentance. His admonition to ‘gather yourselves together’ may be a colloquial expression for ‘Get your act together!” (Zeph 2:1). Put your trust in God. For it is only God who can save us from His own wrath against sin. He exhorts all people to seek to know Him and His deliverance.
Zephaniah 2:3 3 Seek the LORD, all you humble of the earth who have carried out His ordinances; Seek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will be hidden in the day of the LORD’S anger.
He calls them to gather in a solemn assembly and repent.
Judgment will start with the house of the Lord (1 Peter 4:17). So he announces the destruction that will be felt in Judah. It will also be felt in the surrounding areas of Philistia (the seacoast towns of Askelon and Gaza, the towns of Ekron and Ashdod)
The prophet sets forth both the severity and goodness of God. Although a deserved punishment is coming to Judah, there is hope for a faithful remnant. They will one day possess the land of Philistia (It is part of Israel now.)
Zephaniah 2:7 7 And the coast will be for the remnant of the house of Judah, they will pasture on it. In the houses of Ashkelon they will lie down at evening; For the LORD their God will care for them and restore their fortune.
Zephaniah prophesies against the neighboring nations of Moab and Ammon (2:8-11), Cush/Ethiopia (2:12) and Assyria (2:13-15). Zephaniah saw the destruction of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire, well before it happened! This fulfillment should inspire us to trust that the other prophecies will come to pass.
The third and final chapter reveals God’s plan for Jerusalem and the Gentile nations.
Jerusalem, once the ‘city of peace’, is now called by the prophet ‘the tyrannical city’, proud and independent.
Zephaniah goes down the line and indicts the leaders, judges, prophets and priests for violating God’s law. He contrasts God’s righteousness with their unfaithfulness.
Their love for their sin prevented them from receiving the Lord’s instruction.
The Lord promises to bring judgment upon all nations. Yet He promises that He will purify a remnant.
Zephaniah 3:9-10 9 “For then I will give to the peoples purified lips, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD, to serve Him shoulder to shoulder. 10 “From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My worshipers, My dispersed ones, Will bring My offerings.
He will leave His people humble and purified.
Zephaniah 3:13 13 “The remnant of Israel will do no wrong and tell no lies, nor will a deceitful tongue Be found in their mouths; For they will feed and lie down With no one to make them tremble.”
The Lord delights in the finished product of His purified people. He promises to regather the dispersed and restore their fortunes.
Zephaniah 3:17 17 “The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.
After the sixth trumpet we have an interlude of encouragement (Chapter 10:1- 11:14) before the seventh trumpet judgment. This is a pattern that we see developing in the Book of Revelation. There was an interlude between the 6th and 7th seal judgments (chapter 7) and there will be another between the 6th and 7th bowl judgments (Rev 16:15).
A strong angel makes an announcement that the end is in sight. History’s climax is just around the corner. There will be no more delay. The final outpouring of judgment in the form of the seven bowls would come and then the judgment would be complete. These judgments would be as definitive as the plagues that came upon Egypt at the time of the Exodus, and yet these would be global.
The mystery of God would be fulfilled (10:7). God’s wrath against evil would be poured out fully (Revelation 16:17), and the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ (Revelation 11:15). God’s plan to deal with evil will be fulfilled in perfect time.
John sees another strong angel.
The Greek word for ‘another’ is ‘allos’ which means, ‘another of the same kind’. This probably refers to a special rank among the angels, similar to the one we met in Rev 5:2.
Revelation 5:2 2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?”
This angel is clothed with a cloud. The image of a cloud is used 9 times in the Book of Revelation as a symbol of judgment.
A rainbow is on his head, which is a symbol of mercy. So, we see a combination that is indicative of the righteous character of God, one of perfect justice and mercy. In His wrath, He remembers mercy (Habakkuk 3:2). His face is like the sun and His feet are like pillars of fire.
Some commentators see this angel as being the Lord Jesus Christ, but in the New Testament, the Lord Jesus is never referred to as an angel. Angels can have a glorious appearance. Moses’ face shone after spending time in God’s presence (Exodus 34: (Exodus 34:29). Believers in the future age will have glorified bodies with faces that shine. Having feet like pillars of fire, symbolically refers to the fact that he is treading out the judgment of God.
His right foot is on the sea and his left foot is on the land. This speaks of a universal judgment upon every possible place for human habitation. No realm will escape His judgment. There will be no place to escape.
His voice is as loud as when a lion roars. The Lord promises to defend His people. The whole earth should tremble at the judgment that He brings (See Amos 3:7-10).
Amos 3:8 8 A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy?
There are accompanying thundering voices giving intelligible instruction. This brings to mind the sevenfold Spirit of the Lord conveying the word of the God.
The angel makes the great announcement that the mystery of God is finished. All the prophecies concerning the day of the Lord and the Kingdom of God are coming to conclusion.
The question that was asked in Rev 6:10 is now being answered.
Revelation 6:10 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
The seventh angel will sound the seventh trumpet and dispense the final seven bowl judgments.
Revelation 11:15 15 Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.”
What about the small book? It is held open-faced in the hand of the strong angel (Revelation 10:2). The voice from heaven instructs John to take the book out of the hand of the angel. The angel tells John to take it and eat it. He will find that it is as sweet as honey to the mouth but will be bitter to the stomach (Rev. 10:10). This is similar to Ezekiel’s experience.
Ezekiel 3:1-4 1 Then He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll. 3 He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.” Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth. 4 Then He said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them.
The Word that the Apostle John and the prophet Ezekiel received was sweet to their personal taste, but as they digested it, they realized the heavy responsibility of bearing this message to others. They carried with them an awareness of the bitter repercussions of that Word not being received by the hearers.
It is bitter to think of the reality of sin and its consequences. We cannot forget this. We bear it in our belly, even as we speak of the sweet promises of God.
It is sweet to think of our sins forgiven, our eternal state as heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus, yet we have this gut conviction that God is holy and judges sin righteously.
(We tend to overestimate man’s goodness and underestimate God’s holiness).
The thought of the reality of hell, an eternity of weeping and gnashing of teeth and eternal torment- that a bitter reality to which we must bear witness.
John receives a commission: He is to speak the whole truth, the bitter and the sweet.
Revelation 10:11 11 And they *said to me, “You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.”
By this time, John was an old man and perhaps was wondering how he would fulfill this commission. Kings, people, and nations have read his prophecies as they have been written and distributed around the world.
This is a wonderful psalm of worship and adoration. The Psalmist sees how the Written Word (The Bible) magnifies the Living Word (Christ) and the Living Word (Christ) magnifies the Written Word (The Bible). The Word is magnified according to God’s Name. The Name refers to God’s self-revelation. It refers to all His attributes as the God-man.
The Psalmist praises God because He answers prayer:
Psalm 138:3 3 On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul.
Our prayer life affords us communion with the Lord. With greater personal knowledge of the Lord, there is greater boldness. Fellowship with God and answered prayers strengthen us in our innermost being.
We must pray that the kings of this earth will have ears to hear the Word of God and that they will sing of the ways of the Lord (Psalm 138:4).
The Psalm affirms that the Lord can be trusted. He will revive us (v.7a), deliver us (v.7b), and save us (v.7c).
The final verse contains both affirmations and a prayer request:
Psalm 138:8 8 The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS – Proverbs 30:11-14
Proverbs 30:11-14 11 There is a kind of man who curses his father and does not bless his mother. 12 There is a kind who is pure in his own eyes, Yet is not washed from his filthiness. 13 There is a kind—oh how lofty are his eyes! And his eyelids are raised in arrogance. 14 There is a kind of man whose teeth are like swords and his jaw teeth like knives, to devour the afflicted from the earth and the needy from among men.
This proverb describes the folly of the self-deceived.
The word Vietnam speaks of the tenacious Viet culture and its varied, yet distinct cuisine and social customs that have survived invasions and colonization. Nam (south) refers to the expansion to the south from the original north and central domain. Long and narrow, Vietnam lies on the eastern coast of Southeast Asia’s Indochinese Peninsula. Laos and Cambodia are on its western border with China to its north. Vietnam and its young population are emerging from its tumultuous past drawing visitors and investment to this country ready for change.
The Geneva Accords of 1954 divided Vietnam into communist North Vietnam and anti-communist South Vietnam. Several decades of fighting followed, until the North Vietnamese overcame the South in 1975 and reunited North and South Vietnam under communist rule. The years of war and Marxist policies proved disastrous to Vietnam’s economy. In 1986 reforms were put in place to move from the central controlled economy to a more market oriented one, and today Vietnam has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The policy of “Renovation” has brought about social changes that have been positive including a rise in the standard of living. It has also brought with it many social problems such as increased corruption, regional tensions, and increased HIV/AIDS. Vietnam is one of the few remaining communist countries in the world.
Freedom of religion is constitutionally guaranteed in Vietnam, but new regulations in 2005 required religious groups to register with the government. Most churches have been denied registration and have faced harassment and even persecution. Many Vietnamese traditionally follow Buddhism, though the veneration and worship of ancestors is an underestimated practice found throughout Vietnam. Churches are persevering and the number of evangelicals is growing as the Vietnamese experience the challenges of the current economic and social changes.
PRAYER: Gracious Father, we thank You with all our hearts. You have magnified Your Word by giving us a flesh and blood representation of Who You are, in the person of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He has magnified Your Word and Name, for He is the Living Word. We are grateful that through Him we have tasted and know that You are good. We ask that You embolden us through our fellowship in the Word and make us faithful witnesses to Your truth, both the sweet and the bitter aspects. We recognize both the severity and the mercy of Your ways. Keep us from forgetfulness, foolishness, and self-deception. We pray for true revival with genuine repentance and saving faith. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.