Zephaniah 1:1 The word of the Lord that came to Zephaniah son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah, during the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah.
Zephaniah began by showing he was a fourth-generation descendent of King Hezekiah, and therefore a person of status in Judah. His primary theme is the day of the Lord, which will bring judgment to the wicked and blessing to the righteous. Zephaniah preached to the people of Judah during the reign of Josiah, perhaps around 625 BC. He seems familiar with the writings of Isaiah and Amos, and probably knew the young Jeremiah personally.
Zephaniah 1:2-3 I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth, declares the Lord. I will sweep away both man and beast; I will sweep away the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea—and the idols that cause the wicked to stumble.
The severity of this judgment is difficult to overstate. It is worse than the flood in Noah’s day (Genesis 6-8), when at least the fish survived. This prophecy was echoed by the Apostle Peter who wrote, The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare (2 Peter 3:10). In his passion for holiness, God will purge evil from the world by consuming it with fire.
This is why the world is not a good place to settle down. It would be foolish to build a house next to an active volcano, and it’s equally foolish to be at home in this present evil age (Galatians 1:4). Like Abraham, we are looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10). We confess that we are foreigners and strangers on earth (Hebrews 11:13), just passing through to a place of our own.
What the prophet foresaw, however, is not the end of the world. I will create new heavens and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17), wrote Isaiah. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away (Revelation 21:1), wrote John. The present world will be destroyed because of sin. But God will create something new and improved, where his people will live with him forever. Once and for all, we will be delivered from sin and its terrible curse.
Zephaniah 1:12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, The Lord will do nothing, either good or bad.
Like settled wine, the people of God were settled in their complacency. They believed that God would neither bless nor curse, reward nor punish. They had not ceased to believe in God, but considered him irrelevant. They had a do-nothing attitude toward God, and believed that God would do nothing to them. But the God of the Bible is always acting, and requires his people to act as well. Woe to you who are complacent (Amos 6:1), wrote Amos.
Some who have fallen away from Christ have written books about their de-conversion. There is a pattern to the process, beginning with complacency. This is evidenced by a declining interest in prayer, Bible-reading, and going to church. This is accompanied by an increased interest in sin, which makes God seem even less desirable. Then they fall away. The best way to avoid this is to always be growing in Christ.
Zephaniah 2:3 Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.
In light of the coming judgment, the prophet urged God’s people to seek the Lord. The only way to flee God’s wrath is to run toward him. Seeking God means pursuing an ever deepening relationship with him, which is something the Bible commands repeatedly.
Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God (1 Chronicles 22:19), said David. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever (1 Chronicles 28:9), said David again. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always (Psalm 105:4), wrote the Psalmist. Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near (Isaiah 55:6), wrote Isaiah.
Imagine a little girl who lived next door to Abraham Lincoln, sat on his porch, and even played games with him. Then imagine a scholar who knew everything about Lincoln, but did not know him personally. We could debate which one knew him better, but if the scholar became Lincoln’s friend, he would know him best of all. Seeking the Lord requires head knowledge and heart knowledge: Bible-study and prayer.
Zephaniah 3:17 He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.
It is easier to think of God speaking to us than singing to us. But the feeling of love is so powerful it is often expressed through music. That is why there are so many love songs, and why we sing to God in church.
In the age to come we will sing to God, and he will sing over us. Then we will sing to God some more, and he will sing over us some more. And this will go on forever, because we were made for an eternal love relationship with God, through his Son Jesus Christ.
Reflection and Review
What is the future of the world?
What is the pattern of de-conversion?
Why is singing to God important?