Some believers in our day are refraining from using the threefold title, the Lord Jesus Christ, thinking that it is a “Cliché”. As we reflect day by day on the goodness of God, the faithfulness of God and the preserving care of God: how then do we give thanks unto God who has blessed us so abundantly? Do we do it in a way that we feel is right, or that is comfortable to us? My brother, my sister, there is a way… indeed a Biblical way. “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). Giving thanks always, is what should characterise our lives. For all things, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17). Unto God, the Everlasting God who has never changed, but who is our Father. As children in the family of God, each one having the dignity and standing of firstborn sons; and as a Kingdom of Priests, we need the ministry of the Great High Priest in the Divine Sanctuary. Access for us into the Holiest is in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. With all our asking … let us ever remember to give thanks in His worthy Name!
Some background details for the setting and study of Zephaniah!
Zephaniah & Jeremiah!
Zephaniah was contemporary with Jeremiah, both ministering during the reign of Josiah (Zep 1:1 & Jer 1:2). Jeremiah ministered until the end of the reign of Zedekiah, marking the end of the Kings of Judah and the beginning of the Babylonian Captivity. As mentioned in previous notes Habakkuk comes after Zephaniah as to time, possibly during the reign of Jehoiakim, but before him in the Cannon of Scripture (see note below).
Zephaniah & Josiah!
Good King Hezekiah, having brought in some reforms, also kept the Passover (2 Kings 18:1 & 2 Chron 30:1). His son Manasseh provoked God and filled Jerusalem with innocent blood (2 Kings 21:16). Later he did humble himself and commanded the people to follow the Lord (2 Chron 33:11-17). Amon his son reigned only two years, doing evil in the sight of the Lord (2 Chron 33:21-22). Josiah was only eight years old when he began to reign and sought the Lord when he was sixteen (2 Chron 34:1-3). There was no King like him “…that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to the Law of Moses…” (2 Kings 23:25). He destroyed the idols in Judah and Israel, keeping a solemn Passover (2 Kings 23). Interestingly, any direct reference to Josiah, his reforms, or solemn Passover, are all omitted by Zephaniah!
Zephaniah & Judah!
As Assyria Captivity in the days of Hezekiah King of Judah had brought Israel to an end, the ministry of Zephaniah was to Judah and Jerusalem (1:4). He begins with six “I Will’s”! God’s judgment is in view with an invasion by the Chaldean’s (1:7-8). The opening section to Judah concludes with an exhortation to seek the Lord (2:3). He prophesies the judgment of God on the nations, with the destruction of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria (2:13-15). Chapter three begins with a “Woe” on the City (Jerusalem), the Princes, the Judges, the Prophets, and the Priests. The judgment of the nations, their blessing, and the future blessing of Israel is assured (3:8-20).
Zephaniah & his place in the Cannon of Scripture!
Nahum is occupied with the destruction of Nineveh (see previous notes on Nahum). Zephaniah prophesies of this event (2:13-15). Habakkuk is troubled about the imminent Babylonian invasion in his day of which Zephaniah speaks (1:7-8). However, Zephaniah follows both in the cannon of Scripture as he has his eye on the future: “…for the Day of the Lord is at hand…” (1:7).
ZEPHANIAH; 'Prophet of Royal Blood'. (F. A. Tatford)
Zephaniah is introduced as the great, great, grandson of Hezekiah. His ministry is fixed here during the reign of Josiah. The last five kings of Judah were: Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah.
Word from God to Judah & Jerusalem (1:2:18).
Vs 2-3. This section begins with a six-fold, “I Will”! The judgment is of God, with the word consume three times. This sets the tone for the opening chapter and for the book, “…for the Day of the Lord is at hand…” (1:7). [In the study notes on Joel, the “Day of the Lord” is dealt with in more detail]. Vs 4-6. Judah and Jerusalem primarily in view. Remnant of Baal? Had Josiah’s reforms already begun? Chemarims, Idolatrous Priests (2 Kings 23:5). Worshipper’s of the host of heaven, from the housetops. Malcham… Great King… god of the children of Ammon (1 Kings 11:33… spelt, Milcom). Vs 7-8. Lord’s sacrifice. His people to be sacrificed in judgment. God will punish or visit in judgment. Guests are bid, sanctified, or set apart! Habakkuk wondered at this, the Chaldean’s, “…O Lord thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God thou hast established them for correction” (Habakkuk 1:12). Vs 9-13. The greedy are punished. A lamentation with a cutting down and a cutting off. Jerusalem searched, those that are complacent shall become a desolation. Vs 14-18. The great Day of the Lord. Characteristics of the Day… “the mighty man shall cry there bitterly… wrath… trouble… distress… wasteness… desolation… gloominess… clouds…. darkness…” - WHY? They have sinned against the Lord!
Welcome from God to Judah & Jerusalem (2:1-3).
V 1. An exhortation to gather together, “O nation not desired”. V 2. An opportunity, before… four times! Time is running out. V 3. What they are to do… seek… three times! The priority… to seek the Lord.
Word from God to Gentile Nations (2:4-15).
Vs 4-7. Philistia (West). Judged, uninhabited, the portion of the remnant of the house of Judah. Vs 8-11. Moab & Ammon (East). Moab as Sodom, Ammon as Gomorrah. V 12. Cush (South). Ethiopians, descendants from Cush (Gen 10:6) occupied the land in the upper Nile region. Vs 13-15. Assyria (North). Nineveh "a desolation… the rejoicing city"… the city of boasting. Question! Are these four, representing the four parts of the compass, illustrative of God’s universal judgment?
Woe from God to Jerusalem (3:1-7).
Vs 1-2. City likened to a woman: “filthy… polluted… oppressing” or (rebellious, defiled, tyrannical, NASB). Refused to hear the voice of God or to receive instruction. V 3. Princes like “roaring lions… Judges like evening wolves”. The cruelty and greed of the rulers is declared. V 4. Prophets are light or frothy, no backbone… see Judges 9:4. “The Priests have polluted the sanctuary”. V 5. No shame as to God’s Presence or to His patience. “Every morning” or “morning by morning”! Vs 6-7. God’s judgment on other nations produced no fear in His own people, therefore no change/repentance.
Waiting upon God (3:8-13).
V 8. The nations will be gathered by God to receive their judgment. V 9. The Peoples plural! Nations are blessed here. Vs 10-13. Suppliants, worshippers returning. The dispersed or scattered are bringing their own offering.
Working of God (3:14-20).
Vs 14-15. An exhortation to “sing … shout… be glad and rejoice…”. It is what the Lord hath done! V 16. A word of comfort… “fear thou not… let not thine hands be slack” (limp or faint). V 17. As a result, “God… will save… rejoice… joy over thee with singing”! Vs 18-20. God will gather the people again for the solemn assembly. As the prophecy opens with six “I Wills” of judgment (1:2-4) it closes here with six “I Wills” of blessing.