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The Big Book–Cover to Cover: Zephaniah

Michael teaches an overview of the book of Zephaniah.

An interesting book at many levels, Zephaniah prophesied during the time of the young King Josiah as he tried to lead his people to turn back to God.

This is a book of warning and encouragement, and one with practical application fitting for our time.

Show Notes

Some translate Zephaniah “Jehovah has concealed,” “Jehovah has hidden” or “Jehovah has covered”-in terms of protection.

We have to look at what “hidden” means in this context. Consider Moses hidden for three months after he was born, protecting him from Pharaoh’s orders to murder every Hebrew boy. The wicked also hide – they hide themselves and prey upon the innocent, but cannot hide their sins from God.

Scripture tells us Zephaniah was the son of Cushi (‘KYOO-shigh’) and the great-great-grandson of Hezekiah. He was a contemporary of King Josiah of Judah and the prophet Jeremiah.

We don’t have a ton of background on Zephaniah, or many of the prophets, but maybe God wants us to be less focused on the man and more focused on the message.

1 Corinthians 3:4-7 comes to mind.

Outline

David Dockery (1.) suggests an easy outline:

I. Exhortation to Submit (Zephaniah 1:1-18)
II. Exhortation to Repent (Zephaniah 2:1-3:7)
III. Exportation to Wait (Zephaniah 3:8-20)

Political Setting

The wicked king Manasseh reigned 55 years, leaving difficult and unfortunate consequences that were difficult to correct, leading Judah deeply into sin, immorality, and idolatry.

Essentially, Israel has embraced the pagan gods and practices of the Assyrians, under Manasseh’s endorsement.

King Josiah has inherited this mess (consider 2 Kings 11:19-26, 2 Kings 21:7, 2 Chronicles 33:21-25).

Josiah was eight years old when he became king and reigned 31 years. 2 Chronicles 34:3.

During King Josiah’s 18th year, while the temple was being repaired, 2 Chronicles 34:14 – they found the book of the Law. Josiah’s response reveals his heart and mind. He tore his clothes and humbled himself before God.

Young king Josiah takes great courage and leadership, and institutes the most extensive reforms in all of Israel’s history.

Josiah’s reforms were to rid the land of the “high places,” but even as there was great reform externally, it seems the peoples’ hearts weren’t so changed.

To put it in theological terms many believers prefer sin over sanctification.

Even though the enjoyment of sin is temporary, many prefer it to the ongoing process of sanctification. Let’s not be so hard on Israel. We’re just the same.

Only by sanctification do we grow in maturity.

We have the Bible. We have God’s Word, God’s Spirit, and God’s people to help us in this sanctification process.

Let’s choose to submit to the process of sanctification and not choose to live in sin. That’s the message Josiah spoke to his people, and the message for us today.

Major Theme

The Day of the Lord

Referenced in 53 verses, occurring 20-23 times (depending on your translation.

What’s the “day of the Lord” refer to?

A coming judgment.

6 judgment themes:

  1. Judgment will come on all creation and mankind Zephaniah 1:2-6
  2. Judgment is sure and imminent Zephaniah 1:14
  3. Judgment is due to sin, it is devastating Zephaniah 1:15-17
  4. Judgment will come to surrounding enemy nations Zephaniah 2:4-15
  5. Judgment will make a way for God’s remnant Zephaniah 3:8-13
  6. Judgment will make a way for restoration Zephaniah 3:14-20

Four Exhortations

  1. Zephaniah 1:7 Be silent (or hush!) before the Lord God!
  2. Zephaniah 2:1 Gather!
  3. Zephaniah 2:3 (3x) Seek the Lord, Seek righteousness, seek humility
  4. Zephaniah 3:8 Wait for Me!

Do you and I seek to be righteous as much as we seek to get away with sin?

Do we seek humility as much as we seek recognition?

Be silent.
When we come to worship God, it’s a hard discipline (for some of us) to hush. When we spend time in the Word, when we spend time with the Lord, we ought to sit and be quiet before Him.

Gather.
An interesting admonition in this time where we can’t gather, but this time does make it clear that we need one another.

Man was not meant to be alone and when it comes to the body of Christ, gathering is important. You can’t live the Christian life as a lone ranger.

Seek the Lord, seek righteousness, seek humility.
These are specific admonitions we ought to think about with conscious intention. Do we seek Him, do we seek righteousness, do we seek humility?

Righteousness doesn’t have to be a super religious word. It’s doing the right thing in the right way, that pleases God.

Wait for Him.
We are impatient people. Maybe this is one of the many things the Lord is teaching us through this time.

You think you’re important? Humble yourself instead.
You think your job is your security in life? Trust Him instead.
You think seeking after sin is going to solve your pain? It won’t, but sanctification will.

Would we sink our teeth into these admonitions: quiet ourselves, gather (creatively, for now), seek him, and wait.

The Word always helps us.

If we’re off in sin, it helps us come back to Him. If we’re worried and fearful, it helps us realign with the truth that He’s our sovereign God and our physician. If we’re out of resources, it reminds us He’s our provider.

May we learn how to wait, and wait patiently on Him.

Resources:

  1. David S. Dockery, ed., Holman Bible Handbook(Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1992), 490.
Michael Easley

About Michael Easley

Michael is husband to one, dad to four, and host of Michael Easley inContext.



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