Zephaniah predicts that God has bigger plans than the end of the world. The Day of the Lord is at hand, a terrible day for those who have rebelled. It won’t stop at Judah—the whole world will be punished. Zephaniah’s message was not just for ancient Judah but also for our day. Doom is eminent but Zephaniah’s message also includes God’s restoration of all things to a world of peace and joy.
[Steve Myers] Good evening everyone. Welcome to our biweekly Beyond Today Bible Study. Tonight we’re going to be continuing our series in the minor prophets. So we’re certainly pleased that you were able to be with us here in the room this evening, as well as those of you joining us on the web. Good to be together. Let’s ask God’s blessing on our Bible study tonight and then we can go ahead and get started, okay.? So please bow your heads.
Loving Heavenly Creator, Father God Almighty, we are so thankful, Father, that You are an awesome God who loves us and cares for us, watches over us and has such an amazing plan. Father, we know the time is coming that You will have had enough of this world and its ways and its rebellion that’s been against You, and cannot wait for that time of peace and prosperity and restoration. So Father, we thank You for Your plan, we thank You for Your purpose.
Father, we thank You for Your presence here tonight. And as we study into the minor prophets, we pray for Your presence. We pray, God, for Your inspiration and guidance. So help us as we study Your Word, help us to glean the things, Father, that we can really take to heart and begin to apply in our lives, as well as understand You and Your character even more deeply. So Father, we thank You for this, we praise You, we honor You. We thank You for all these wonderful gifts that You pour out upon us and we pray all of this now by the authority of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Well, tonight’s study is a continuation in the minor prophets. And tonight’s prophet is Zephaniah. Zephaniah. Now, most of you have probably studied the book of Zephaniah probably every day. [audience laughs] Okay, no, probably not.
Reading through some different commentaries about Zephaniah as I prepared for the Bible study, one of the interesting things they said about Zephaniah was the best thing known about Zephaniah is that it’s probably the least known book of the Bible. And that’s probably true in some cases, that people don’t often study the book of Zephaniah or sometimes they get it confused with Zechariah or one of the other prophets in the Bible. But actually Zephaniah, in a way, is a microcosm of all the minor prophets. Zephaniah has quite a few prophecies that make specific predictions, predictions that were to come to pass in ancient Judah and also predictions that are still to come to pass in our future.
And so Zephaniah, even though it is a minor prophet, it is a major message. It is a powerful message even though there’s only three chapters. Zephaniah, only three chapters, so we probably could take the time tonight to read through the whole book if we wanted to. But instead of doing that, I thought what we could do is draw some of the key lessons out of Zephaniah and begin to recognize the very fact that God has an amazing plan. In fact, God has a bigger plan than just the end of the world.
Too many times people think of doom and gloom and that being associated with the end of mankind, the end of the world. But that’s not what Zephaniah is about. It does talk about an end of a system. It’s not about the total destruction of the world, though, by any means. But it does have a critical message for us even today. In fact, that message at times seems to be one that may not be that obvious as you just read through on a casual read. If you dig down a little bit, there’s also a message that I suppose you could say is hidden, a hidden message. And, in fact, that ties in to the name Zephaniah.
Zephaniah literally means “hidden by the Eternal” or “whom the Lord hides.” Zephaniah literally means “whom the Lord hides.” There’s a couple of interesting connections there. There was a really bad king during the early years of Zephaniah, and some think that because Zephaniah survived that evil king, that maybe God hid him from that evil king so that he could prophesy during the time of Josiah.
Now, Josiah was one of the best kings of all time in Judah. And that’s the time period when Zephaniah is prophesying. So somewhere around 609 B.C., all the way back to 640 B.C. or so, that’s the time frame when Zephaniah was prophesying. And the funny thing about it, he predicts quite a few terrible things, difficult things. Sometimes you’d say, “Yeah, this is pretty ominous.” This is kind of doom and gloom, some of the prophecies that he speaks.
And yet the time while he’s speaking, it is a time of prosperity. It’s a time when things were better. It was a time when Josiah had brought religious reforms, had brought social reforms to the country. And so you might step back and say, “Well, why would Zephaniah be predicting these difficult times on the horizon while things within Judah were actually better, were actually better under a good king?” But why would he do that?
You see, I think it points to the fact that outward change is one thing, because there’s no doubt the nation was changing at least outwardly. But what God points to is—more than just what’s on the outside, what really is the issue—you have to get rid of that evil inward heart of corruption. That’s what’s got to go, not just have a nice outward appearance, because that’s not what counts.
And so Zephaniah prophesies about that very fact, that there has to be an inward change. And sure enough what happens after King Josiah? It didn’t take too long. Judah reverted right back to the way they were. They were right back to those evil, sinful behaviors. They were in open rebellion against the true God.
And so Zephaniah’s prophecies become that much more critical to point out that very fact. Because the people would not change, because they were in rebellion against God, God would ultimately use one of the other nations to bring punishment upon them. And so later down the line, Babylon would be the one to bring that punishment upon Judah. And so that sets a little bit of a background to what was going on during this time of Zephaniah.
Now, Zephaniah was not the only one prophesying at this time, he was not the only instrument that God was using to preach the idea of change and turning back to God. Zephaniah prophesied about the same time as Habakkuk. So Habakkuk was a prophet about this same time, as well as the prophet Jeremiah. So if you can imagine that time setting of Jeremiah and Habakkuk, that’s pretty much the same time period that Zephaniah was also preaching and prophesying on behalf of God.
Now, one of the key things that he prophesies about is something probably most people are familiar with. You know what that key thing, maybe we can even call it a theme, that runs throughout the book of Zephaniah? What do you think that theme would be? Think about prophecies of the time of the end, the end time, the end of the age. Well, that theme is the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord is probably the most easily found theme throughout the book of Zephaniah—the day of the Lord.
So what is the Day of the Lord? Why was he prophesying about that? Well, the Day of the Lord is that time just before the return of Christ. Just before Christ’s second coming is when the Day of the Lord happens. The Day of the Lord is not anything to do with the Lord’s Day as some people try to interpret it today. Some people say the Lord’s Day is Sunday. That is not what we’re talking about here. We know the fact of Scripture is the Lord’s Day is actually, if you want to talk about worship, the Lord’s Day is the Sabbath—Friday night to Saturday night—that’s the Lord’s Day.
The Day of the Lord, which Revelation talks about, which Daniel talks about, which Zephaniah, just about any of the minor prophets we talk about, goes to that very time—the day of the Lord—the time just before Jesus Christ returns, when God will ultimately punish humanity. When God will hold humanity accountable for their rebellion, and for their sins, for their defiance. And Zephaniah speaks to that very point right at the very beginning of the book of Zephaniah.
So if you turn in your Bible to the book of Zephaniah, let’s start right there in chapter 1. In chapter 1 we’re going to skip down, though, just a little bit to verse 14. Here is where Zephaniah speaks to that Day of the Lord. Notice the way he puts it: “The great day of the Lord is near.” So he adds a little bit of an adjective, a little bit of describer about this day: “that great day.” That great day, sometimes is called “the great and terrible day of the Lord.” He says, “It’s near and hastens quickly. The noise of the day of the Lord is bitter; there the mighty men shall cry out.”
And so he speaks to that time, certainly forecasting the time when Babylon would come and take Judah captive. But more than that, he talks about that time that is a great day, when God will intervene, not only for Judah back in ancient times, but will also intervene in our affairs, the affairs that are happening right now on this earth. And so God will intervene and that time of the Day of the Lord includes that time leading up to Christ’s return and even can include Christ’s return and the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth. And so it encompasses that time period.
And of course, as we kind of get a little bit of a flavor of that, these are difficult times. These are bitter times. These are horrible circumstances that has to bring the people to face the reality of sin so they will realize the impact of their rebellion against God, and recognize they cannot continue to survive in open rebellion against God. And so God ultimately has to intervene.
And throughout the Bible not only is that time called “the day of the Lord” or “that great day of the Lord,” but sometimes it’s also called the “wrath of God.” If you took a quick look over to Romans chapter 2, it talks about this wrath of God in Romans 2:3 Romans 2:3And think you this, O man, that judge them which do such things, and do the same, that you shall escape the judgment of God?
American King James Version×. It says, “Do you think this O man, you who judge those practicing such things and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?” See, those who have turned their back on God, those who sin and are in open rebellion against God. Says, “Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” And ultimately that’s what God wants. He wants all of us, mankind, He wanted Judah to repent and change and turn to Him.
But Romans 2:5 Romans 2:5But after your hardness and impenitent heart treasure up to yourself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;
American King James Version×, it says, “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart, you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” And so here we see that day of wrath, that Day of the Lord points to that very time when God will ultimately punish humanity, was going to punish Judah for their rebellion against God. And of course when you say, “Well, okay, isn’t that pretty drastic? Isn’t God too harsh? Why would God punish? Why would He do that so severely in this case?”
Well, God does things for good reasons. Right? For a good reason. If you were to read through every word of Zephaniah you’ll find that He talks about their lawlessness. He talks about their iniquity. He talks about their evil and depravity. And that’s where society had gone. In a nutshell He’s talking about sin. He’s talking about sin, and ungodly conduct cannot go unpunished. It’s either repented of and forgiven or ultimately it has to be dealt with. There is consequence to sin. And so God prefers repentance. That’s what He’s hoping for when Zephaniah prophesies, He’s hoping that the people of Judah would turn.
So we think about how those things apply today. That’s what God wants. And so Zephaniah is prophesying and hoping that the people will take that warning to heart. And so Zephaniah warns Judah of what’s on the horizon. He’s telling them there is imminent doom on the horizon. “If you don’t change, if you don’t repent, if you don’t consider your ways, there is imminent doom.”
And so if you go back to Zephaniah, chapter 1, notice what he says in verse 15. Verse 15 it says, “That day is a day of wrath.” There it is again. “A day of trouble and distress. A day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess. A day of clouds and thick darkness.” That’s where you get that idea of doom and gloom. This is a troubled time when God begins to punish a rebellious people.
Verse 16: “A day of trumpet and alarm against the fortified cities and against the high towers.” He says, “I will bring distress upon men and they shall walk like blind men.” Why? Well, it’s not just because of this God of ours is such a harsh, mean God, or the God of the Old Testament is a horrible God. No, it’s not that at all. The people have turned their back on God and, of course the people of Judah, they should have known better. They’d had a great example of Josiah as a righteous king and yet what did they do? As soon as that was gone, they just went right back to their evil ways.
And so Zephaniah doesn’t pull any punches as he tells them what God says. So why is that? Middle of verse 17: “Because they have sinned against the Lord.” Because they have sinned against the Lord. And sin that is unrepented of has consequences, and those consequences are serious ones. “Their blood shall be poured out like dust and their flesh like refuse.” And so those are serious consequences.
And as we consider those things, he points out very clearly this is what’s in store for Judah if they don’t repent. If they don’t change, this is what’s in store for them. In fact, he expands that. The focus is Jerusalem. The focus is Judah. But he expands that focus as well. In my Bible, if you turn the page to chapter 2, verse 4, he talks about some of the other nations around. He says, “Gaza will be forsaken,” in verse 4. Ashkelon, they’ll drive out Ashdod, Ekron, Canaan, talks about these other areas.
So even though the focus for Zephaniah was Judah, he expands that to include Ethiopia, Assyria, Moab, those other nations as well. And so this becomes a greater aspect to Zephaniah’s prophecy. In fact, if you look at chapter 3, verse 8, notice how it expands; the prophecy expands not just to Moab, not just to Assyria not just to Canaan, but notice verse 8 of chapter 3. “ ‘Therefore wait for me,’ says the Lord, ‘until the day I rise up for plunder. My determination is to gather the nations to My assembly of kingdoms.’”
You see, ultimately what he’s pointing out here is that all the other nations, all the peoples of the earth are included in Zephaniah warnings. Of course all the nations of the earth weren’t plundered and taken into captivity when Judah went down, were they? Babylon came, they got Judah. They had some others that they dealt with during their time of power, but not all the nations, not all the people.
So that should help us to focus on the fact then these prophecies can’t be just for Judah. They’re not just for ancient times. When God points to these other nations and it didn’t happen back then, we start to see something that’s pretty powerful, that these prophecies there are actually dual prophecies. They were for that time when Zephaniah was prophesying and the destruction of Judah. But also we fast forward to modern times, that this dual prophecy is also going to be fulfilled in the future. In fact, the major fulfillment where all the nations will feel the effects of the Day of the Lord, that’s still on the horizon. That’s still down the line and yet future from where we are right now.
And so as we read through the prophecies of Zephaniah, we can begin to see that all nations even today through Zephaniah’s prophecies are being warned. All the nations are being warned of a coming judgment and this will come about, just as sure as judgment came on Judah. We can look in the history books to prove that. Nations and people will suffer these consequences of God’s judgment, of God’s wrath, of the tribulation, of the Day of the Lord, because of their unrepentant heart, because of their unwillingness to turn to God
And the amazing thing is what we find throughout Zephaniah is … what was that? Think about whose fault is that. Whose fault is it? We might think for just a moment, “Well, it’s not really the people’s fault. How were they supposed to know?” But you see, you read through these prophecies and the nations and the people have brought it on themselves. They brought it on themselves.
And as we draw to that time, God’s going to give them many opportunities to turn to Him. Just like throughout Zephaniah’s prophecies, or we can go to any of the minor prophets that we’ve been studying. Time after time after time God warns His people. He tells them to change. He tells them to turn to Him and they won’t do it. And the same story plays out with the nations. The same story plays out with humanity. You can’t blame God for these things. People can only blame themselves.
And so throughout the prophecies of Zephaniah we see that future, that future that’s ahead of us. A time of devastation, a time of absolutely earth-shaking events that are on the horizon, and those things are going to unfold as we draw nearer to the return of Jesus Christ. And through the prophecies it tells us pretty clearly, nobody escapes. Nobody escapes these things. That coming judgment will be for all.
In fact, if we look down just a little bit further look at verse 11 of Zephaniah chapter 3. Zephaniah 3:11 Zephaniah 3:11In that day shall you not be ashamed for all your doings, wherein you have transgressed against me: for then I will take away out of the middle of you them that rejoice in your pride, and you shall no more be haughty because of my holy mountain.
American King James Version×, it says, “In that day,” now sometimes “in that day” can also refer to the Day of the Lord, that great day of the Lord, in that day. Well, that’s the day it’s talking about. “In that day you shall not be shamed for any of your deeds in which you transgress against Me. For then I will take away from your midst those who rejoice in your pride, and you shall no longer be haughty in My holy mountain.”
You see, in that time of trouble that will take away those that are arrogant, those that shake their fist at God, those that will not repent, that time of tribulation will come upon the nations. It will come upon humanity, and Zephaniah was certainly not the only one to talk about that.
You can look at Daniel, chapter 12. The beginning of Daniel, chapter 12 talks about this time. And it talks about it in the sense where it says, “There was never a time since there was a nation where there will be such trouble.” So Daniel prophesied about that. Jesus Christ Himself prophesied about that very event Himself. He tells us in Matthew 24 in the Olivet prophecy, when He speaks about the end of the age, Matthew 24:22 Matthew 24:22And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version×, He talks about how severe it will be. In Matthew 24:22 Matthew 24:22And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version×He says it will be so bad that if God doesn’t cut short that time, no one would survive. He says, “No flesh would survive that time unless God cuts it short.”
And of course when we consider that, we have to recognize the fact that, yeah, that seems like that’s awful difficult punishment. That might even seem like, “Well, is that overdoing it? Does God go overboard with the consequences on humanity?” And the answer is no because these punishments would not occur if the nations would respond. If they’d respond, if they’d listen to God’s instructions, God is pleading, He’s pleading with Judah through Zephaniah. He’s pleading with us today. He’s pleading with the nations today and will continue to plead with them for repentance, for a change of heart.
And if nations would change, what do you think would happen? If people would change, if they’d turn, what do you think would happen if that were the case? The sad story of history is, though, it doesn’t, people don’t, nations don’t. We look to ourselves. We think we’ve got the best way, we know the best way to walk. We don’t need God or any God telling us what we need to do. And that seems to be the heart of mankind. It is certainly enmity against God is what the apostle Paul said. We are absolutely opposed to God in our inward nature and we need a change of heart. We need a change of nature, we need to turn to God in repentance.
In fact, Christ talked about this. One of the passages that is an amazing one during the ministry of Christ, Christ said something in Matthew 23:37 Matthew 23:37O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets, and stone them which are sent to you, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not!
American King James Version×. Matthew, chapter 23 and in verse 37, Christ kind of spoke to that inward attitude that humanity tends to have, that all of us, without God’s Spirit, our normal, everyday human attitude and perspective outside of God’s presence, this is what we’re like. And Christ spoke to this.
Look at verse 37, Matthew 23. “Christ said, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem.’” Of course think for a minute, Zephaniah is prophesying to Jerusalem, he’s prophesying to Judah and also those dual prophecies for today. So imagine Christ speaking to us today because this applies today as well. “ ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.’” You see, where’s the problem lie? Well, it’s with the people. It’s with the human heart. We rebel against God; He wants to bring us under His wings, He wants to protect us, He wants to guide us. But our human tendencies outside of God’s Spirit wants to kill the prophets, doesn’t want to listen to God.
And so that same attitude that was present in Zephaniah’s time, was present in Jesus time, was present at this time as well. And so God speaks to that very point that it’s our own fault. And if we turn to God, it doesn’t have to be that way. It was a powerful warning almost a century later that the apostle John spoke in 1 John, chapter 2. Notice how this ties in with what Zephaniah prophesied, what Jesus Himself prophesied as well.
So if you take a look at 1 John and in chapter 2, we’ll go to verse 15. Here is a way that we can make sure we are under God’s protection, that we’re under those wings that He spoke about, that we could make sure that we are gathered together to Him. That warning for us also applies today, 1 John 2:15 1 John 2:15Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
American King James Version×. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” And he says in verse 17, “The world is passing away and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
And so the apostle John, in a way, prophesied the way out. Don’t get caught up in this world, don’t choose to follow its ways, don’t get caught up into its values and its system. Don’t go that way. Don’t have that kind of thinking. We’ve got to have God’s perspective and live His will, His way, have His thoughts. They need to be our thoughts. And so John reminds us of that. We become a friend of the world and its ways and its thinking, now we’re an adversary of God. And so God says no, we can’t do that.
Even James said the same thing. In James 4:4 James 4:4You adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
American King James Version×, that passage says if you’re a friend of the world, you’re an enemy of God. And so we don’t want to be a friend of this world. We don’t want that. And if we’re to avoid the destruction, if we’re to avoid the plagues to come, he says we’ve got to be right with God. In fact, Zephaniah, with all its doom and gloom, has some powerful passages that talk about protection. Zephaniah talks about protection because not everyone that Zephaniah mentions turn their back on God.
Zephaniah says that there are some who are willing to change. There are some who are willing to seek God, there are some that want to trust God, and there are some that actually submit their lives to God. In fact, Zephaniah refers to them as a remnant who will be examples of right conduct, of right ways of thinking, of actions that show God’s a part of their life. So if you go back to Zephaniah, let’s read about that in chapter 2 and in verse 3. Zephaniah 2:3 Zephaniah 2:3Seek you the LORD, all you meek of the earth, which have worked his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be you shall be hid in the day of the LORD’s anger.
American King James Version×. Notice what Zephaniah says. He says “Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger.” So it’s kind of interesting if we break down that verse, those who seek God, those who seek righteousness, those who seek humility, he says, “it may be that you will be hidden.” That you will be hidden.
Now, a couple of interesting things about this particular passage, when we consider what he’s talking about here, it’s not that there’s any doubt that God will deliver, because God promises deliverance. When he says it may be that you’ll be hidden, the deliverance isn’t in doubt. That’s not the problem, but he is dealing with the difficulties involved, because our normal, everyday human tendency is to turn away from God, not to want any part of God. Not to be humble, not to be righteous, not to do those things that are good and right and proper. And so that’s the difficulty, but the deliverance isn’t in doubt at all.
And in fact, it’s an interesting connection here to Zephaniah himself. Maybe you caught it as we read through it. The end of verse 3 when he says, “It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger.” If you remember where we started tonight, Zephaniah’s name means “whom the Lord hides,” “hidden of the Eternal,” right? And so we’ve got a little play on words for Zephaniah’s name itself, and he connects that with what God’s purpose and His plan is all about. He says, “Yeah, there will be some who will be hidden.” Literally, those who will be sheltered from wrath, those who will have God’s protection, and it’s a theme that runs through several parts of your Bible.
King David wrote about this, he sang about it in the Psalms. He talked about this very fact that Zephaniah prophesies about. In Psalms 27:5 Psalms 27:5For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up on a rock.
American King James Version×, David wrote, “In the time of trouble He shall hide me.” Kind of sounds like Zephaniah, doesn’t it? Psalms 31:20 Psalms 31:20You shall hide them in the secret of your presence from the pride of man: you shall keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.
American King James Version×, he says, “You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence. You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion.” So he points to a connection here with what Zephaniah’s talking about.
And David wasn’t the only one to write about it. Isaiah prophesied about that very fact as well. Instead of saying a “pavilion”, Isaiah talked about a tabernacle, like a tent, a tent that would heal, a tent that would be a place to hide from the heat. But he also talked about it as a tabernacle of refuge, a shelter from the storm and the rain. And so this concept of hiding or being hidden runs throughout Scripture. Maybe one of the ones that might come to your mind is one that’s in Revelation, chapter 3, verse 10. Revelation, chapter 3, verse 10 brings this concept to mind. Revelation 3:10 Revelation 3:10Because you have kept the word of my patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation, which shall come on all the world, to try them that dwell on the earth.
American King James Version×, here in Revelation the apostle John records for us, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”
Kind of sounds like Zephaniah, doesn’t it? That the nations have rebelled against God. This time of trouble, this time of Daniel 12, this time of great tribulation, this time that Christ Himself prophesied about in Matthew 24, it’s coming on the whole world. And it’s interesting that God connects protection with that, that for some it speaks to that. Revelation, chapter 12, you just might write that down, Revelation 12:14 Revelation 12:14And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
American King James Version×speaks of protection. Protection for some. Well, who would be these ones that are protected? Certainly there are those that are protected that Zephaniah talks about, Isaiah talked about, John talked about. John also talked about martyrs for God’s way, those who would die in the faith, keeping His way.
But there is a connection to that protection and the kind of people, the kind of of character that they are. If you go back to Zephaniah for a moment, Zephaniah, chapter 2, verse 3 we read this earlier. Zephaniah 2:3 Zephaniah 2:3Seek you the LORD, all you meek of the earth, which have worked his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be you shall be hid in the day of the LORD’s anger.
American King James Version×, it describes that where Zephaniah talks about those hidden. What was this trait he talked about? He started by saying, “Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth.” “All you meek of the earth,” the meek.
This Hebrew word for “meek” is talking about the condition of a person. It’s talking about what kind of shape our heart and our mind is in. The meek ones are those ones who uphold God’s justice. The meek ones are the ones that seek righteousness, the meek ones are the ones who are humble. Those are the meek ones, and Zephaniah points to that pretty clearly. And so what’s interesting, how do you know if you’re meek or not? Well, Zephaniah uses this word for meek indicating it’s shown by our actions. Meekness is shown through our actions.
And so we put all of those things together. Someone that has a godly heart, godly mind. That’s one that’s teachable, one that’s willing to learn, one that’s willing to change when they’re wrong. One that’s humble, one that’s lowly, one that’s meek, one that’s willing to change. And these servants, these ones that are meek, they put God first. They put God first over self, over their own desires, over their own self will, and so these servants have the one true God as their God and their actions show that very fact.
In fact, it’s interesting when you tie these things together with Revelation, I mentioned Revelation chapter 12. It gives more of the condition of these people’s character and it points to the fact that these are the ones—in Revelation it says this—these are the ones that keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. That’s Revelation 12, tells us that very fact. These meek ones that Zephaniah prophesied about, they keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, those are the ones. Revelation 14 talks about, “They keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” That’s the humble people, that’s the lowly people, that’s the people that seek God’s will, not their own will. Even at the very end, Revelation 22 talks about those people who do the commandments, to do His commandments.
And so we see that actions speak louder than words. We can claim to be humble, we can claim to try to follow God, but what do our actions really show? And of course that speaks loudly to us then. Loudly to us. So as we consider those people, he does talk about that remnant that is willing to submit their lives to God and His way and His will. And so to what a powerful message for us that that’s exactly what we need to be doing.
In fact, he speaks in Zephaniah probably about something that’s even more critical. Rather than us get all worried about, “Well, is God going to protect me, or will I be a martyr or how’s that going to work out when things really start going down,” he points to something I think even more significant because he points toward the end of the story. And the end of the story that Zephaniah prophesies about is restoration, because God’s going to take care of this world. He’s going to wipe out this world’s systems and its governments. They are all going down. They cannot survive. And God is going to replace the governments, the kingdoms, the kings, the rulers, the presidents, the prime ministers of this world, and He’s going to replace them with the Kingdom of God.
And so Christ’s return, second coming of Christ, is going to institute a whole new world order. It’ll will be a new era. That era will begin at the return of Christ, and Zephaniah prophesies about that restoration. He prophesies about God’s people ultimately being restored. And of course Zephaniah speaks of those changes and these are huge changes, totally different changes. Change of heart, a change of mind, a change of perspective, a change of leadership, change of direction that comes with Jesus Christ’s return. Really, you get down to it, that’s talking about the end of human society as we know it today, when God’s government is instituted.
In fact, he speaks of that if you go back to Zephaniah, chapter 3. Look at Zephaniah, chapter 3, verse 9 where he speaks of this amazing restoration. Zephaniah 3:9 Zephaniah 3:9For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call on the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.
American King James Version×says, “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language that they may call on the name of the Lord to serve Him with one accord.” And so Zephaniah speaks to that very fact. In fact, if we skip down just a little bit, look at verse 12. He goes on in verse 12, “I will leave in your midst a meek and humble people and they shall trust in the name of the Lord.”
And so not only a pure language, but what’s the big difference? We have God dwelling with His people, and these people will do righteousness. They won’t speak lies, Zephaniah says. There will be joy, there will be gladness. In fact, if you look at verse 14, chapter 3 of Zephaniah. “Sing, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O Israel!” And this is a powerful shout of joy. “Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!”
Well, how could they get to that point with all the doom and destruction that Zephaniah talks about? How could you get to a point of shouting for joy and gladness? Man’s done with man’s ways. We’re done trying to figure this out ourselves. We recognize we don’t know how to live, and God brings His government and His way to this world. And so that’s why we can shout for joy, because it is a good and righteous system. We have a good and righteous Savior. We have a good and righteous King who will govern His kingdom.
And so in verse 15, we see why they’re shouting for joy. “The Lord has taken away your judgments, He’s cast out your enemy. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall see disaster no more.” And so what a shout for joy that will go up when that takes place. What a powerful thing. “You’ll see disaster,” literally meaning “you’ll fear disaster,” that fear will be gone because God’s in charge. And you’ll have a new world order that is a righteous world order. Now, I don’t know if that hearkens back to anything that might sound familiar in the New Testament, a time of restoring the people to a right relationship with God. A time of restoring people to joy and gladness. A time of restoring people to a right relationship with God.
Well, the book of Acts speaks about that. In Acts, chapter 3 we can read about this amazing time of restoration. Of course Acts, chapter 3, verse 19 speaks to this process of how do we have a right relationship with God? How am I justified by God? How am I forgiven of sin, how I am I acquitted so that I can have a right relationship, so I can live righteously, so I can be meek? Well, Acts 3:19 Acts 3:19Repent you therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
American King James Version×it says, “Repent therefore and be converted.” It’s through repentance. It’s by accepting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and changing, repenting of my sins and seeking God’s forgiveness.
“So repent,” he says, “that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ who was preached to you before.” So here we have Christ being preached. It says, “whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.”
And so we have a connection here that Peter speaks of in the beginning of the book of Acts that connects right back to what Zephaniah was prophesying about—the ultimate restoration of the world because people will finally be able to repent and change. They’ll be able to have a relationship with God. And so this time of restoration of, not just a just a few things, not just a little bit, but of he says, “all things,” and so Zephaniah spoke powerfully of this very fact.
In fact, go back once again to Zephaniah, and in chapter 3 we read about that that powerful part. Maybe I got ahead of the game just a little bit. I guess I did, but in verse 17 of Zephaniah 3, Zephaniah 3:17 Zephaniah 3:17The LORD your God in the middle of you is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over you with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over you with singing.
American King James Version×, here’s the critical factor. The critical factor beginning at verse 17 is, “The Lord God is in your midst.” “The Lord your God is in your midst.” It’s not just that the Lord is God, but now He is your God. He is your God. “The Lord your God is in your midst.” And of course that’s a powerful thing. We think of Jesus Christ returning, literally He will govern the world and He will be in our midst.
But that’s not something we have to wait for, is it? I mean, we look forward to Christ returning and taking care of this world system, and there’s no doubt that Jesus Christ will have the power. He will have the authority to take care of this world system. It’s going down. And He will bring about that peace and that prosperity and begin that world restoration process so that people can live in harmony with God. They can live in harmony with each other. And there can truly finally be lasting peace. There can be happiness. There can be right relationships between people and God.
And God will pour out the blessings of abundance not just on Judah, or not just on Israel but on all nations, on all people. And so he says that will certainly come to pass. But an amazing thing that also applies to us, to you, to me, he says the critical factor is the Lord God is in your midst. And so what happens now? What happens today when we turn to God, when we look to Him, when we change our thinking, when we repent, when we seek God’s forgiveness and we look to Him for the ultimate solution in our life?
You see, when we repent and follow what Acts, chapter 2 talks about—repent and be baptized—we commit our lives into God’s hands, God pours His Spirit on us, the elders lay hands on us and we receive God’s Spirit. At that time, is Zephaniah 3:17 Zephaniah 3:17The LORD your God in the middle of you is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over you with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over you with singing.
American King James Version×kind of fulfilled in us right now? “That the Lord your God is in your midst.” We’re given God’s Spirit. Our body is like that temple of God. And the Lord God is in our midst, and so what a reminder even for us today that we have that opportunity right now. How much better would it have been for Judah to change, for them to repent, for them to turn to God back then? It would have been amazing.
Well, is it any different for us? If we turn to God now, if we change our life now, if we listen to those warnings today and make those changes so that we have God in our midst, we have God’s Holy Spirit. In fact, He pours out His Spirit on us when we change and we repent and we’re baptized and have hands laid on us, that we have the Spirit of God. We have the power to overcome sin. God gives us that spirit of power and love and of a sound mind, healthy thinking, right reasoning so that we can have a right relationship with God and with each other. And so God gives us that opportunity now.
And so Zephaniah should stand as a stark reminder for each and every one of us that these things should also cause us to pause, step back, and ask ourselves, “Is the Lord God in my midst? Am I getting myself out of the way and allowing Christ to live His life in me and through me?” In a way that was the question that Zephaniah posed. Are you willing to look to the ultimate solution, the one God, or not? And so Zephaniah in a way poses that’s same question to us. Will we listen? There’s time right now, we have time. But boy, we look around the world scene, it’s a challenging time. It just seems that we’re teetering, our world is teetering. How long is it before we just kind of begin to tip over that edge?
But we have some time right now to hear the prophecies of Zephaniah. We have some time right now to change, to draw closer to God, and so Zephaniah says this is the time. This is the time. So for us today, we have to be on guard. We have to be watchful. We can’t take things for granted. In fact, that is so often the message of the apostles throughout the New Testament. You can probably think of a few of them that had those kinds of words.
I think of the apostle Peter where he said, “Be watchful. The end is at hand.” Now, if it was getting near during Peter’s day, we go back almost 2,000 years, how much closer are we to that time now? Well, we are that much closer now. And so Peter reminded us of that. Zephaniah said the same thing. Be watchful, be on guard, be alert. Avoid those distractions that can take our time and our attention, and that relationship that we should have with God. It can take it away from us if we allow those distractions to steer us off course.
And so instead we’ve got to be aligned with God, we’ve got to be growing. We’ve got to be committed to that development, and that spiritual growth. And it’s something that Christ Himself warned about. Matthew 24 was certainly one of those sections. Mark 13, another section of Scripture where Christ said that very thing. He said, “Watch.” Just write that down, write down Mark 13. And in that section of Scripture, you can read it later, toward the end of that chapter, I believe it’s verse 35, 6, 7. He talks about, “don’t be unprepared.” We know these things are coming, just like Judah knew these things were coming if they didn’t change.
We know these things are coming. Don’t be unprepared. Don’t be caught off guard. Don’t be distracted. That’s the message of Zephaniah, so Christ warned to watch. And He didn’t mean just get out your newspaper or turn on CNN or the news channel or FOX or any of those things and watch world events. That’s important to know what’s going on in the world. But when He talked about watching, He meant watch yourself, watch your life, watch your relationship, watch the development of your spiritual character. Are you right with God?
You can know all the events that are going on in the world, and if you’re not right with God, what good will it do you? Not going to do any good. It won’t do any good at all. So we’ve got to watch our own behavior, our own life, our own attitudes, our own ways of thinking. We’ve got to root those out through the power of God’s Spirit and draw closer to God. And so that’s what Zephaniah tells us. That message for today is what’s your focus? Is the focal point of your life dedicated to growing, to developing that spiritual character of Jesus Christ?
Spiritual growth has to be our focal point, that we have to be dedicated to God and growing in the grace and knowledge of God, growing in His character—holy, righteous, perfect character—that needs to be the focus of our life. And that ultimately is the focus of the Day of the Lord—to bring this world to its knees so they will now turn to God. For us, we’ve got that opportunity right now. What an amazing blessing that God has given us that He opens our minds to His truth, so that we can understand and we can do something about it now, because God is like that example that Jesus said, He wants us under his wings. He wants to bring us into the fold. And so that’s what God’s purpose and His plan.
In fact, there’s a powerful message all the way at the end of the book. If you go to the book of Revelation, Revelation, chapter 3, verse 10 gives us a direction when it comes to that watchfulness, to that concept of staying alert no matter what’s happening in the world around us. Staying spiritually awake, staying spiritually focused, He tells us about that and how to do that all the way at the end. Revelation, chapter 3, notice verse 10. Revelation 3:10 Revelation 3:10Because you have kept the word of my patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation, which shall come on all the world, to try them that dwell on the earth.
American King James Version×, He says, “Because you have kept My command to persevere,” the command to persevere, of course that would include all of those commandments that we follow His way. Not that we’re just holding on ‘til the end but we’re living His way, we’re breathing His way, we’re having a right relationship with Him, we’re keeping His commandments.
He says “I will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth.” We live in a time testing, don’t we? Yeah, this world tests us and tries us. And if we take Zephaniah’s message to heart, we know where the answer lies. The answer to the test—not that hard, is it? The answer is we’ve got to turn to God, we’ve got to have a right relationship with God, we’ve got to be watchful of our focus. We’ve got to be growing. We’ve got to have that kind of relationship with Him because ultimately there is coming a difficult time of trial and testing. Great tribulation will come upon this earth; Zephaniah prophesied that very fact.
But we have time. So let’s grow, let’s strive to be that kind of individual that Zephaniah spoke about, to be that meek servant, to be that humble servant, to be that servant that obeys God and turns to Him. And the amazing part, when you read through the story, God says when we do that, not only can we have a right relationship with Him now, but He even says that we, as His people, when Christ returns, we have an amazing opportunity. That opportunity that’s spelled out through Scripture says that we’re going to have the opportunity to be a part of that restoration process. We’re going to have an opportunity to be a part of the restoration of all things.
So what an amazing opportunity. We can be a part of that restoration by being right with God now. So let’s make that our goal. Let’s make that our goal to be sure, like Zephaniah, like his name literally said, “whom the Eternal hides.” Well, let’s make sure our lives are hidden within God in His way, in His Word, His will. And when we do that, we can be sure that we could be a part of that ultimate restoration when Christ returns.
All right, well, that will do it for our study this evening. We’ll continue in this series of the minor prophets. I did not check whether that’s going to be in two weeks from now or not. It is two weeks. I got the peace sign. In two weeks we do have another Beyond Today Bible study, so be right back here in two weeks for our next in the series of the minor prophets. So have a good evening. Thanks for joining us tonight and have safe travels back home.