Zephaniah the great-great grandson of King Hezekiah, along with King Josiah lived during the great reforms of the child King Josiah. Obviously the two are half brothers [different mothers]. It is truly amazing to see that both men were sensitive to the things of God, especially after having Manasseh and Amon in their family tree, two of the worse kings Judah had with their propensity to idolatry with Molech and Baal. Zephaniah prophesied during his Kingly brothers reign. While there seemed to be a bit of a revival on the outside, the internal heart’s desire was still bent towards idolatry. Sometimes there is the attempt to dress up the outside and not deal with the real problem on the inside – too many of us what to “wash the outside of the dish, and leave the inside filthy;” such was the condemnation of the Pharisees and Sadducees by Jesus.
As pastor I have found that even the Church lauds the “behavioral modification” efforts without ever really addressing the “spirit” that caused the rebellion in the first place. The Church rewards behavioral modification in such things as now they attend church, Sunday School, tithe and etc. But the focus is not on “conforming to the prescribed behavioral patterns observed in the Church; but to be transformed from the inside out through the power of Jesus. I have often heard that Christians are known for being a bunch of “quitters.” They quit this and quit that, as if things that they have given up are a reflection of a salvation experience. An unredeemed person can “act” as Church Holy” as anyone, without ever being saved through faith in Christ. Mimic religion doesn’t save!
Zephaniah gets to the heart of the matter, not the outward appearances. God will in fact judge the nation of Judah for its – hidden sins of idolatry before men. As we finish up this year of prophets the underlying message has been that God’s people have been unfaithful They have broken the commandments and covenant of God. They have gone their own way, even though God has loved them and provided for their every need. I can hear the Father saying something like “for all I’ve done and this is the thanks I get!” Imagine living in such a time as this writing; confusion I am sure would be the order of the day – Zephaniah how can you preach the doom and gloom when so many good things are happening? While the people did the reforms that were publicly obvious, they did not cleanse their minds and hearts of idolatry. Judah will be punished [phrased used 5 times in the book]. God is holy and He expects holiness from His people.
The indictment reminds me of how we act sometimes, we act all prim and proper in public, but in private we act like heathens! Zephaniah resounds with judgment and the “day of the LORD” like another prophet – Joel. The fearful and dreadful “day of the LORD.” This message is one that rings familiar with Revelation 21, with the New Heaven and New Earth for the first heaven and first earth have passed away – same message from God in Zeph 1:2-4. So we have a then and future judgment on ALL things. God cleanses the world of sin – He did it with the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Promised Land through exile and He will do it through fire in the Apocalypse time. But, I love that word, because it tells me there is more coming. Just as God will cleanse through judgment the sins of men and nations, He also will have a REMANENT! The book closes with a message of hope as all other prophetic books have – I will Restore! There will be another day, God will not hold His anger forever against Judah or us. But until the final judgment before the throne, we are admonished in Zeph 2:3 to gather together, be humble, seek humility and righteousness, Perhaps we will be hidden from the judgment to come. Bottom-line – Be found Faithful!