Focal Passage: Zephaniah
As we conclude our series of
lessons from the Minor Prophets, the writings of Zephaniah contain components
similar to the others: the announcement of a coming judgment for sin; a call to
repentance because God is just and desires to forgive; and a promise that the
remnant who make God their refuge will be saved.
Zephaniah communicates his
message with picturesque language, describing the wrath of God as well as the
love of God. He sees God traveling the streets of Jerusalem with a lantern in
order to find and punish the unholy (1:12). His prophecy that describes “the
Day of the Lord” is arresting: “….a day of wrath, of distress and anguish, of
trouble and ruin, of darkness and gloom, of clouds and blackness, of trumpet
and battle cry….” (Zephaniah 1:15-16a).
The repetitive use of the
term “the Day of the Lord” indicates that the Book of Zephaniah contains a
message about the end times when the righteous will be rewarded and the unholy
Although Zephaniah’s message
has future significance, Judah and the neighboring nations awaited an immediate
fulfillment of the prophecies. Beginning with Assyria, the judgments were
fulfilled in a few years, when the temple was completely destroyed and the Jews
were carried into Babylonian captivity.
certainly included judgment for the sin of the people, but it also included
hope: ‘“At that time I will gather you;….I will bring you home. I will give
honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your
fortunes before your very eyes,” says the Lord’ (Zephaniah 3:20). I remember
the words of my homiletics professor in seminary, Dr. Chevis Horne, as he spoke
to a class of future preachers: “Always preach the truth of scripture, but
never end the sermon without offering the hope of Christ.”
The significance of the name
Zephaniah (“the one whom Jehovah has chosen”) has a relationship with the ministry
of Jesus. Jesus said, “I tell you that…there will be more rejoicing in heaven
over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not
need to repent” (Luke 15:7). Zephaniah offers the figure of a joyful redeemer:
“The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great
delight in you, He will quiet you with his love, He will rejoice over you with
singing (Zephaniah 3:17).
When the divine work of
redemption is done in the life of an individual, God Himself breaks forth in
singing and rejoicing. Therefore, let us rejoice!