Zephaniah bible study

Zephaniah: Is there Hope to Rescue the World from the Horror of Evil People?

Look around the world today and you can describe the majority of it as “godless”. Most people have grown complacent and far from God. Everything’s fine in their lives. Sure, there’s a problem once in a while, but they manage to make it through on their own. Many people don’t pay attention to the news because it’s too depressing or it doesn’t affect them or where they live. It’s like it’s someone else’s problem, not mine. Nevertheless, there will come a time when world events WILL affect EVERYBODY on the planet. That is the Day of the Lord or Judgment Day.

Jeremiah wrote during the reign of King Josiah — one of the good kings of Judah. Again, these short chapters warn of the judgment that was fulfilled with the Old Testament, as well as the judgment of the word that is yet to come. Let’s dig in…

Zephaniah 1

The Lord gave this message to Zephaniah when Josiah son of Amon was king of Judah. Zephaniah was the son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah.

Coming Judgment against Judah

“I will sweep away everything
    from the face of the earth,” says the Lord.
“I will sweep away people and animals alike.
    I will sweep away the birds of the sky and the fish in the sea.
I will reduce the wicked to heaps of rubble,
    and I will wipe humanity from the face of the earth,” says the Lord.
“I will crush Judah and Jerusalem with my fist
    and destroy every last trace of their Baal worship.
I will put an end to all the idolatrous priests,
    so that even the memory of them will disappear.
For they go up to their roofs
    and bow down to the sun, moon, and stars.
They claim to follow the Lord,
    but then they worship Molech, too.
And I will destroy those who used to worship me
    but now no longer do.
They no longer ask for the Lord’s guidance
    or seek my blessings.”

Stand in silence in the presence of the Sovereign Lord,
    for the awesome day of the Lord’s judgment is near.
The Lord has prepared his people for a great slaughter
    and has chosen their executioners.
“On that day of judgment,”
    says the Lord,
“I will punish the leaders and princes of Judah
    and all those following pagan customs.
Yes, I will punish those who participate in pagan worship ceremonies,
    and those who fill their masters’ houses with violence and deceit.

10 “On that day,” says the Lord,
    “a cry of alarm will come from the Fish Gate
and echo throughout the New Quarter of the city.
    And a great crash will sound from the hills.
11 Wail in sorrow, all you who live in the market area,
    for all the merchants and traders will be destroyed.

12 “I will search with lanterns in Jerusalem’s darkest corners
    to punish those who sit complacent in their sins.
They think the Lord will do nothing to them,
    either good or bad.
13 So their property will be plundered,
    their homes will be ransacked.
They will build new homes
    but never live in them.
They will plant vineyards
    but never drink wine from them.

14 “That terrible day of the Lord is near.
    Swiftly it comes—
a day of bitter tears,
    a day when even strong men will cry out.
15 It will be a day when the Lord’s anger is poured out—
    a day of terrible distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and desolation,
    a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and blackness,
16     a day of trumpet calls and battle cries.
Down go the walled cities
    and the strongest battlements!

17 “Because you have sinned against the Lord,
    I will make you grope around like the blind.
Your blood will be poured into the dust,
    and your bodies will lie rotting on the ground.”

18 Your silver and gold will not save you
    on that day of the Lord’s anger.
For the whole land will be devoured
    by the fire of his jealousy.
He will make a terrifying end
    of all the people on earth.

Zephaniah 1 NLT (bold emphasis mine)

Points to Ponder

  • God’s judgment reverses God’s creation, destroying it by fire. It starts in Revelation 8.
  • He will reduce any pagan worship into rubble. He will punish all those who follow pagan customs. I listened to a podcast episode from Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) and a Christian pastor from Nepal talked about the Hindu gods. They believe that there are 330 million gods! The problem is, if something goes wrong or they have trouble, they don’t know which god is causing it, which god was offended, or which one needs to be appeased! These are false gods!
  • This is so similar to Roman Catholics! They, however, are a bit more organized. They have a saint for each cause, town, city, occupation, whatever. That’s who they pray to when they have a problem. Like a dead person can help them now. It’s all idolatry. It’s all pagan worship.
  • Verse 17 summarizes the problem with the world: “Because you have sinned against the Lord”. That’s it. Plain and simple. We ALL have sinned against the Lord. We ALL deserve judgment. We certainly don’t deserve GRACE. Yet, Jesus loved you so much that He gave His life in our place. Born-again believers will not suffer judgment because Jesus already did it on the cross.

Going on…

Zephaniah 2 – A Call to Repentance

Gather together—yes, gather together,
    you shameless nation.
Gather before judgment begins,
    before your time to repent is blown away like chaff.
Act now, before the fierce fury of the Lord falls
    and the terrible day of the Lord’s anger begins.
Seek the Lord, all who are humble,
    and follow his commands.
Seek to do what is right
    and to live humbly.
Perhaps even yet the Lord will protect you—
    protect you from his anger on that day of destruction.

Judgment against Philistia

Gaza and Ashkelon will be abandoned,
    Ashdod and Ekron torn down.
And what sorrow awaits you Philistines
    who live along the coast and in the land of Canaan,
    for this judgment is against you, too!
The Lord will destroy you
    until not one of you is left.
The Philistine coast will become a wilderness pasture,
    a place of shepherd camps
    and enclosures for sheep and goats.
The remnant of the tribe of Judah will pasture there.
    They will rest at night in the abandoned houses in Ashkelon.
For the Lord their God will visit his people in kindness
    and restore their prosperity again.

Judgment against Moab and Ammon

“I have heard the taunts of the Moabites
    and the insults of the Ammonites,
mocking my people
    and invading their borders.
Now, as surely as I live,”
    says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel,
“Moab and Ammon will be destroyed—
    destroyed as completely as Sodom and Gomorrah.
Their land will become a place of stinging nettles,
    salt pits, and eternal desolation.
The remnant of my people will plunder them
    and take their land.”

10 They will receive the wages of their pride,
    for they have scoffed at the people of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
11 The Lord will terrify them
    as he destroys all the gods in the land.
Then nations around the world will worship the Lord,
    each in their own land.

Judgment against Ethiopia and Assyria

12 “You Ethiopians (Cush) will also be slaughtered
    by my sword,” says the Lord.

13 And the Lord will strike the lands of the north with his fist,
    destroying the land of Assyria.
He will make its great capital, Nineveh, a desolate wasteland,
    parched like a desert.
14 The proud city will become a pasture for flocks and herds,
    and all sorts of wild animals will settle there.
The desert owl and screech owl will roost on its ruined columns,
    their calls echoing through the gaping windows.
Rubble will block all the doorways,
    and the cedar paneling will be exposed to the weather.
15 This is the boisterous city,
    once so secure.
“I am the greatest!” it boasted.
    “No other city can compare with me!”
But now, look how it has become an utter ruin,
    a haven for wild animals.
Everyone passing by will laugh in derision
    and shake a defiant fist.

Zephaniah 2 NLT

Points to Ponder

God's borders for Greater Israel
Screenshot from Pastor Sandy Adams presentation
  • God warns of the coming judgment, then He gives people a chance to repent.
  • Here is the judgment on Israel’s enemies. As you can see from this map, all the countries mentioned will be part of the future Israel. These are God’s designated borders for Israel. Right now, Israel is in a constant fight about borders. In the end, Israel gets it all.
  • We are told to SEEK THE LORD! That’s simple: worship and obey. Jesus said it in Matthew 6:33: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
  • People are complacent. The Day of the Lord is coming. Verse 3 describes the Rapture: “Perhaps even yet the Lord will protect you–protect you from his anger on that day of destruction.” We believers will be saved from God’s wrath in the Rapture — which can happen at any moment! Will you be left behind?
  • The message of HOPE is for the REPENTANT.

Continuing…

Zephaniah 3 – Jerusalem’s Rebellion and Redemption

What sorrow awaits rebellious, polluted Jerusalem,
    the city of violence and crime!
No one can tell it anything;
    it refuses all correction.
It does not trust in the Lord
    or draw near to its God.
Its leaders are like roaring lions
    hunting for their victims.
Its judges are like ravenous wolves at evening time,
    who by dawn have left no trace of their prey.
Its prophets are arrogant liars seeking their own gain.
    Its priests defile the Temple by disobeying God’s instructions.
But the Lord is still there in the city,
    and he does no wrong.
Day by day he hands down justice,
    and he does not fail.
    But the wicked know no shame.

“I have wiped out many nations,
    devastating their fortress walls and towers.
Their streets are now deserted;
    their cities lie in silent ruin.
There are no survivors—
    none at all.
I thought, ‘Surely they will have reverence for me now!
    Surely they will listen to my warnings.
Then I won’t need to strike again,
    destroying their homes.’
But no, they get up early
    to continue their evil deeds.
Therefore, be patient,” says the Lord.
    “Soon I will stand and accuse these evil nations.
For I have decided to gather the kingdoms of the earth
    and pour out my fiercest anger and fury on them.
All the earth will be devoured
    by the fire of my jealousy.

“Then I will purify the speech of all people,
    so that everyone can worship the Lord together.
10 My scattered people who live beyond the rivers of Ethiopia
    will come to present their offerings.
11 On that day you will no longer need to be ashamed,
    for you will no longer be rebels against me.
I will remove all proud and arrogant people from among you.
    There will be no more haughtiness on my holy mountain.
12 Those who are left will be the lowly and humble,
    for it is they who trust in the name of the Lord.
13 The remnant of Israel will do no wrong;
    they will never tell lies or deceive one another.
They will eat and sleep in safety,
    and no one will make them afraid.”

14 Sing, O daughter of Zion;
    shout aloud, O Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
    O daughter of Jerusalem!
15 For the Lord will remove his hand of judgment
    and will disperse the armies of your enemy.
And the Lord himself, the King of Israel, (Messiah!)
    will live among you!
At last your troubles will be over,
    and you will never again fear disaster.
16 On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be,
    “Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid!
17 For the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

18 “I will gather you who mourn for the appointed festivals;
    you will be disgraced no more.
19 And I will deal severely with all who have oppressed you.
    I will save the weak and helpless ones;
I will bring together
    those who were chased away.
I will give glory and fame to my former exiles,
    wherever they have been mocked and shamed.
20 On that day I will gather you together
    and bring you home again.
I will give you a good name, a name of distinction,
    among all the nations of the earth,
as I restore your fortunes before their very eyes.
    I, the Lord, have spoken!”

Zephaniah 3 NLT

Have you ever sat in church and felt that the preacher was speaking directly to you. Like he was calling you out personally. Probably not. However, it felt like it. God does that. He did it to me. I was trying to live with one foot in the kingdom and one foot in the world. Then in a class at church, He smacked me upside the head.

God IS a loving God and He does not want ANYONE to perish! That’s why…

  1. He warns us about our sin and the judgment yet…
  2. He gives us a chance to repent
  3. Then judgment comes, but a remnant is left — the humble and contrite — the saved.
  4. Then there’s the restoration.

That’s how it worked back in the Old Testament days and that’s how it will work in the final judgment. God is warning us right now! There are Bible Prophecies of the End Times coming true today! There are signs of the last days all around us! It’s like it was in the days of Noah — complacent people going about their business, then the flood happened.

Pastor Sandy Adams explained about biblical prophecy…

Zephaniah is a good example of what’s true regarding many of the OT promises… They have both an immediate and future fulfillment… The immediate threat in Zephaniah’s day were the Babylonians. Yet, here in verse 8, the prophet speaks of “nations” and “kingdoms” – plural. In fact, he says, “all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of My jealousy.” Obviously, the prophecy’s scope fits future events. At the end of the age, God will judge the whole earth! Here’s how to read OT prophecy: Imagine, yourself lying flat on your back under a tall tree and looking up through its branches. It’s difficult to tell which branches are on top of the others, and the exact distance between the various branches. And this is how prophecy works. The OT prophecies tend to be layered. The immediate and future overlap in the text.

Sandy Adams

More Points to Ponder

  • Verse 4 calls out the priests and pastors who over the years have polluted the Word of God and have not followed God’s instructions. If you read the Gospels and the Book of Acts, we people of the church age are told exactly what we have to do. It’s best summed up in the Great Commission at the end of Matthew 28: Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Is that so difficult to understand?
  • Verse 9 is coming true in Israel right now with the rebirth of the dead Hebrew language. Pastor Sandy Adams explains…

The restoration of the Jewish language in Israel today is nothing short of a modern miracle. Prior to this century, the Hebrew language had not been
spoken since the 6th century BC — around the time of Zephaniah — when the Jews were carried off to Babylon. When they returned to Jerusalem they spoke the Aramaic they picked up in Babel. Only the religious scribes spoke Hebrew. The rabbis believed Hebrew was too sacred to be used in ordinary conversation.
Thus, is didn’t take long for Hebrew to become a dead language. No one would speak it for 1900 years.

Then around the turn of the 20th century Jews started returning to their homeland – and they came back to Jerusalem speaking a million languages.
Communication was a challenge. But one Jerusalem journalist, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, noticed the problem, and made it his personal mission to revive ancient Hebrew. He started with a vocabulary of 7704 words he gleaned from the Bible.

Today, modern Hebrew has grown to over 80,000 words. Hebrew is the only dead language in history that’s been restored to daily use. In Israel today, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda is a hero. The main drag in Jerusalem is called “Ben-Yehuda Street.”
Go to Israel, listen to the conversation, and you’ll see the fulfillment of Zephaniah’s 2500 year old prophecy.

Sandy Adams

Urgent Call to Action

God doesn’t take joy in judgment. It actually breaks His heart. He takes joy in obedience, in humility, and when we respect Him — fearing Him.

He hates pride, pagan worship, and all sin is evil in His eyes. Take a look at your life. Are you living righteously? Are you obeying Him, getting to know Him, SEEKING HIM? If not, here’s what you need to do to turn your life around and get right with God before it’s too late…

Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.

  • Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever and that He rose from the dead 3 days later.
  • Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180 degree turn in your life and surrender your life to Him.
  • Be Baptized — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
  • Receive the Holy Spirit in your heart.

Invite Jesus into Your Heart and Receive the Gift of Grace and the Confident Hope of
Eternal Life…

An Overview of Zephaniah


Amir Tsarfati: The Miracle Called Israel



Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!

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