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Getting to Know the Bible: Zephaniah Overview




Peace & Blessings Beloved,

TGBTG for allowing us to see another day. I pray all is well with you and yours, and that your week has been fruitful & blessed thus far.


Today we are going to visit our Getting to Know the Bible Series. In this series, our goal is to come to a comprehensive understanding of each book of the bible. At this point of the series we're going to focus on Zephaniah. But before we get to Zephaniah 1, I want to ensure we have a baseline understanding of the book of Zephaniah. This way we can have a full appreciation for the exquisiteness of the entire book, as well as each individual chapter.


And so, in that spirit, see below for a comprehensive overview of the book of Zephaniah, as we prepare to behold and discern Zephaniah, beginning with Zephaniah 1 in our next installment of this series.





Book Type: The ninth book of the Minor Prophets; the thirty-sixth book of the Old Testament


Author: Zephaniah


Date of Writing: ~ Between 640-621 B.C.


Setting: King Josiah of Judah was attempting to reverse the evil trends set by the two previous kings of Judah- Manasseh and Amon. Josiah was able to extend his influence because there wasn't a strong superpower dominating the world at that time (Assyria was declining rapidly). Zephaniah's prophecy may have been the motivating factor in Josiah's reform. Zephaniah was a contemporary of Jeremiah.


Audience: The people of Judah


Original Language: Hebrew


Genre: Prophecy


Timeline:


Blueprint: Zephaniah warned the people of Judah that if they refused to repent, the entire nation, including the beloved city of Jerusalem, would be lost. The people knew that the LORD would eventually bless them, but Zephaniah made it clear that there would be judgment first, then blessing. This judgment would not be merely punishment for sin, but also a process of purifying the people. Though we live in a fallen world surrounded by evil, we can place our hope in the perfect kingdom of God to come and can we allow any punishment we have to endure to purify us from sin.


Theme:

Day of Judgment- Destruction was coming because Judah had forsaken the LORD. The people worshipped Baal, Molech, and the the starry hosts. Even the priests mixed pagan practices with faith in God. The LORD's punishment for sin was soon coming.


To escape God's judgment we must acknowledge Him, listen to Him, accept His correction, trust Him, and seek Him. If we accept Him as our LORD and savior, He will save us from eternal damnation, which is what we deserve.


Indifference to God- Although there had been occasional attempts at renewal, Judah had no sorrow for its sin. The people were prosperous, and they no longer cared about God. God's demands for righteous living seemed irrelevant to Judah, whose security and wealth made her complacent.


Don't let material comfort be a barrier to your commitment to God. Prosperity can produce an attitude of prideful self-sufficiency. The only antidote is to admit that material possessions have no salvation power, nor can we save ourselves. Our only hope for life eternal is through a relationship with our LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ.


Day of Cheer- The day of judgment will also be a day of cheer. The LORD will judge all who mistreat His people. He will purify His people, and purge them of all sin and wickedness. God will restore His people and give them hope.


When people are purged of sin, there is great relief and hope, an unburdening of all that once troubled us. No matter how difficult our experiences may be afterwards, we can boldly look ahead to that wonderful day of celebration and rejoicing, as our Heavenly Father restores us to Him.


Background:

As God's prophet Zephaniah was bound to speak the truth, which he did clearly, proclaiming certain judgment and horrendous punishment for all who would defy the LORD. God's awful wrath would sweep away everything in the land and destroy it. And that day was soon coming. The people of Judah had been judged guilty, and were doomed.


God does not take sin lightly, and the sins of Judah at the time were judged.


Purpose of Writing: To shake the people of Judah out of their complacency and urge them to return to God.


Zephaniah's message of judgment and encouragement contains three major doctrines:

1) God is sovereign over all nations.

2) The wicked will be punished and the righteous will be vindicated on the day of judgment.

3) God blesses those who repent and trust in Him.


Summary:

Zephaniah pronounces the Lord’s judgment on the whole earth, on Judah, on the surrounding nations, on Jerusalem, and on all nations. This is followed by proclamations of the Lord’s blessing on all nations and especially on the faithful remnant of His people in Judah.


Zephaniah had the courage to speak bluntly because he knew he was proclaiming the Word of the Lord. He knew that neither the many gods the people worshiped nor even the might of the Assyrian army could save them. God is gracious and compassionate, but when all His warnings are ignored, judgment is to be expected.


Overview:

Zephaniah consists of three chapters and two major themes.


The first theme of judgment covers the beginning of the book all the way through Zephaniah 3:8. The prophecy begins with God's judgment upon the world (Zephaniah 1:2–3), followed by the prediction of judgment upon Judah, which is where the prophet Zephaniah lived (Zephaniah 1:4—2:3). Much of this segment deals with "the day of the LORD," a phrase referring to either judgment in general, or to the ultimate end-times wrath of God.


Next, Zephaniah condemns the surrounding nations of Philistia (Zephaniah 2:4–7), Moab and Ammon (Zephaniah 2:8–11), Ethiopia (Zephaniah 2:12), and Assyria (Zephaniah 2:13–15). Then Zephaniah speaks regarding future judgment, specifically regarding the city of Jerusalem, predicting their coming judgment and destruction, which would be fulfilled by Babylon (Zephaniah 3:1–7). Verse 8 seems to be another broad reference to the day of the LORD.


The second major section consists of the final verses of chapter 3. These declare the Lord's future blessings. There will be blessing for both Gentiles and Jews. Zephaniah 3:9–10 speaks of those who will follow the Lord from among the nations. Verses 11 through 20 refer to the Jewish people who will again praise the Lord. They will sing aloud (Zephaniah 3:14) to the Lord. The Lord will live among them (Zephaniah 3:15–17). In the end they will be fully restored before the Lord (Zephaniah 3:18–20).


Foreshadowing:

The final blessings on Zion pronounced in 3:14-20 are largely unfulfilled, leading us to conclude that these are messianic prophecies that await the Second Coming of Christ to be completed. The Lord has taken away our punishment only through Christ who came to die for the sins of His people (Zephaniah 3:15; John 3:16). But Israel has not yet recognized her true Savior. This is yet to happen (Romans 11:25-27).


The promise of peace and safety for Israel, a time when their King is in their midst, will be fulfilled when Christ returns to judge the world and redeem it for Himself. Just as He ascended to heaven after His resurrection, so will He return and set up a new Jerusalem on earth (Revelation 21). At that time, all God’s promises to Israel will be fulfilled.


Application:

Zephaniah reminds us that God is offended by the moral and religious sins of His people. God's people will not escape punishment when they sin willfully. We have the freedom to disobey God but not the freedom to escape the consequences of that disobedience.


Key Verses (ESV):


Zephaniah 1:18, "Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORD's wrath. In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth."


Zephaniah 2:3, "Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD's anger."


Zephaniah 3:17, "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 1:18: "Neither their silver nor their gold \ shall be able to deliver them \ on the day of the wrath of the LORD. \ In the fire of his jealousy, \ all the earth shall be consumed; \ for a full and sudden end \ he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth." Zephaniah 2:3: "Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, \ who do his just commands; \ seek righteousness; seek humility; \ perhaps you may be hidden \ on the day of the anger of the LORD." Zephaniah 3:17: "The LORD your God is in your midst, \ a mighty one who will save; \ he will rejoice over you with gladness; \ he will quiet you by his love; \ he will exult over you with loud singing."


*Note: Zephaniah wrote for Jews living in Judah, during the reign of the godly king Josiah. Because of Josiah's influence, Zephaniah's message fell upon ears open to the message of the Lord. This occurred during a brief period of revival prior to Judah's apostasy and Jerusalem's fall. Zephaniah would declare to the people that the day of the Lord was near. This meant the coming judgment through Nebuchadnezzar and the kingdom of Babylon.


I pray you receive this with the love intended, and apply it to wisdom.

May the joy of the Lord continue to be your strength.


Love you much.


Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Blessed!


-Humble Servant


P.S- If you have not given your life to Jesus Christ, I implore you to take the time to do so right now. Use John 3:16 & Romans 10:9-10 as a foundation for making your confession of faith. And use Ephesians 2:1-10 to provide proper context for your salvation.

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