The prophet Zephaniah was of royal descent. He traced his lineage back to his great-great grandfather, Hezekiah the godly king of Judah. Zephaniah located the time of his writing just as clearly as he did his identification: ‘In the days of Josiah, the son of Amon king of Judah (Zep 1:1)’. Zephaniah’s forceful prophecy may have been a catalyst for the reform during Josiah’s reign – a “revival” that produced outward change but did not fully remove the inward heart of corruption which characterized the nation. Some scholars say that he was contemporary with Jeremiah and Habakkuk making him one of the eleventh-hour prophets to Judah.
The great day of the Lord is near; it is near and hastens quickly.
The noise of the day of the Lord is bitter; there the mighty men shall cry out.
That day is a day of wrath, 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 (Zeph 1:14, 15) – NKJV
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 (Zeph 2:3) – NKJV
Zephaniah’s message has a definite focal point, namely ‘the Day of the Lord’. He uses the expression more often then any other prophet of the Old Testament. The prophet begins with a declaration of universal destruction. God will consume and destroy everything on the face of the earth whether man or beast. Like his predecessor Joel, Zephaniah gives an emphasis to ‘the Day of Jehovah’ that will strike terror in the hearts of the wicked, leading them to repentance. He proclaims ‘the Day of the Lord’ is a day of doom, a day of terror, imminent and falling upon all creation as a judgment for their sin allowing only a remnant to escape.
Zephaniah also specifically prophesies judgment on Judah. But it is introduced consistently as being the means of establishing righteousness in the earth, making God’s power known, purging out the evil and developing the good. The prophet begins with announcing the judgment upon the whole world, upon idolaters, and especially upon his own people. He exhorts the people to repentance that they may be protected in the time of distress.
He then pronounces God’s judgment on all nations surrounding Judah in all four directions – Philistines in the west, Moabites and Ammonites in the east, Ethiopians in the south and Assyrians in the north.
After a broad statement of the judgment of all nations, Zephaniah focuses on the blessing; for this too, is an aspect of the day of the Lord. He prophesies the cleansing, re-gathering, redemption and restoration of the remnant of Israel. (Zeph 3:9-20) They will rejoice in their Redeemer and He will be in their midst.
For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all (Romans 11:32) – NKJV
Paul, the Apostle, refers to God’s rejection of Israel in the above verse and how that has resulted in mercy for the Gentiles. God’s plan of salvation encompasses all mankind and so also his plan for judgment.
For us, the lesson is that, there is a coming day of the Lord; and it is a day of doom and destruction as a consequence of God’s universal judgment. The Word of God encourages us to seek Him so that we may be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger. Zephaniah means – ‘Yahweh hides’ or ‘Yahweh has hidden’.
If we find our hiding place in our Redeemer Jesus Christ, we will be a part of the redeemed and restored remnant. May you be found in Him on that day.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me
Let me hide myself in Thee