Monday, December 23, 2019

Zephaniah: The Day of the Lord

"The great day of the LORD is near—near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the LORD will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there." (Zephaniah 1:14)

Zephaniah was a great-grandson of King Hezekiah, and he joined with Jeremiah and Micah in prophesying in the early days of King Josiah’s reign over Judah. His theme is the “day of the LORD,” which he mentions about twenty times in the three chapters of his small book. The “day” of God is the time when He draws near and probes men and nations with the searching light of His investigation. The particular day of the Lord prophesied by Zephaniah is the destruction of Jerusalem and the shakedown of the world that occurred under the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar.

Zephaniah provides three perspectives on the day of the Lord. First of all, he affirms that judgment begins at the house of God. It is the priestly nation of Judah, and her capital Jerusalem, that come under the most severe condemnation (Zephaniah 1:4–2:3). The church has been given the greatest light and the greatest responsibility; therefore, she comes under the most careful scrutiny.

Second, the judgment does not stop with God’s house. When God brings judgment on the covenant community, He also judges the world. Thus, the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah will be followed by a conquest of the whole world. To the west, Philistia will fall; to the east, Moab and Ammon will disappear; to the south, Cush will be slain; and to the north, Assyria will be no more (Zephaniah 2:4–15). Consequently, none of these nations seems to have lasted beyond the days of Nebuchadnezzar.

Then Zephaniah returned to Jerusalem and Judah, pronouncing more woes against them (Zephaniah 3:1–8). This led him to the third aspect of the day of the Lord, which was that judgment leads to salvation for many. Zephaniah retains his international vision, maintaining that after the Exile not only will daughter Zion be restored but also many Gentiles will convert to the Lord and serve Him (3:9–20). In the New Testament, we find many God-fearing Gentiles in and around the synagogues. So large was this movement that Paul actually became the Apostle to the Gentile nations.

Each Sunday is the Lord’s Day or day of the Lord. Do you think the book of Zephaniah would be useful to study in terms of weekly worship? How should Zephaniah’s three great themes be manifested in our worship? What are some of the various ways that judgment and salvation come on the church and on the world in worship? Do you believe that Lord’s Day worship really changes not only history but even your own personal circumstances, week by week?