This is the second of two devotionals for Saturday, April 2, 2022. Our chronological reading of the Scriptures brings us to Zephaniah, a minor prophet who ministered in Judah during the reign of King Josiah (1:1).
Zephaniah was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah, and served during the reign of Josiah (1:1b). Some suggest the “Hizkiah” mentioned in Zephaniah 1:1 is King Hezekiah; if so, Zephaniah was of that king’s lineage. As noted in previous devotionals, though a child-king, Josiah set his heart to serve the LORD and obey His commandments (2 Chronicles 34:1-3). Perhaps the influence of the prophet Zephaniah was the impetus for the reforms led by the king.
Zephaniah 1 – A prophecy of imminent judgment.
Zephaniah’s pronouncement of God’s judgment was frightening and graphic. He warned Judah, nothing would be spared the wrath of the LORD. Quoting “the word of the LORD” (1:1), Zephaniah prophesied: “I will consume man and beast… fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea…Judah…all the inhabitants of Jerusalem”(1:3-4). The sins and idolatry of Judah demanded God’s judgment, for the people had “turned back from the Lord…[and] not sought the Lord, nor inquired for him” (1:6).
“The Day of the Lord” is an oft repeated phrase in Zephaniah 1, and was a warning of the day of God’s vengeance (1:7, 8, 14, 18).
The wicked would not be spared God’s judgment (1:7-8). The LORD declared He would punish the young leaders (“princes”) and “the king’s children” (1:7-8). Why? They had failed to adorn themselves in the distinctive robes of their offices (perhaps the priesthood) and according to the law (Deuteronomy 6:8). Instead, they were “clothed in strange apparel” (perhaps the fashion of the heathen, or the robes like the priests of Baal and Molech, 2 Kings 10:22).
The Terror of God’s Judgment (1:10-18)
Remember, prophecies often have an immediate and future application. In the immediate, the “day of the LORD” was the day of God’s judgment against Judah, and Babylon would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. In the far-reaching implication, the “day of the LORD” is still future and will be fulfilled at the Second Coming of Christ.
Zephaniah 1:10 mentioned “the noise of a cry from the fish gate…and a great crashing from the hills.” The fish gate was the second most important entrance into Jerusalem, with the “Sheep Gate” being the primary gate through which sheep were led to be sacrificed at the Temple. Why was the fish gate important?
The answer is a historical fact: King Nebuchadnezzar passed through the fish gate when Babylon conquered Jerusalem! The destruction of the city, and the captivity of the people would be so thorough it was likened to searching out every crevice of the city with candles (1:12a).
Tragically, the people of Judah lived in denial of the imminent threat of God’s judgment, and said, “The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil” (1:12b). Yet, Zephaniah warned, the strongest men of Judah would be unable to save themselves, and would cry bitterly on the day of God’s judgment (1:14).
Consider the terror of the day of God’s judgment: “That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness”(1:15). The trumpets would sound the alarm (1:16), and men would become “like blind men, because they [had]sinned against the LORD” (1:17). Blood of men would be poured out into the streets, and “neither their silver nor their gold [would] be able to deliver them” (1:18).
Closing thought – In spite of the prophet’s warnings, and king Josiah’s effort to call the nation to repent and turn to the LORD, the revival had been short lived. Soon after Josiah’s death the people returned to idolatry, and the armies of Babylon plundered the land, destroying the Temple and Jerusalem, and leading the people into captivity.
Remember, we will “all stand before the judgment seat of Christ… [and] every knee shall bow to [the LORD], and every tongue shall confess to God. 12So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:10-12).
Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith