Scripture reading – Zephaniah 3; Jeremiah 1

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Today’s Scripture readings conclude our study of the prophecies of Zephaniah and introduce the major prophet, Jeremiah. Zephaniah and Jeremiah served as God’s prophets to Judah and were contemporaries of King Josiah, the last good king of Judah.

The public ministry of Jeremiah, perhaps the younger of the two prophets, began in the 13th year of Josiah’s reign and encompassed the reigns of Jehoiakim and Zedekiah, under whose reign Jerusalem was destroyed (Jeremiah 1:2-3). This is the first of two Bible studies for today and is taken from Zephaniah 3. A second devotional will follow from Jeremiah 1.

 

Zephaniah 3

 

Jerusalem, the capital city of Judah, became Zephaniah’s focus in chapter 3.  The city’s citizens were privileged to have the Temple in their midst, with the priests and prophets ministering among them.  Yet, despite the urgent invitation from the prophet for the people to repent and return to the Lord, we read: “[They] obeyed not the voice; [they] received not correction; [they] trusted not in the Lord; [and] drew not near to [their] God” (Zephaniah 3.2).

Sins that Necessitated God’s Judgment

Sins that Necessitated God’s Judgment (Zephaniah 3:1-7)

 

Despite King Josiah’s righteous influence on the nation, Jerusalem was described as “filthy and polluted” and an “oppressing city” (i.e., violent city, Zephaniah 3:1). Rather than rule and judge the people after the law and commandments, Jerusalem’s leaders (princes and judges) were like “roaring lions… [and] evening wolves.” They devoured the people, leaving nothing (Zephaniah 3:3).

The spiritual leaders, the prophets and priests, were no better than the civil rulers (Zephaniah 3:4). The prophets were disobedient and deceitful. The priests had profaned the Temple with their wickedness (Zephaniah 3:4). Zephaniah warned that the LORD “brings His judgment to light, he faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame” (Zephaniah 3:5).

What an appalling statement—”the unjust knoweth no shame” (Zephaniah 3:5)! Judah’s civil and religious leaders felt no shame or humiliation for their wicked deeds! The nation was dying, and her innocence was lost. The people disdained moral purity. Though they witnessed God’s judgment fall on other nations (including Israel to the north, which was taken captive by Assyria), Judah would not repent of her sins (Zephaniah 3:6-7).

 

Universal Judgment (Zephaniah 3:8-9)

Some 2,700 years after Zephaniah’s prophecy, his observation that men and nations are moving toward God’s judgment has not failed (Zephaniah 3:8). Zephaniah prophesied that the day is coming when the LORD will “gather the nations…[and] assemble the kingdoms” that He might judge them (Zephaniah 3:8). In that day, the LORD will gather “all who call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent” (Zephaniah 3:9).

 

A Cause for Rejoicing: The LORD Will Dwell Amid His People (Zephaniah 3:10-20)

The closing verses of the Book of Zephaniah remind us that the LORD is loving, compassionate, and forgiving. For those who “call upon the name of the LORD” and serve Him, Zephaniah promised that the LORD would take away their sin, shame, and pride (Zephaniah 3:11). The humble who were “afflicted and poor” will be numbered among those who “trust in the name of the LORD” (Zephaniah 3:12). The people will no longer be a wicked, idolatrous people (Zephaniah 3:13). Therefore, God’s people will “sing…shout…[and] be glad and rejoice with all the heart” (Zephaniah 3:14).

With their sins forgiven and the burden of their wickedness removed, the LORD Himself, “the king of Israel,” will be in the midst of His people, and they will never again “see evil” (Zephaniah 3:15).

A Cause for Rejoicing

Closing thoughts –

In verse 16, Zephaniah’s focus returned to the day of God’s judgment, and he urged the people not to be afraid. Why should those who love the LORD not fear His day of judgment? For He will be in the midst of His people, and He is “mighty…will save…will rejoice…will rest” (i.e., He will be silent and never bring up your sins, Zephaniah 3:17). 

Our study concludes with the LORD promising to restore His people to Himself and gather them from captivity (Zephaniah 3:18-20). Once again, we are reminded that prophecies often have an immediate application and a far-reaching implication. The Jews would return to their homeland after the Babylonian captivity, only to be dispersed again after Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70. Today, Israel is the home of a remnant of Jewish people, but there is no peace, and the majority continues to be dispersed among the nations.

Psalm 122:6 – “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: They shall prosper that love thee.”

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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