Since we covered verse one in the introduction to Zephaniah, we will only touch on it lightly. That word lightly makes me laugh because I rarely do anything lightly.
Zephaniah 1:1 NET. This is the prophetic message that the LORD gave to Zephaniah, son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah. Zephaniah delivered this message during the reign of King Josiah, son of Amon of Judah:
If you read my introduction to Zephaniah, then you would know that I wanted to find out what might have been Zephaniah’s motivation to speak such a strong word. I realize many will not understand my simple idea of motivation, as “God,” we assume, speaks to us, telling us to jump, and we simply say, how high. It doesn’t work like that. For me, it was a major trust issue as the Holy Spirit was kind enough to give me something like “and the” for a starter. I had to trust Him to fill my mouth, and He always did. As I sit in groups, it is rare to find people who recognize that God/the Holy Spirit can and does speak to us. On this thought line, I was recently reminded that Proverbs tells us of God’s attempts at talking with us more than any other book.
Proverbs 1:20-21 NET. Wisdom calls out in the street, she shouts loudly in the plazas; 21) at the head of the noisy streets she calls, in the entrances of the gates in the city she utters her words:
If Proverbs 1:20 is an example of the Holy Spirit speaking, then you can see that He is not merely talking, He is calling out with a loud voice. With the understanding that God is Wisdom, then you should be able to grasp that He is calling out to you all the time.
For the sake of argument let’s assume that you don’t or can’t believe that God will speak to you. If that is your understanding, then you would never discern that the twisted path God has taken you on was meant to build the character and personality in you that you now have (even if you look and like a biker.) The truth is, God has never let you out of His hand and has directed every move you made; even the painful ones. Why did those things have to happen to you? Because God needed the person, you became to reach that one person who will only listen to you.
I don’t know if you realize what is going on here as I write, but I am also talking to myself; a man who struggles with several damaged aspects of my life (those aspects are primarily emotional, but the damage is real and often impedes my progress.) In other words, I like many of you, am a walking miracle.
In my earlier post, I emphasized the impact of the evil King, Manasseh’s reign.
The assumption would be logical and practical to consider him, as he played the greatest role in Zephaniah’s life, and strove to create an environment that was not so dissimilar to the Nazi regime’s goals of eradication. Manasseh’s regime, in many ways, matches the current apostate condition of the world we now live in; a world where the name of the Lord is on the verge of being outlawed. Here in my state, California’s state assembly has moved to pass an Assembly bill 2943. This bill will make the Bible illegal literature because the words and message in the Bible have always stood against homosexuality. The reality is that there are many words in this book we call a Bible that anger people, many of which are religious. The Bible irritates because it stands in opposition to our selfish desires.
As a side note. I feel no compulsion to use my Bible as a harsh motivation against sin, as it speaks against sin on its own. My motivation for teaching is meant to get you excited about the life and potential that are found in the Bible, and then let that control you.
One commentary stated, all we know about Zephaniah is told to us in verse one.
Chapter one verse one tells us that, “Zephaniah delivered this message during the reign of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah.” Now, how do you argue with that? You don’t, but it makes sense to take in the whole picture, and Josiah obviously plays a role in that picture. An assumption I could make here is that Manasseh created a passion for justice, while Josiah gives Zephaniah the freedom to speak about it.
Since Josiah is set before us, then we need to learn about Josiah.
2 Kings 22:1 NET. Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned for thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother was Jedidah, daughter of Adaiah, from Bozkath.
Seriously? How useful or self-directed would an eight-year-old child be?
The reality is that someone that who held Jehovah in high respect, regardless of Manasseh’s oppression, was helping to direct Josiah’s actions and words. Now, I would expect Josiah, if he had a heart for it, to be a follower of the law and God’s way, and that is what we see. We also know that he reigned for thirty-one years, well into adulthood. This information does not tell me what Josiah did that demonstrated a life of dedication to the Lord, but verse two does.
2 Kings 22:2 NET. He did what the LORD approved and followed in his ancestor David’s footsteps; he did not deviate to the right or the left.
Having listened to Pastor Chuck Smith, the founder of the Calvary Chapels’, talk about Josiah, you would think this young man would put King David to shame. Put this information in context, as we are all human and this idea of hearing God would have been a struggle, even for a king, especially for a young king. Therefore, again, it is safe to assume that sane people, led by God, were able to assert great and unselfish wisdom into the life of the young king.
Since the passage has compared him to King David, then you should be able to appreciate that David was a man after God’s own heart. A reality check: David had all the human faults a man could stand, so what is it that qualified David for this title? Solomon’s interactions with God gives us a clue.
1 Kings 11:4 NET. When Solomon became old, his wives shifted his allegiance to other gods; he was not wholeheartedly devoted to the LORD his God, as his father David had been.
In spite of his flaws and failures, David was wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord. A look at the word devoted reveals this:
šālēm: An adjective meaning full, complete, safe, whole, peaceful. This adjective has several uses when it suggests complete, safe, unharmed, natural.
So David felt safe, whole, peaceful and natural. Take that in for a moment. Do you have anyone in your life that produces those feelings in you? I don’t. A few come close, like my wife, but then there are those moments when you are ready to leave even the sanest people behind. The most important thing, even if it was only the overlapping of Zephaniah’s life by eight years, is that Josiah followed the Lord.
One could hope that the impact brought through Josiah’s rule and life, would exceed and outlast any of the damage and horrors Manasseh’s reign brought. We all know that was not the case as the damage lingers on for years. I point this out because even though I have seen the goodness of God in my life, I still carry much of the hurt and damage that life has dished out. I continually have to do self-checks, as I wonder if the voice I heard in my spirit was not something inspired by the negativity and abuse I was subjected to; and, when I speak about the trials and tribulations we endure, I freely admit the realization that there are issues I will struggle with my entire life here on earth. Some people cannot hear these words and understand for they have never experienced such pains.
Can I be sure Zephaniah understood the damage Manasseh caused?
No, but since problems and abuse are common to all of us, then there is a good chance Zephaniah would understand this conversation.
Moving on; the caption precedes verse two, but may not accurately convey all that is happening here.
The Coming Judgment on Judah.
Zephaniah 1:2-6 NASB “I will completely remove all things From the face of the earth,” declares the LORD. 3) “I will remove man and beast; I will remove the birds of the sky And the fish of the sea, And the ruins along with the wicked; And I will cut off man from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD. 4) “So I will stretch out My hand against Judah And against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, And the names of the idolatrous priests along with the priests. 5) “And those who bow down on the housetops to the host of heaven, And those who bow down and swear to the LORD and yet swear by Milcom1, 6) And those who have turned back from following the LORD, And those who have not sought the LORD or inquired of Him.”
Without going into details, the general theme I get here is an angry God cleaning house.
If I base my understanding on the caption, Judah is the Southern Kingdom, and Israel is the Northern Kingdom. In the long run was one Kingdom better than the other? Absolutely not, and even if they became unified under the name Israel, they all went into captivity. During the days of Josiah, it was a divided kingdom. To give you some perspective, while Godly men are presumed to have reigned over Judah, Kings like Ahab and his hell-bent, murderous wife, reigned over Israel, but not at the same time. In reality, no one was safe and most simply forgot about Jehovah.
What does this judgment entail? The removal of all things from the earth.
Man and beast;
the birds of the sky;
the fish of the sea;
the ruins along with the wicked;
Ah, here comes the big clue.
“So I will stretch out My hand against Judah And against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”
Now, if I wanted to play with words, then I could put forth the premise that He did not include Israel, but you know that did not happen.
Why does God feel this way?
Because His people are worshiping Baal;
And, I can assume that all of Israel, in some way, is still worshiping Baal.
Because there are idolatrous priests along with the priests.
The conveyance that there are some who are not so idolatrous does not excuse their complicity.
Verse 5 in the Amplified translation tells us: “And those who worship the starry host of the heavens upon their housetops and those who [pretend to] worship the Lord and swear by and to Him and yet swear by and to [the heathen god Molech or] Malcam [their idol king],”
Stephen, in the seventh chapter of Acts, declared how God’s people brought Molech out of Egypt with them. What Stephen said was a very intense history lesson, which NO ONE disputed.
And, they have turned their backs from following the Lord.
I find this theme in the Revelation; Daniel, and others.
Were these conditions exclusive to Judah? Not a chance and any of the books that speak of end times events will prove that out.
Zephaniah 1: 2-6 covers one more group of people; and, I just about guarantee that this one will make you mad.
And those who have not sought the LORD or inquired of Him.
While it may have been easier to see this as strictly a Jewish problem, this last sentence expanded it to include us church folk. Let me give you an example to chew on. I recently learned that a pastor committed suicide. Many would think, why, as pastor’s should be the ones that have it all together. At least that is the impression you get, as the pastor says to you, as he did me, I can’t believe that you, being a Christian for over 40 years, would think or feel that way. One of the men I sit with asked me what I think of a pastor who kills himself. It only took a second for a response to come into my spirit. Having dealt with depression and anxiety it is typically a problematic event that has accumulated over time and has not been adequately dealt with. Events that cause this kind of damage often come from childhood, but they can also build up from work and relational situations. This particular pastor’s wife said “I am thankful that he is now in heaven.” This statement too became a part of the discussion as there are doubts in the minds of many religious persons that a person who commits suicide is not entitled to heaven.
My answer – and I explained that I have learned to err on the side of mercy, was this.
The pastor was not in his right mind and therefore not thinking clearly.
Do we judge the impaired when they may not have the capacity to think rationally? One of the brothers argued against that. That same brother in Christ, will, however, argue for Judas to receive mercy. You can’t have it both ways.
If you are going to play the judgment card, then you can exclude yourself from any mercy.
Why say that? Because Jesus went to the cross as the last sacrifice for sin, for the entire world. Paul told us that there is NO MORE sacrifice for sin, therefore we need to accept the fact that sin and price for it was done away with. So, if you must stand before God to be judged, then it would only be for what did or did not do with Jesus. That is it.
When you begin to have this discussion, there is always a zealot who will play the scriptural card, and it goes like this:
1 John 1:7-10 NASB but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8) If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10) If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
This passage is real and true. If I look at sin from its old English origins, then I know that sin is merely missing the mark. I do that all the time; not in big ways, but having set some goals for my life, I know I have not achieved them yet. I do, however, talk about my shortcomings with several friends I meet with. In my mind, I am confessing my sins. God, on-the-other-hand, reminds me that my sin was cast as far as the East is from the West, an unreachable destination.
I have sat with some of those who “have not sought the LORD or inquired of Him.” I know this because they feel they have the right to hold people in judgment. If you sought the Lord and knew his nature and character, you would never do that.
1 John 4:8 NASB The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
1The Amplified Bible identifies this Milcom as Molech. Molech was the half man, half calf god that the people had Aaron recreate for them to worship. Molech was half man, half calf upon which they roasted their children as an offering.