Who Is I Am?
October 4, 2015
We continue our study of the Minor Prophets and have now come to a decided turn in the nature of the prophecies. Zephaniah, like Jeremiah, prophecies doom against Jerusalem.
The Northern Kingdom of Israel fell in 722 BC, when Samaria was destroyed by the Assyrians. The Assyrians had made incursions into the Southern Kingdom and even threatened Jerusalem but were turned back by God’s protecting hand. This occurred in the realm of Hezekiah.
But Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, did evil in the sight of the Lord and ruled for 55 years! During Manasseh’s reign, the Lord determined to bring judgment against Jerusalem.
Manasseh’s son, Amon reigned two years and did evil in the sight of the Lord. His servants conspired against him and killed him. His son Josiah’s reign followed Manasseh and Amon. He did what was right in the sight of the Lord. He put away the false prophets and began to repair the Temple to reinstitute worship of the One true God. In the course of cleaning up the Temple, the priest Hilkiah found the book of the law. From this, we can ascertain that Josiah was making reforms based upon his own plans and an oral tradition of worship.
It is quite amazing to think that the law had perished from the land to such an extent. There were copies of the law in various places but they had all been lost or purged by the idolatrous practices. The priests had become false priests and the knowledge of God had perished from the land. This all happened in one 55 year reign of a wicked king.
It is not surprising then that the children growing up in such a lawless land had pushed the edges of lawlessness to the extreme. This is ever the case. Those who lose the law have some historical connection to it. They were raised under its tenets even if they were not taught the specifics. They were the recipients of a Christian culture, if you will. But their children grow up without that benefit. If the law disappears from the land, it only takes on generation to drift completely away from those moorings. It appears that we are in such a time.
In all spheres of government, civil, familial, church, the law of God is disappearing. Does it surprise us that the people cannot think? Does it surprise us that they defend any number of extreme anti-biblical positions? It should not. The main problem we face in America today is a famine of the Word of God. We must return to that standard, ourselves, then preach, teach and live it out praying all the while for Reformation and Revival.
Now, this Reformation occurred in the time of Josiah, Manasseh’s son. He became king when he was eight years old and his heart was stirred for the one true God since he was a youth. But he was not raised in the Lord and the Words of God had disappeared. Imagine a young Christian coming out of Communism in 1990, seeking to obey Jesus, who has some recollection of what a few key old people told him about the good old days, church, the Bible, but he does not have a Bible. He is trying to obey God but doesn’t even really know what obedience entails. That is Josiah in the early years.
When he was 20 years old he began his reforms, even before he found the book of the law. He knew enough to put down false priests and seek to purge the land of idols. But it in his 18th year as ruler, when he was 26 years old, the book of the law was discovered and he ramped up his reforms dramatically. Can you imagine how the established false priests resisted him? Yet, he pushed forward rapidly.
Josiah put to death the priests of the high places and banished the workers with familiar spirits, wizards, and their images and idols and all the abominations in the land of Judah.
The final result was a fabulous celebration of the Passover, such has not been celebrated since the days of Samuel.
Josiah reigned for 13 years after the book of the law was found and continued his reforms throughout the land of Judah.There was hope again in the land.
2 Chron. 34: 32 And he caused all that were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand to it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. 33 And Josiah took away all the abominations out of all the countries that pertained to the children of Israel, and made all that were present in Israel to serve, even to serve the LORD their God. And all his days they departed not from following the LORD, the God of their fathers.
Into all of this we place Zephaniah.
Time- Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of Josiah, who ruled from 639 down to 608 BC.
He reigned for another 13 years. Josiah was killed in a battle by Pharoah-neco. One of his sons begins to reign but Pharoah took him into exile and put another of Josiah’s son in his place, Jehoiakim. He served Nebuchadnezzer for three years but then rebelled and provoked Nebuchadnezzer to attack Jerusalem.
Josiah produced hope in the land. Under the leadership of the king, idolatry was purged from the land, and we saw with Josiah, as in the days of the Judges, that the people served God during his life.
Speaking of Josiah, we read
2Kings 23:25 And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him. 26 Notwithstanding the LORD turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal. 27 And the LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there.
But his sons brought the people back into sin. We can never know what might have been. Josiah had brought a reprieve of judgment to the land. If they had continued faithful, the Lord would likely have honored them with blessing instead of judgment. However, that is not what they do. They immediately revert back to their old sinful ways.
Incidentally, Josiah’s children were brought up in the Lord. They knew better. They were taught the Word of God.
Zephaniah condemns the priests as well as the princes. He was of royal blood, so his condemnation of the princes of the land, was one that was close to him.
In the days of Johoiachin, 2 Chron. 36: 15 And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place:
16 But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.
It seems from this that the Lord had provided a remedy. There was hope in reform and revival but the people once again turned from God to lies and idols. No hope in that. No remedy but judgment.
17 Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand.
What were some of the sins of the people that God was judging? 2 Kings 23: sins of the people, Idolatry, sodomy-even at the Temple. There were male temple prostitutes, child sacrifice, religious wall hangings presented to false gods, sun worship with horse and chariot, worship of Ashtoreth and Chemosh, even since the days of Solomon. This was going on for 400 years!
Furthermore, 2 Kings 24:7 says that Jerusalem was filled with shedding of innocent blood, which the Lord would not pardon.
Notes- Great, great grandfather was Hezekiah, probably the king of that name.
Zephaniah- he whom Jehovah hides or shelters. Hope in catastrophe. Seek righteousness, seek meekness, perhaps the Lord will hide you in the day of calamity. 2:3
Zephaniah prophesied during Josiah’s reign from about 641 BC to 610 BC.
2 Kings 23: Josiah’s reforms
2 Kings 12:10-16 compare with 23:26-27
Zeph 1- Threat
Judgment will fall not only on Israel and Judah but on all nations. The nations listed give us the sense of all lands, north, south, east and west, the Philistines in the west (vv. 5-7); the Moabites and Ammonites comprised in one in the east (vv. 8-10); the Cushites in the south (vv. 11, 12); and Asshur, with Nineveh, in the north (north-east), (vv. 13-15).
That is to say, all the nations that oppose God in all the four corners of the Earth, they shall all be judged. But judgment begins and ends in the household of God. Even those at the center will be judged. All have sinned and so all must be judged.
This has a very interesting corollary at the day of Pentecost. It is there that we see the day of the Lord. But the day of the Lord is a day of wrath and judgment. We do not think of it that way. We think of the day of the Lord as the day of salvation. And, of course, this is true. It is a day of salvation. But resurrection always comes after death. Salvation comes after condemnation and judgment.
Someone has to die. All deserve death and yet none of these deaths can pay the price of rebellion. One has to die for the people and all have to enter into His death. Only when all enter into His death can all be saved. And so all the nations of the Earth must be slain so that they can be raised.
This is a theme we will develop
Zeph 2:3-8 Exhortation to Repentance
Repent, perhaps Jehovah will hide and shelter you. That is one of the themes of Zephaniah, he whom Jehovah hides. Wrath is coming but some will be hid by God. Who is hid by God? Those who by faith take refuge in Jesus Christ. This is the great Christological theme of the prophets. Our lives are hid in God.
In Josiah’s day, the people sought to be hid in God but no sooner had Josiah died, then they exposed themselves again to the foolishness of pride.
They did not need to be hid in God because they thought themselves to be God. Zeph 2: 15 This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me: how is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in! every one that passeth by her shall hiss, and wag his hand.