Overview of Zephaniah: The Fearsome Day of the Lord’s Anger

bookofzephaniahThe Book of Zephaniah merges together a vision of short term judgment on Judah for her refusal to repent and seek after the Lord in humility and righteousness with a vision of the eschatological Day of the Lord. There will be fearsome judgment upon all the nations coupled with a purification of the Lord’s remnant that will lead to unparalleled blessing. The name of the prophet in the Hebrew means “the Lord hides.”

If judgment begins at the people of God, one can only imagine how fearsome will be the Lord’s anger when it is unleashed against those who have shunned His name and oppressed His people. The thickness of the gloom of the graphic descriptions of the coming Day of the Lord gives way to the brilliant light of the day of the Lord’s blessing upon His purified people. We need to be constantly exhorted to seek after the Lord and His righteousness; to replace pride with humility; to live in a spirit of triumphant exultation as we await the coming victorious warrior.

BACKGROUND:

Baxter: Outline: Through Judgment to Blessing

I. Look Within! – Wrath Coming on Judah (i.1 – ii.3)

The Purpose of Jehovah to Judge (1-6)

The “Day” of Jehovah “at hand” (7-18)

II. Look Around! – Wrath on All Nations (ii.4 – iii.8)

West, East – Philistia, Moab, Ammon (4-11)

South, North – Ethiopia and Assyria (12-15)

III. Look Beyond! – After Wrath, Healing (iii.9-20)

Conversion of Gentile Peoples (9)

Restoring of Covenant People (10-15)

Morgan: What then is the message that Zephaniah delivered to his own day? It is a message of the unity of the divine method. We see God’s absolute refusal to excuse sin because of His love, and we see His love acting in consuming wrath in order to secure the final realization of its most tender purpose. If you cut out that last part of Zephaniah, then he has no distinctive message. It is not the first part, but the second part, of the prophecy that is the message of Zephaniah. It is that peculiar union formed by the denunciation of sin that is so severe, and the annunciation of love that is so tender. These two together give us the great message that Zephaniah delivered to his people: love cannot excuse sin, but love will at last find a way to realize its purpose in spite of all the sin of the people.

THE DAY OF THE LORD BRINGS JUDGMENT, PURIFICATION AND BLESSING

Perhaps you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger.” (2:3)

(1:1-6) INTRODUCTION: JUDGMENT IS COMING FOR JUDAH . . . FOR THE WORLD

TWO PRONOUNCEMENTS OF JUDGMENT MERGED TOGETHER IN A DENUNCIATION OF IDOLATROUS TRANSGRESSIONS

(:1) INTRODUCTION: PROPHECY OF THE DAY OF THE LORD

I. (:2-3) PRONOUNCEMENT OF END-TIMES GLOBAL JUDGMENT

II. (:4-6) PRONOUNCEMENT OF IMMINENT JUDGMENT ON JUDAH FOR PARTICULAR TRANSGRESSIONS

(1:7 – 2:3) JUDAH WARNED TO PREPARE FOR THE DAY OF THE LORD

SEEK RIGHTEOUSNESS BEFORE THE TERRIBLE DAY OF THE LORD (WHICH IS NEAR AND COMING VERY QUICKLY) BRINGS DEVASTATION

I. (1:7-13) THE PROSPECT OF THE TERRIBLE DAY OF THE LORD SHOULD SHOCK PEOPLE INTO SILENCE

  1. (:7) Preparations Have Been Made
  2. (:8-9) Punishment Will Begin With the Leaders
  3. (:10-11) People Will Cry Out in Anguish and Be Silenced
  4. (:12-13) Payback Will Hit People Where It Hurts the Most

II. (1:14-18) THE PREVIEW OF THE IMMINENT DAY OF THE LORD IS ONE OF WRATH AND DEVASTATION

  1. (:14A) Fast Approaching
  2. (:14B) Fear It
  3. (:15-16) Darkest Doomsday Imaginable
  4. (:17) Destruction Attributable to Sin
  5. (:18) Complete Devastation

III. (2:1-3) THE PREPARATION FOR THE ANGRY DAY OF THE LORD SHOULD BE TO URGENTLY SEEK GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS AND PROTECTION

  1. (:1-2) Make Haste to Get Right With God
  2. (:3) Urgently Seek the Lord

(2:4-15) JUDAH’S ENEMIES ALL TARGETED FOR JUDGMENT

THE FOUR CORNERS OF THE COMPASS ALL DESTINED FOR JUDGMENT BECAUSE OF THEIR ARROGANCE AGAINST THE ONE TRUE GOD AND HIS BELOVED PEOPLE

I. (2:4-7) JUDGMENT AGAINST PHILISTIA – WEST OF ISRAEL

  1. (:4) Major Cities Destroyed
  2. (:5-7) Land Reserved for Remnant of Judah

II. (2:8-11) JUDGMENT AGAINST MOABITES AND AMMONITES – EAST OF ISRAEL

  1. (:8) Arrogance Denounced As Offensive to God
  2. (:9) Judgment Described in Impressive Terms
  3. (:10) Payment Deserved for Pride and Arrogance
  4. (:11) Dominion Demanded via Universal Worship

III. (2:12) JUDGMENT AGAINST ETHIOPIA – SOUTH OF ISRAEL

IV. (2:13-15) JUDGMENT AGAINST ASSYRIA – NORTH OF ISRAEL

  1. (:13) Fruitful Irrigation Replaced with Parched Desolation
  2. (:14) Dominion of Assyrians Replaced with Refuge for Beasts and Birds
  3. (:15) Self Confidence Replaced with Contempt

(3:1-20) PURIFICATION LEADS TO REMNANT BLESSINGS

WHEN THE LORD RETURNS TO REIGN

- THE NATIONS WILL BE JUDGED AND DESTROYED

- AND THE REMNANT WILL BE PURIFIED AND BLESSED

I. (:1-7) JERUSALEM FACES IMMINENT JUDGMENT FOR HER SPIRITUAL BANKRUPTCY

  1. (:1-4) Indictment Against Jerusalem – Total Failure and Spiritual Bankruptcy
  2. (:5-7) No Failure on the Part of God – Who Remains Righteous and Just

II. (:8-11) THE ESCHATOLOGICAL DAY OF THE LORD WILL BRING BOTH JUDGMENT ON THE NATIONS AND PURIFICATION OF GOD’S REMNANT

  1. (:8) Wait for the Day of the Lord’s Wrath and Judgment Against the Nations
  2. (:9-11) Anticipate the Day of the Lord’s Restoration of His Remnant

III. (:12-20) THE REMNANT WILL EXPERIENCE TREMENDOUS BLESSINGS WHEN HER KING RETURNS TO REIGN IN HER MIDST

  1. (:12-13) Six Fundamental Blessings Promised to the Purified Remnant
    1. Blessing of Humility
    2. Blessing of Refuge
    3. Blessing of Integrity
    4. Blessing of Provision
    5. Blessing of Peaceful Rest
    6. Blessing of Security
  2. (:14-17) Mindset of Rejoicing and Confidence because the Lord Reigns
  3. (:18-20) Six Sovereign Acts of the Lord’s Initiative in Blessing His People
    1. Removing all Reproach and Sorrow
    2. Punishing all Oppressors
    3. Reversing the Shame of the Helpless
    4. Restoring the People to Their Promised Land
    5. Bestowing Honor
    6. Restoring Fortunes


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