Zephaniah Sermon Series # 01
Zephaniah 1:1-3 The word of the Lord that came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.
2 “I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
3 “I will sweep away man and beast; I will sweep away the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, and the rubble with the wicked. I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
Zephaniah is a prophet of God. God tells him new information. New revelation. Zephaniah got a Word of the Lord about God’s Plan for this Creation. We call this the Day of the Lord. The Day of God’s Wrath. The end.
Zephaniah knows that the Word of the Lord was also given to others, so in this short book he quotes Habakkuk, Isaiah, Joel and Amos believing that their words are just as empowered by the Spirit as the words he receives from the God.
Zephaniah is making a summary. This is the Cliff Notes about how things end.
There are four I Will statements in these three verses.
- I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
- I will sweep away man and beast
- I will sweep away the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, and the rubble with the wicked.
- I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord
This is the Creation being uncreated. This is the opening message of Zephaniah.
What do we know about Zephaniah the person? We only know what he tells us in the first verse. We have his family lineage. There was a King named Hezekiah. Four generations of nobility are listed and Zephaniah is claiming to be a part of that nobility.
Zephaniah also tells us when he prophesied. It was “during the reign of Josiah.” Josiah assumed the throne in 639 B.C. at the age of eight. And God provided amazing counselors to little King Josiah and by his eighteenth birthday a revival had broken out under his leadership and the nation repented and returned to the Lord.
Zephaniah wrote his little book when King Josiah was a teenager. This book was the prophesy that God used to bring about that national revival. We should pray that this little book has the same impact upon us.
Zephaniah can be divided into clearly defined parts: (J.M. Boice commentary)
- an opening prophecy focusing on the coming day of the Lord (1:2–2:3),
- a series of judgments against the surrounding Gentile nations, ending with an oracle against Jerusalem (2:4–3:8), and
- a closing anticipation of a bright new day of God’s blessing (3:9–20).
Zephaniah follows the classic outline that the major prophets used.
- He announces that God is angry
- He explains which sins invoked God’s anger
- He explains how God’s anger is going to change their world
- And He calls them all to repentance that God’s people might be spared
I do this with my children. I tell them I am angry. I tell them I am angry because they hit their sister. I outline the consequences and how their world is going to change because of my anger, and when tears of repentance flow I gather them back into my arms of blessing.
Before the Great Flood God was angry like this when he said I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them. Genesis 6:7
In Zephaniah the words are stronger. In Genesis the fish survived the flood. Even the fish don’t survive verse 2. Noah and his family survived the flood. No one will survive God’s Big Plans for the Creation in verse 2-3.
It’s closer to 2 Peter 3:10b The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
Zephaniah is speaking about the consummation of all things. He predicts the actions of God at the end of time. The words of this book could be put into the book of Revelation. In fact, the Jews put this book at the end of all the minor prophets. like the book of Revelation.
God is going to roll this creation up like a scroll and make a new one untouched by sin. Verse 2-3 remind us that a sovereign Lord, who controls all things, will settle all accounts and bring to conclusion what He started.
The message is that God wins. All the wicked are tossed away with the rubble. No respect will be shown their dead bodies. They will be buried in God’s wrath. Every enemy of God goes down in bitter defeat.
Where will they hide when the stars, the planets and all the rest of the creation are rolled up and destroyed with fire? Satan is already a defeated foe and the wicked will be turned in with the fallen angels so that evil will forever be separated away from the people that God loves.
Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.
That sounds like verse 2 I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth.
The details of the Day of the Lord are written out in 2 Peter 3 God says, 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
God doesn’t want anyone to perish. God would prefer that every person on this planet should repentance and get right with God.
I don’t know what sort of image of God is in your head, but God keep delaying judgment to give more and more time for people to wake up and get right with God.
But God’s patience will not last forever. Matthew 3:12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
That’s how the book of Revelation ends. The prophets of the Old Testament all spoke of this final day of God’s wrath, and Zephaniah summarizes this message in these four I Will statements.
So in the mercy of God He shares with all of humanity His Big Plan to end this universe and recreate it.
How would God counsel us to respond? We should pursue godly living.
2 Peter 3:11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.
Are we living holy? Josiah found the book of the Law, the book of Deuteronomy and when it was read aloud he tore his garments and led the nation to repentance. This book can have that effect on us and we too can turn from our sins and live holy.
Or, we can hear about God’s plans to judge this world and we can get offended.
Look at it this way, God loves you so much that he tips his hand, he shows you his cards and encourages you to do what’s right so that these bad things don’t happen to you.
Let me end with an illustration. A few weeks back I put a tent up in my back yard and enjoyed great fellowship and fun with my children. For a few days we slept and played together in the tent. But I wasn’t going to keep the tent up forever. I had plans to take it down.
I shared my plans with my children so that they would be ready for the tent to come down. I wouldn’t want one of my children to fall in love with the tent and try to stay inside the tent as I rolled it up and put it back on the basement shelf.
Zephaniah reminds us that God is going to take this universe down. We can’t fall in love with the tent. We don’t want to get rolled up inside the tent. On that final day we want to be found in Christ, not holding on to our love for the tent.
Zephaniah opens his book about God’s Big Plan to help us flee our love for the tent and run back into the arms of our heavenly Father.
Even Jesus, as the Great Prophet, makes this the subject of His first sermon. Mark 1:14-15 Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
May God give us grace to believe in Jesus and be ready for the final day of God’s Big Plan.
 The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.