Scripture Reading on Sunday Mornings: Zephaniah
SUNDAY MORNING SCRIPTURE READING: ZEPHANIAH
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE BOOK
– Bears the name of its author, the prophet Zephaniah (1:1)
– A prophecy delivered during Josiah’s reign (640-609 B.C.), most likely before King Josiah began leading the nation of Judah in repentance in 632 B.C. (see 2 Chr. 34)
– Zephaniah was likely a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah
– The day of the LORD is the dominant theme of the book (mentioned by name fourteen times in chapter 1, twice in chapter 2, and three times in chapter 3)
Zephaniah’s prophecy reveals three truths concerning the day of the LORD (Yahweh):
1. The ruin the day of the LORD delivers.
2. The response the day of the LORD demands.
3. The reason the day of the LORD dawns.
As you hear Zephaniah read from the pulpit, keep the following themes in mind.
THE RUIN THE DAY OF THE LORD DELIVERS
Zephaniah’s prophecy depicts an incredible, universal judgment from God against sinners. The punishment occurs exclusively on the grounds of sin (1:6, 12, 17; 3:7) and is worldwide in it’s scope (1:2; 3:8), destroying animals (1:3), nations (2:4-5, 8-10, 12; 3:6), and property (2:13-15). This judgment is thorough, ridding the earth of all evildoers (1:3, 18). This day is a day of “wrath…trouble…distress…destruction…desolation…darkness…gloom…clouds…thick darkness…trumpet and battle cry” (1:15-16). The gracious threat of such an astounding judgment demanded a response from God’s people.
THE RESPONSE THE DAY OF THE LORD DEMANDS
Like smoke alarms that signal a family to flee from the home, so God’s threats of judgment are intended to drive us far away from sin. Such was the case with Zephaniah’s words. The ruin that would be delivered by the day of the LORD called for repentance on a national level. The prophet instructs God’s people, Israel, with commands to obey presently, with reminders of past disobedience, and with descriptions of future fidelity. He commands them, “Seek Yahweh…seek righteousness, seek humility” (2:3). He reminds them, “They were eager to corrupt all their deeds.” And he describes Israel’s future, saying, “But I will leave among you a humble and lowly people, And they will take refuge in the name of Yahweh” (3:12). This coming day demands this obedient response.
THE REASON THE DAY OF THE LORD DAWNS
Finally, Zephaniah reveals why God will bring such a terrible day of judgment upon the world. In short, the purpose of the day of the LORD is worship. God has always desired (and required) the true worship of his people from a heart wholly devoted to him (cf. Dt 6:4-5; Jn 4:24-25). The day of the LORD is God’s means of accomplishing this one great end. Israel has never had a heart wholly devoted to God on a national level. Even generations that exhibited a great degree of faithfulness did not possess this comprehensive, nationwide, heart-level obedience to God. For even those who would soon conquer much of Canaan under Joshua’s leadership were told, “Yet to this day Yahweh has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear” (Dt 29:4).
But Zephaniah believed Moses when he wrote, “Moreover, Yahweh your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live” (Dt 30:6). Since the promises had not been fulfilled yet, Zephaniah prophesied that this day of the LORD would dawn for God to fulfill his promises to Israel. “For then I will give to the peoples purified lips, That all of them may call on the name of Yahweh, to serve Him shoulder to shoulder. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My worshipers, My dispersed ones, will bring My offerings” (3:9-10).
AN IMPLICATION FOR SUNDAY MORNINGS
Believe Zephaniah. God is bringing a day of great wrath upon the earth. The only people that will be “hidden” (2:3) from that dreadful day are true worshipers of God. Furthermore, the promises that were recorded through Moses are also yet to come. When we read Zephaniah, we should anticipate these coming events. And believers can do this with loud, victorious rejoicing (3:14).
A WORD TO PARENTS
Sunday morning Scripture readings are a great time to include our children in the instruction coming from the pulpit. Here are a couple suggestions for how to help your children glean from what is being said during this time.
– Read and discuss the upcoming chapter beforehand. Your kids will benefit as they recognize what they are hearing on Sundays.
– Use Zephaniah as a springboard for the gospel. Help them to understand that faith in Jesus and his sufficient death and resurrection is the only way to escape the ruin described in this book.
– For kids who can read or who are on the verge of learning to read and can recognize familiar words, teach them commonly used words in Zephaniah such as “day” and “the LORD (Yahweh).” This may keep them engaged and attentive since they can better identify the text being displayed up front.