Yahweh Hides

Zephaniah 1:1-3

Message of Zephaniah reinforces that of Habakkuk – in case you missed it, God has not / will not turn blind eye toward his enemies. And remember… those who are enemies of God also enemies of God’s people, who we think of as “the church”. Don’t take hardship / persecution personally, Jesus is real target. Christ’s church takes the heat because Jesus out of reach, yet He takes it personally. Primary essential theme of Zephaniah – God will certainly bring judgment on all his enemies, all nations. In process he will redeem and purify and deliver his people, they will not be casualties caught in cross-fire. He will just as surely keep them from harm while at same time deals with enemies.

Don’t read wrong things into that principle – when God makes promises about protecting / preserving his chosen remnant, does not mean this life will not have uncomfortable parts, suffering and hardship and even death. Under God’s protective care none of that can touch our souls or our future. Is at most limited to what we experience in this life only. And God designs that all things that come our way make us more like Lord Jesus.

A. the prophet

name

not uncommon name – the prophet; one of Kohathites (1 Chr. 6:22) responsible for ark, table, lampstand, altars, vessels; one or more fathers of Zechariah’s contemporaries (Zech. 6:10, 14); priest opposed to Jeremiah (Jer. 21:1)

Zephaniah = Yahweh hides / protects / treasures; ” Tsephanyah means “the LORD has hidden,” or “the LORD has caused to be hidden.” Parker

see Zeph. 2:3 – often connection with prophet’s name and ministry

pedigree

extensive “pedigree” – goes back several generations, is debate over Hezekiah: king or not? if so, then cousin of Josiah

probably born during time of Manasseh, Israel’s most evil king, if cousin of Josiah would have had “edge” on access

time

active ministry during reign of Josiah – 640-609 BC, probably midway in reign soon after Deuteronomy scroll recovered: see 2 Kings 22:8-13

way prophecies of Zephaniah ordered, covenant language used seem to indicate strong influence from “Book of the Law”

Jeremiah began prophetic ministry 627 BC, 13th year of Josiah; scroll found in 18th year; if Zephaniah soon after, ministry contemporary… dual influence encouraging Josiah’s “revival”

B. his theme

yom Yahweh

top news stories of last few days – Kilauea eruption, Cuban plane crash w/10 Nazarene pastors and wives, school shooting

“where was God when…” – answers vary: offerings to Pele, ignore God and rage against government inaction

comes down to problem of evil, injustice and will it ever end – Bible’s answer same today as for Israel and prophets

“day of the Lord”, “great day of the Lord”, “that day” – 14 direct references in ch. 1, 5 more in remainder of book

when great day comes, God will bring about final perfect justice – in meantime, lesser periods of judgment reassure God’s people, warn God’s enemies

redemptive purpose

God’s “big picture” has one goal, two pathways: goal is his glory, pathways are justice for enemies and mercy for elect

as he leads the elect along path of mercy, God’s remnant is made pure, even in the midst of terrible religious syncretism

big problem

syncretism – “a combination, reconciliation, or coalescence of varying, often mutually opposed beliefs, principles, or practices, esp. those of various religions, into a new conglomerate whole typically marked by internal inconsistencies”

usually starts out with “god shelf” – distinct systems of belief / worship, followers try to practice both side by side… but don’t stay distinct, things migrate

one example: church grows in size, needs to be managed, look to business world for ideas – starts with mgmt structure, then mgmt principles, then marketing, then packaging the product, then product itself

C. structure

I. Judgments Against Canaan – 1:1-18

the entire first chapter of this stunning book is given over to the divine outcry against religious syncretism

attention to the manifestations of this same corruption in the present day – just one example of many… for Amer. Christianity

another great danger: trying to retain too much of another culture / belief system in mission / evangelistic work… here and in other countries

II. Call to Repentance – 2:1-3

the call is to “seek the Lord” – multiple streams of emphasis: Isaiah’s call “…while he is near”; seek the Lord and his favor instead of ; requires turning back for God’s people who have wandered away

reality of this repentance will be manifested in the life of the genuine believer, as righteousness and meekness become more and more evident

III. Judgments Against the Nations – 2:4-15

the clear-cut choice between the believing remnant, and the heathen in judgment – God makes no mistakes in dealing with his enemies… rejoice in justice, at same time warn “heathen”

intended to “turn” the remnant to repentance – meanwhile, take notes: God deals with his people individually

IV. Threat of Judgment on Jerusalem – 3:1-8

God threatened judgment upon Jerusalem unless she turned from her syncretism – their repentance only temporary, so also God’s holding back judgment

the Lord certainly will judge His church unless she turns from her syncretism – must maintain pure teaching and living regardless of apparent cost

V. Restoration Resulting from God’s Judgments – 3:9-20

thirteen times in these twelve verses the Lord declares a sovereign “I will.”

ample material for instilling hope in the hearts of his people – no matter how bleak it looks, God never leaves his people without hope for future

outcome does not depend on political party, missile defense, even strong healthy active evangelizing church – each has place, even significant one

but… outcome depends on YHWH’s “I will” – is God working his sovereign redemptive plan out through time and history that gives hope to all who seek him

“The only hope any son or daughter of Adam has of becoming thus God-centered lies in the redemptive work to which the Lord is calling men through these prophetic books. All who fail to hear His call have little hope. The best they can hope for is a religious syncretism that falls far short of true redemption in Christ.” Parker