The twelve prophetic books from Hosea to Malachi are an often-overlooked portion of Scripture. Although these books are sometimes called the “Minor Prophets”, they are minor only in the sense of them being relatively shorter than the books of the “Major Prophets” such as Isaiah and Jeremiah. The books of the “Minor Prophets” are an important part of God’s Word, and the things in them which were “written aforetime were written for our learning” (cf. Romans 15:4).
Over the course of this year, we will be reviewing each book of the “Minor Prophets”. In the month of September, we turn to the book of Zephaniah. The prophet Zephaniah was a great-great-grandson of the good king Hezekiah of Judah, and he did his prophetic work during the reign of king Josiah of Judah (Zephaniah 1:1). Interestingly, Zephaniah was related to king Josiah, for Josiah was the great-grandson of king Hezekiah (Zephaniah 1:1).
As Zephaniah was prophesying during the reign of Josiah, that would date his prophetic work to approximately 639 to 608 B.C., before the Babylonians came and took Judah into captivity in 586 B.C. Zephaniah was prophesying to a spiritually wicked and corrupt nation – one that worshipped the “host of heaven” (i.e. sun, moon, and stars), and worshipped false idols like Baal and Malcham (Milcom/Molech) as well (Zephaniah 1:4-5). They were also a religiously confused nation, for at the same time they were worshipping these false gods, they were also worshipping the true God, the LORD Jehovah as well (Zephaniah 1:5). The entire nation was filled with depravity, for the princes, judges, prophets, and priests were all “treacherous persons” (Zechariah 3:3-4).
It was at this point in Judah’s spiritual depravity that Zephaniah brought a message of impending doom – “the great day of the LORD is near” (Zephaniah 1:14). This “day of the LORD” is going to be “a day of wrath, trouble, distress, desolation, and darkness” (Zephaniah 1:15). God is going to “utterly consume all things from off the land” (Zephaniah 1:2ff) because of the people’s wickedness and rebellion. We should note that at this point in Judah’s history, the LORD had already determined that Judah would eventually be taken into Babylonian captivity because of the incredible wickedness done by Josiah’s grandfather, king Manasseh (cf. 2 Kings 21:10-16; Jeremiah 25:8-11). The day of the LORD that Zephaniah was referring to was the impending invasion and captivity of Judah by Babylon.
Nevertheless, the LORD was merciful to Manasseh’s grandson, king Josiah, because of Josiah’s humility and desire to restore the law, and He postponed this punishment upon Judah till after Josiah’s death (cf. 2 Kings 22:15-20). It is thus possible that Zephaniah’s prophetic work came at a time when Josiah was trying to implement a spiritual revival for the nation (cf. 2 Kings 23), by reminding the people of the impending “day of the LORD”.
Who would be hidden, or protected, from the anger of the LORD’s judgment during the “day of the LORD”? Zephaniah gives us the answer: those who have sought the LORD, those who are meek, those who have worked according to God’s judgment, those who have sought righteousness (Zephaniah 2:3). It is perhaps fitting that Zephaniah talks about being hidden from the judgment of the LORD, for the name “Zephaniah” means “Jehovah has hidden”. Though the LORD would come in judgment against the wicked, whether it be Judah, or the surrounding idolatrous nations (cf. Zephaniah 2:4-15), God would hide those who have sought Him and protect them from His anger in the day of judgment.
Today, we live in the middle of a “wicked and adulterous generation” (cf. Matthew 16:4). Just like the people of Judah in Zephaniah’s day, the world today is filled with spiritually wicked and depraved people, who worship themselves, who worship money and material possessions, who worship false idols, who worship anything other than the great God Almighty. Just like the people of Judah in Zephaniah’s day, we see that society is spiritually corrupt from top to bottom, with sin being so prevalent, with people “forgetting how to blush” when sin is committed (cf. Jeremiah 6:15).
Will the LORD do anything about this state of spiritual wickedness? Just as in Zephaniah’s day, God has promised that the “day of the LORD”, a day of judgment, is coming. However, the difference is that this “day of the LORD” is not going to be a localised judgment upon a specific nation, but it will be a universal judgment upon the entire world. The Lord Jesus will be “revealed from Heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance upon them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
Who will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s wrath? Those who conduct themselves according to God’s standard of holiness and godliness, who are diligent in living blameless lives because they are mindful of and looking towards the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:11-14) – the Day of the Lord that will come suddenly as a thief in the night (2 Peter 3:10).
I hope that this brief overview of the book of Zephaniah has reminded us to review our lives, to see if we will be “hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger”. May God bless us as we continue to serve Him all the days of our life.