This short book of prophecy is not just about fallen Judah. The words start at the present state of the nation, which needed reform and a return to God. He then speaks of post-return joys, and then goes on to speak of the rest of humanity, after Christ, whose lives would be transformed by His Gospel.
In many ways our current conditions of filth and godlessness are very like that of Judah. Perhaps the brief details of history do not convey the depth of wickedness found in Judah by God at that time. In truth, the wickedness was beyond definition in absolutely everything, from sex to finance, government to society. Everything was corrupt and evil. This is how it is today! Yet, so few believers realise how deep this pit of sin is, though it corrupts and makes filthy everything in every nation, just as a caner spreads its poison to every part of the body. And even fewer do anything about it... they prefer a sticking plaster to radical surgery.
Read Zephaniah again. Take in his words, for they are the words of the Lord, not just for Josiah’s day, but for ours. They also show that Israel will rise again, under God, when He bestows salvation upon them as a people, in Christ.
Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city!
She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the LORD; she drew not near to her God.
Her princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; they gnaw not the bones till the morrow.
Her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law.
Verse one is meant for Jerusalem and its inhabitants, God’s people. They are filthy, polluted and oppressive. Jerusalem (that is, its people) did not obey God’s commands, nor did it accept being corrected. Just like many Christians in our day... so modern believers stand to be judged just as much as ancient Jerusalem. Those who are without true faith are cast off to be ruined by God (John 15:6). But, if we repent and turn back to Him, we can be grafted back into Him again (Romans 11:19-21). Beware, for we are at a time on earth when God’s wrath will not be long in coming. Remember that if the root is holy then so will be the branches (Romans 11:16). Conversely, if the branches are not holy, what root do we have to grow from? This is where Judah was – far from the Lord Who gave them sustenance and strength, but now useless, worthless, and ready for the fire.
When we lose our holiness we become dark and foreboding, unable to live righteously. When this occurs we oppress ourselves and others by our own sins. I see this regularly in many who claim Christ to be their Lord. When they do not obey they try to gain the high ground and so refuse to be corrected. Sadly, their faith grows weak by this refusal and they will, if not careful, be cut off. Our drawing to God must be daily, for it is from Him that we grow and have strength.
Jerusalem was ready for desolation, and its kings and people wandered in their spiritual darkness. The words of many prophets rang in their ears, but they could only hear the voice of their own corrupt reasoning, whispering constantly in their ears. They saw righteousness where there was none, and heard wicked messages not from God.
This is so much like today, and will be the final phase of the earth before God again destroys it with fire. Even many who called themselves God’s messengers were foul (as today). They were ‘light’ – frothy and reckless, frivolous with God’s word.
This is what I see in so many Christians today, and many ‘prophets’ (preachers and pastors) spiritualise what they have to say, proving just how poor is their understanding; so many, too, have passed over a great divide from truth to lies, in charismaticism. Few are truly called to preach, but insist on it anyway, being silver-tongued but empty of truth. I am entwining past and present because I see the two ages as the same.
Today, vast numbers of pastors and preachers have made the Gospel a light thing, pachaz – of no consequence. They think more of making their speech fit a preaching slot, with jokes and heavy tones combined for theatrical reasons. But, they have not been called to speak. Judah’s priests polluted the sanctuary and violated God’s law, replacing them with things of Satan. Do you not see this today? As then, our churches are ripe for rebuke, and bad pastors will lose their flocks (Jeremiah 10:21).
The just LORD is in the midst thereof; he will not do iniquity: every morning doth he bring his judgment to light, he faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame.
I have cut off the nations: their towers are desolate; I made their streets waste, that none passeth by: their cities are destroyed, so that there is no man, that there is none inhabitant.
I said, Surely thou wilt fear me, thou wilt receive instruction; so their dwelling should not be cut off, howsoever I punished them: but they rose early, and corrupted all their doings.
Atheists and others who deem themselves clever, including bad pastors, think that by shouting their falsity loudly they are the only voice to be heard. They fail to understand that God is above it all and is able to blast His trumpet into their heads. He is in the midst of it all, patient and ready to act against all of mankind. He cannot commit sin but is always holy, pure. He makes His decisions and words known daily. They are there every morning and late at night. But “the unjust know no shame”... they shout out their erroneous views, invent new ways to worship a non-god, and wrongly worship the true God. They know no shame; this is a sign of a soul gone too far, one that God will remove from the earth before his time.
Because of their wickedness, God will cut off whole nations, just as He has done in our day. They have towers for watchmen but will not listen to them when they shout warnings. Today, true watchmen are told to be silent and no-one listens, though false watchmen adjust what they say to suit the times, even as trouble and judgment speed towards them, crashing through their futile defenses and blasting through their very chests with great violence. The watch towers are crushed and fall desolate, the towns become a bowl of dust and bones. Once strong and vibrant, they would become ruined, just like many churches today, even when people attend their useless meetings. They are tombs of the living, alive in body but dead in spirit.
Satan has been let loose today and he is swirling around the world doing great damage, helped in his tasks by “treacherous persons”, a fifth column within the churches that pretend salvation but sporting evil and deception.
God told Judah through Zephaniah – surely after hearing my words you will be afraid of me, for the ruin I can bring to you? Surely, after hearing, you will set your minds to pure thought and action, so that you will stay my hand in judgment? No, even after many warnings Judah continued as before, as if God were nought. They readily jumped off a high cliff to their deaths, willingly, with hearts and minds black with filth and corruption. So like today!
Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the LORD, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.
For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.
From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring mine offering.
So, God warns the people of their coming doom but yet insists they listen to His commands. The command also applies to every nation on earth, which will be “devoured with the fire” of his jealousy. He will then give the people a “pure language” – that is, mouths will again speak in holiness, not in filth and corruption.
It seems a number of cords are shown here: the chastening of the people offering a better future, the bringing back of true religion in the shape of Jesus Christ, and even the future of all mankind in the last days leading to the end of the world.
While God often uses enemies to bring about His judgments (a form of contempt), He also destroys those enemies when we prove our faith and obedience. The preaching of the Gospel would bring forth a new era, the final era, before Satan is let loose. Though the words of Zephaniah would have been hidden in meaning at the time, this is what I see in them today. It has to mean this, for until Christ only the ‘chosen people’ (Jews) had access to the Lord. Only with His coming did other nations hear God and receive salvation.
The pure language of God, the salvation given to all men, would be cleansing, the filth of idolatry and paganism destroyed. We will see this in the near future when Islam and all other paganisms are removed. This pure language is not found in religious inventions, many of which plague the churches today, but in truth and its implementation.
At the time of Zephaniah there was also a need to get rid of language impurities caused by mixing Canaanite and Jewish languages. Even today, I am seen as ‘old fashioned’, for I urge Christians to use ‘pure language’, not the slang found amongst a loose people; we should also use words with precise meanings, and words that support and bring out God’s truth. Every word of a Christian should have meaning, not foolishness; words should be chosen carefully. Anything else makes God’s word base and unedifying, because all that others will hear will be our worthless statements... which is often the case in our churches.
Mention is made of Jews who had travelled widely. The example is given of ‘Ethiopia’ (Egypt in this context) and other places. When far away from the source (Jerusalem) beliefs can be tinkered with and faith sublimated by pagan ideas and practices. When the descendants of these dispersed Jews return they would bring gifts and sacrifices demanded by God, because they have repented.
In that day shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings, wherein thou hast transgressed against me: for then I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride, and thou shalt no more be haughty because of my holy mountain.
I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the LORD.
The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.
When that happy day came the people would no longer be ashamed of their previous filth and wrongdoing, and God would remove from amongst them those who wanted to remain sinful. Instead, the very sight of the ‘holy mountain’, Jerusalem, would cause them to again turn to the Lord. God would leave them with a poor and afflicted people, those who were poor in money and goods, afflicted by enemies, but pure in spirit; they should “trust in the name of the Lord”. This is what we need today, for the people of God have gone astray and are ripe for God’s wrath if they do not repent.
The remnant of Israel, those few who place their trust in the Lord, would help guide the rest. When Christ came, this came about again, through the Apostles, and the remnant continue to lead weak believers into all truth. These few will not sin as they used to, or as the general congregation does; their pastors will speak truth, showing that God’s people need not fear their enemies.
Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.
The LORD hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the LORD, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more.
In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack.
The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.
At the time Zephaniah spoke the people of God had little to rejoice over, yet these were his words, from God. Today, God gives the same command – in the midst of much darkness, rejoice! Do you think the Lord leaves His faithful alone in their fears and doubts? No, of course not; He is with us always. Not only is this required by God, but it will confuse our enemies and show them we have something/someone Who is greater, Who gives us strength and hope.
The next part speaks of Jesus Christ, the true “king of Israel” Who is “even the Lord”. His coming would cast out the enemy and so evil would no longer be the only course to take. Yes, we still see evil, and today it is growing in power, but it is still only there by God’s will; it will be destroyed soon. Even the state of Israel today is spoken to – it must not fear, though surrounded by many enemies. Israel must keep working and have faith... and to enable this God will save many Jews in the very end days. Currently, many orthodox Jews believe they are going to see the coming of the Messiah, very soon. Of course, they are wrong, for He has already come – but perhaps His non-return will be the spur to real faith and preaching amongst the Jews.
The future of both Israel and us will be glorious, even on this earth, and yet will be even more glorious by an unknown higher quotient when we reach Heaven.
I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, who are of thee, to whom the reproach of it was a burden.
Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee: and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out; and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame.
At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you: for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the LORD.
When Israel was lost as a nation, people mourned. The same would happen when Judah was removed. Amongst the majority who were wicked and pagan, there were the remnant, who sorrowed every day over the condition if the nation. They could see the end of their days, but the many would not listen, causing genuine believers great heartache. At the very end of this wickedness, God would turn everything around, just as He will in our own day. The many enemies, rampant, vicious and foul, will all charge against us and will be seen to disappear as in a puff of smoke. Then, our woes caused by enemies of God will disappear; even those who doubt or are afraid will be saved.
After all this the chosen people (Jews in that time and throughout history, and then Christians) will become known for their integrity and hope, spiritual purity and strength. God will mock those who tried to destroy His people. And so Zephaniah spoke of the return of the captured people of Judah, and also of the people of Christ. The day is coming when they (saved by faith) will all be seen to be of God, strong and unvanquished, and worthy to be praised. In that time all the accrued filth of the nations will be taken away and their sustainers crushed. This must mean that most of His people will be holy before God and nation. Make it so!
© July 2016
Published on www.christiandoctrine.com
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