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This message introduces Zephaniah as a prophet who carried God's message boldly during the reign of King Josiah.
A Song We All Want to Hear Sung
Wherever You Are, Get Ready to Meet the King of Who You Are
A Kick in the Pants from the King of Us All
Who He Was, What He Said and Why He Said It
We looked at this little series a number of weeks or months ago called The Most. You know that because I beat you over the heads with it and told you to get it together. We started with the most eclectic, and we very quickly spent two weeks on 2 Timothy 3:16, which says, "All Scripture is inspired by God…"
We said that is the most important verse in the Word. If that wasn't true, if all Scripture wasn't inspired by God, all we have is a collection of great authors and a bunch of short stories that were thrown together (some long-winded and some short-winded). Some write novels and some write short stories, but all we'd have are the best efforts of some gifted ancient men and we would be no different than anybody else who says they have a book that would encourage you.
There are many good books out there that encourage you, but there is one book that uniquely claims and then backs up with the ways we established that we studied back a number of weeks ago that this book is God-breathed. It comes from the Spirit and the heart of God. Second Corinthians developed this idea, "For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God."
What this book claims to be is the deepest thoughts of our Lord as he seeks to reveal truth to us. You think about the fact that God in all of his wisdom decreed we would have 66 different books, all teaching us something different about his attributes, his desire, his love, and his purpose for us and his provision for us in our sin, and he ordained that there would be 66 books that would be canonized. Canonize simply means to put into law, a standard he would give us that we could respond to.
The Bible today has become so familiar to us or at least so available to us in the West that we've lost a lot of the awe that it deserves. If I told you there were 66 books that came from the very Spirit of God and as we developed that and looked at the most important verse, they were kind of hidden in the deepest, darkest archives of the Library of Congress…stacks and stacks and rows and rows of books, which I told you then are not measured in feet but are measured in miles. Sometimes it takes a librarian over an hour and a half to retrieve a book that you might want to check out at the Library of Congress. Amazing!
If I told you that not even available to the ordinary man or woman was somewhere stuck way in the back books that God had written, how long would you stand in line to wait to pull one of those and read it? Yet, we in the West have become so insensitive to this book because it is so readily familiar to us. Over 95 percent of Americans have a Bible in their house, and the average number is three.
If we had told them that God had spoken and those books were available, they would have traveled a long way to get access to it. Yet, so many of us because we're insensitive to this book… For the next number of weeks we're going to study two books of the Bible that typically, when you want to fall asleep, you turn to. They are in the part of the Scriptures that we talk about as the sticky pages. You know when you get a Bible and you still haven't broken the binding, they are kind of a big lump that goes together. It is the least read part of the Scriptures.
The reason I feel a special bit of passion for this is I feel like if I can make these books come alive for you you'll be more apt to go to some of the more well-read books, some of the ones that are on the New York Times Best-Seller List (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Philippians) that you so passionately and regularly turn to like the Psalms and the Proverbs.
There is nothing wrong with wearing out the Gospels. There is certainly nothing wrong with being refreshed with the Psalms of David. There is certainly nothing wrong with being instructed with the wise words of Solomon. God worked with all of those men to give that to us, but there is a reason God gave us 66 books, and we ought to be committed to all 66 of them.
There is not a verse in the Bible you could take and not apply it to all 66 books. The context of every verse is 66 books. You have to know what is stuck in those little parts of your Bible that you don't read so regularly. What I want to do is increase your passion for God's Word, and I want to show you how relevant the sticky pages in your Bible are.
We're going to saw some ZZZs together. The old euphemism for falling asleep is sawing some ZZZs, and Zephaniah and Zechariah put most people to sleep. They are the Minor Prophets stuck there in a little part of Scripture which the Jews originally called the Twelve, because they are 12 books made up of prophets who spoke to God's people in the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel.
While you turn there, let's just do this to make it easy on everybody. We're going to start teaching tonight by going to the table of contents. That way we can all find out what page it is on together. Seriously, turn to the table of contents. We're going to show you something about the way God's Word is put together.
Take a peek at what the page number is. When I say to turn to Zephaniah, impress that sweet little girl on your left that you know exactly where it is stuck right there by Haggai and Habakkuk. Go to the table of contents and let me show you something. God's Word is so unfamiliar to so many of us that we read it sometimes and we desire to be instructed and encouraged by it, but it doesn't make much sense to us. It becomes incongruous. It becomes kind of like, "What in the world does that have to do with anything?"
We forget this book is put together in a specific way. You know this, that the Bible is broken up into two major portions: the Old Testament or the old covenant or the old law and the New Testament or the new covenant or the new law. In the Old Testament, you have 39 books and in the New, you have 27. Altogether you have 66.
The Old Testament is broken up in a way that you can easily remember. It's broken up into two groups of 17 with five stuck in the middle. The first 17 from Genesis to Esther you can write in a big bracket around it, "These are the Historical Books." By that, I mean all of the history God desires for us to know that is to be recorded in the Old Testament happens in these first 17 books.
The next five books you see starting there with Job and working your way all the way down through Song of Solomon are called the Poetic Books because they're written in prose, a poetic language. All five of those books happen chronologically somewhere back in those first 17 books.
When you read one of the Psalms, you have to figure out when it was written, because it comes alive. If you're reading Psalm 90 and you try to think it's a chronological flow from chapter 89 to 91, you're going to be in a world of hurt, because Psalm 90 was written thousands of years earlier when a guy named Moses lived on the face of the earth. Moses wrote Psalm 90.
Chronologically, there are different psalms that are stuck in there, and when you understand what's going on in the life of the individual who wrote it, it can more ably minister to your life. When you read the Psalms, one of the things you have to do is place it in history. You have to figure out when David wrote Psalm 51, what was he dealing with? What was going on in his heart that he was so desperate to find God who would be gracious toward him and who would not depart from him in the midst of his state?
Well, we find out David was in the midst of struggling with a sin, that he had committed adultery and murder to cover up his adultery, and he was so grateful to find the Lord who would take away his sin which is red as scarlet and make it white as snow. It will minister to you in a different way when you know where that psalm is. So it is with all of the Poetic Books.
The next 17 books are made up of books called the Prophetic Books. Why? Because they're all books written by prophets to people stuck back there somewhere in the history that goes from Genesis all the way through Esther. By the way, Genesis through Esther is pretty chronologically sound except for the fact that Esther actually happens somewhere just before Nehemiah.
Why they stuck that one as the seventeenth and Nehemiah the sixteenth is not really too significant, but the point is you have to take those 17 Prophetic Books, and if you want to make any sense of those, you have to know where they fit in history. Let me just give you a little homework between now and next week. What each of us want to do, as we get ready to turn to Zephaniah, is we want to spend some time this next week reading in 2 Kings, chapters 21, 22, and 23, because historically that is where Zephaniah takes place.
Now, I set all of that up for you because I want you to know… I know so many times you get frustrated when you read God's Word. You're going, "What in the world does this have to do with anything and especially me?" Well, the first thing you have to do is know God's Word has always been relevant. We don't make God's Word relevant; it is relevant.
God's Word at specific times was addressed to specific people, but there is always application to us today. To begin to figure out what the application is for us today we must find out what was going on in the lives of the people then, hear how God addressed them, and we can draw parallels to our lives and see how God might similarly address us. When you read a book like Zephaniah, you want to figure out where this is in the history of God's people. We are God's people today, and what might he say to us in a similar form or fashion?
Have you taken a peek to see the page number? You Bible scholars, turn right to Zephaniah. We're going to take a little look at this book. We'll spend not very long in this one, and we'll spend more time on Zechariah. Zephaniah is just three short chapters. It is a book that, if it were just 66 books on a shelf you could pull off one at a time, is one that would be checked out as little as any other book. There are fewer names written on the library card of Zephaniah than any other book in God's Word.
It is a difficult and tricky book. It's a short book and one that many people read and go, "What in the world is there for me?" Tsaphan and Yah are the two Hebrew words that make up the name Zephaniah. They literally mean the Lord hides or the Lord has hidden. What specifically is going on, as you read this book, is you'll find out the Lord, Yahweh, has hidden this guy (this prophet) in the midst of a corrupt people because he decides still to do a good work in him.
You have 12 Minor Prophets. Again, the Jews called this little section beginning with Hosea and working all the way through Malachi the Twelve. The first nine of those ending with Zephaniah are a work called pre-exilic prophets. That means they are prophets who prophesied to God's people before they went into exile. Most of them said, "You have offended God, and this is what he's going to do about it, and this is why he's going to do it, and you'd better repent, or it's going to be done to you." They all say it in a different way, but they all say it.
Zephaniah takes pretty much the first 11 and crams it together in three short chapters and repeats many themes that have already come up. He developed more than other of the Minor Prophets this idea that is called the day of the Lord. In this book, 23 times you'll hear Zephaniah make reference to the day of the Lord. Seven times directly you'll read it.
What is the day of the Lord? The day of the Lord is not a day like December 23, 1984. That's a day. It's more spoken of as a time in which God is going to be acting in a specific way when no one is going to be confused as to who is sovereign and who is in control. We spent all of last week talking about the fact that God is sovereign, he is in control, and he does love you, but frankly, it doesn't always look and feel like it, does it?
You may not say, "This is the day of the Lord." You might go, "This is the day of the Prince of Darkness," or "This is the day when sin runs amuck over all the earth." What you're going to see is there is going to be a day when it is clear that there is a righteous, holy, and awful God who is to be feared who does indeed interrupt the affairs of history to get men's attention, and that period of time will roughly cover somewhere between 1,007 or 1,010 or 1,015 years when it will be the day of the Lord.
For 1,000 of those years I believe Jesus Christ himself will literally reign on the throne of David in Jerusalem. He will rule, it says in the Scriptures, with a rod of iron. There will be seven years prior to that in what is called the day of David's distress. It is called the tribulation period. In the middle of that, we have this event called the abomination of desolation when somebody will set himself up on the throne of David. It will be the Antichrist. He will say, "Worship me." He will call himself God. Indeed, he is the antithesis of who God is.
Then, in the last three and a half years of that tribulation period all hell really breaks loose. Then, Jesus himself with the saints…I believe you and I who truly know Jesus Christ will be a part of that…that choir of angels and those saints dressed in white who will be purified by him will return with him.
There will be a brief war when God says, "Bang! You're dead." That will be the end of it. The sheep and goats will be judged. God will separate the Gentile nations based on who loved him as evidenced by the way they treated his people, the Jews, who will be under a great deal of persecution during that time that make a mockery of the persecution that has happened to those people, but there will be some righteous Gentiles who will love them because they love their Lord who is their same Lord, and the Lord will separate the sheep from the goats.
There will be another judgment of the Jewish people when God will purify the earth, and he will begin to reign for 1,000 years in Jerusalem with the righteous people. There will be one more great rebellion at the end of that 1,000 years. The day of the Lord will come to an end. At that point, he will usher in what is called the eternal state.
The day of the Lord is that entire series of time when God is clearly working out in history his plan. He's doing it now. He's just not doing it in such an overt way. Do not forget and do not say that God is unable or unwilling or uninvolved today. He is, but it's just not as clear. It's not what we would say is the day of the Lord, but God is still sovereign even when it's not his day, so to speak.
It is much like saying… I'll crudely say the idea of the day of the Lord is like this. It's like now is the day of Bill Clinton. It's this eight-year period of this administration through which he is reigning and ruling over our country, and rightly so. It's the era of Clinton or the day of Clinton. That's what the day of the Lord is. Get the 24-hour period out of your mind. Think in a little larger scope that is what God is up to.
What you need to know is you don't want to mess with God when God starts directly messing with you. You think it's bad to mess with Texas. Well, I have a new cowboy you're about to meet. You don't want to litter up his train. Zephaniah is telling you, "You'd better hide yourself from the Lord's anger."
Let me show you something. We're going to give you three applications. If I could just sit down and shut up, I could preach Zephaniah 1:1, and it would be enough for you to go home and chew on this week, but if you haven't figured it out by now, the way I teach is I do ask you to drink out of a fire hose.
I don't expect you to remember everything I say. I don't think you'll remember everything I say. I forget most of what I say! I promise you. I have people come up and tell me, "You really encouraged me when you said this." I say, "What did I say? That's good. I'm going to write that down."
When you get this book, and we're going to go through all of chapter 1 tonight, there is going to be something God is going to use to speak specifically to you. Grab it! You let it sit in your stomach. You dwell on it, and you meditate on it, and you do what the word meditate describes, which is to keep bringing it back up like a cow chews cud. Seven different times through all seven of your stomachs. Perfectly digest it. Swallow it. Bring it back up. Chew it again. Bring it back down. Let it become one with who you are and disperse throughout your being.
When we read the Prophets, gang, there are a number of things that need to happen, but the bottom line is we don't want to read the Prophets just to become better at Bible trivia. You don't want to know more about Zephaniah and you don't know where it is just so you can be in a little sword fight. Do you know what I mean? It's what two brothers do when they're bored in church. They throw out different books of the Bible to see who can turn there first while the pastor puts the congregation to sleep during the sermon.
You want to know what Zephaniah is so it can do a work in your life. When you read the Bible… A little way I always try to remind myself is read through it, pray it in, live it out, and pass it on. We're going to read it through. Then, we're going to pray it in this week, each of us, and we're going to live it out.
If you don't do that, the Bible says you're like a man who looks at himself in the mirror and goes away. What does a man do when he looks at himself in the mirror? He basically walks there to make sure he's still alive and that he didn't turn into a werewolf overnight. Then, he's gone. You see a man about 5:00 with a 5:00 shadow. His hair is all scuffled. His tie is undone because he hasn't looked all day in that mirror.
Now, a woman when she goes to that mirror she goes there to do business, and she stays there long and hard, and she gets it done, and she goes back to the mirror throughout the day. Again and again, he says, "Don't be like a man who looks in the mirror and forgets how awful the sight was that he just saw." You deal with the problem that's there. Get it right.
What James tells us to do is not just to be hearers of the Word but doers also. Zephaniah 1:1. Look at this. "The word of the LORD which came to Zephaniah son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah…" You're going, "So what?"
First of all, this helps you date the book. If you want to write down in your Bible (you can debate the exact time this book was written), it was somewhere in 630 to 620 BC. That's significant because, if I threw out some major dates for you in the Old Testament, there are just a few if we got them down that would make a big difference in your ability to study God's Word.
Again, what you need to know is historically this was roughly during 2 Kings 21 through 23. That is during the reigns of Hezekiah, Manasseh, his son, and then Josiah. Zephaniah is the prophet who speaks to a king whose name was Josiah who was the last of the righteous kings in the southern kingdom.
What has happened in a certain point in Israel's history was they had a civil war. Basically, they split. They had a wicked king who overtaxed the people, and somebody came riding in to rescue and said, "I will deliver you from this awful oppressor," this guy named Rehoboam, who was the son of Solomon, "and I will lead you into an easier way."
Jeroboam took the kingdom of the north, and he started a new kingdom that was basically a rival of the two tribes who stayed in the south. They had tension between them for many years. In the north, there was never a single king who led the people back to the Lord, so God, in 722 BC in one of the major dates of the Old Testament, brought Assyria down from the north and devoured much of what we know as God's people.
Through a miracle he preserved the nation, and that miracle came because there was a king, Hezekiah whose name you see right there in Zephaniah 1:1, who humbled himself before the Lord and said, "God, save me! Save this people from this awful conquering power!" God delivered them through a miraculous feat.
You have that recorded in Isaiah 37 through 39, in what God did through Hezekiah, but Hezekiah, as good of a king he was, was a lousy daddy because he didn't disciple his little boy, and his little boy became the most awful king in the history of the southern root of God's people. He reigned for about 48 years. Then, his boy came along beside him and was also wicked. Then, he had a boy whose name was Josiah, and God did a special work in his life through this prophet.
We're coming out of one of the worst 50-year periods in Judah's history, and there is a little guy who the Lord has hidden, and he has hidden his Word in his heart, and he's doing a work in his life, and he's going to begin to resurrect godly people through the word of this man, Zephaniah. Let me just give you some application.
A lot of people ask, "Why does this guy trace back his descendants as far as he does?" Most people just give you the father and maybe the grandfather. This is the only prophet who goes back four generations. He says, "Do you want to know something? Let me tell you who my great-great-granddaddy is. It's Hezekiah."
There is some debate as to whether or not Hezekiah is the godly Hezekiah who was king or if he was just another Hezekiah who lived near that time. It makes sense to me that he probably was the great-great-grandson of the king. Whether he was or he wasn't isn't really going to make this book attractive to us, but here's the application for you.
1.Whether you are a prince or a pauper, it doesn't matter what you write. What matters is if you are a prince who speaks the words of God or a pauper who speaks the words of God_. Isaiah was a great poet and a very educated man, and so was a guy named Amos. He was a shepherd. Isaiah was eloquent and educated and part of a sophisticated society, but Amos was a shepherd boy, but both were used greatly of God. Why? Because it wasn't Isaiah who spoke and it wasn't Amos who spoke; it was the Lord who spoke.
Look at Zephaniah 1, verse 2. You'll see right there not too far down that it says, "…declares the Lord." Then, at the very end of it, it says, "…declares the Lord," again, so Zephaniah is only going to become the trumpet. It matters not, as you sit out there tonight, whether you think you're a prince or a pauper.
I don't care where your bloodline goes back. You could trace your little bloodline to Jonathan Edwards and it wouldn't matter a lick to me. You could trace it back to a pope. We might have a scandal on our hands, but it wouldn't matter a bit to me. What I need to know is that the words you speak are the words of God. Here's an application for you.
2.God doesn't call the qualified; he qualifies those he calls_. If you're out there tonight going, "Woe is me! Woe is me! I'm just little me. God can't use me. I'm uneducated. I'm from a poor family. I'm not very well-spoken, and I stutter like Moses," I'm not going to be impressed if God can't use you.
Likewise, if you come to me and tell me that from your earliest age your parents discipled you in the ways of the Lord… They sent you to the finest theological institution in this country and you have been graded higher and higher than anyone else in terms of how you communicate and the manner in which you do it. If you're not speaking from the Lord it makes no difference to me. God doesn't call the qualified; he qualifies those he calls. It's not an excuse to be ignorant in our faith, but it is a fact that if God calls you and wants to use you, he'll use you.
We need to get out of this mindset that if Tiger Woods would just get out from the Buddhist influence of his mother and really come to know Jesus Christ, could you imagine how the Lord would change Christianity? If Troy Aikman really got on fire for Christ and really began to do some things in Jesus' name and minister in Dallas, Texas, can you imagine the impact on Dallas, Texas?
I say, "Hogwash!" We don't need somebody to get infected with Jesus for the world to be infected with Christianity. We don't need Magic Johnson to get AIDS so that other people would be more aware of the disease. That's an unbiblical view. I don't care whether Zephaniah was the great-great-grandson to the king or some other Hezekiah, because ultimately it doesn't matter.
What matters is that he speaks the Lord's words. The question you guys need to ask yourself today is not, "Who is my great-great-granddaddy?" The question you have to ask yourself is…Whose words am I speaking today? Let me give you another application from verse 1. How about this?
Zephaniah at the very least grew up under a godless leadership. He grew up in a nation that was as corrupt as it has ever been and nothing like we've ever seen in our country. Beyond that, Zephaniah probably did grow up in a household where there were godless aunts and uncles everywhere.
3.Living with godless relatives and living in a godless nation is not an excuse for being a godless individual_. Some of you are out there tonight going, "I wish my daddy would have sang, 'Jesus Loves Me,' when I fell asleep at night," or "I wish my mom would have helped me memorize Bible verses," or "I wish I had gone to Vacation Bible School and cut out the 12 disciples."
"It didn't happen to me, so I'll live like a fool and get pregnant three times. Then, maybe God will begin to get my attention." No. The fact is being a part of a godless world and being part of a godless family does not give you an excuse to be godless. The question is…Are you going to continue in that line of foolishness or are you going to break the chain?
Are you going to be the one who the Lord does a special work in as you hide his Word in your heart, as you respond to him, and as you become an individual who is great because you speak not as a foolish daddy did but you speak as a wise, loving, eternal Father does? There is no excuse…I don't care what nation you're from and I don't care what family you're from…for you to be a godless individual. You can be a Zephaniah. You can break the chain and begin to do a good work in the midst of a godless family.
It's like that cartoon with those two homeless guys strung out there on Skid Row. They're sitting there with a bottle, both of them all worthless and beaten up. The one guy turns to his drunken buddy and says, "Enough about me. Tell me where did your parents go wrong?" So many of us in our culture are like that. We think we have this excuse, that we're victims and we have to be godless because we grew up in a godless household, but I want to tell you something.
Some of you have seen some awful things. Some of you have been abused, but you have to decide today if you're going to take that as your little loophole to run down this road and hang yourself, or if you're going to go, "That's the way it was, but the Lord is going to do a good work in me, and I'm not going to any longer be the center of a godless family. I'm going to begin to start my own history, and I'm going to become my own godly man so I can have a group of descendants who rise up and call me blessed." Zephaniah 1:1 stands right there before you.
Let me give you a third application. Zephaniah is a guy who lived in the midst of a lot of very influential people. Whether he was the great-great-grandson of a mighty king or not, Zephaniah was a guy who certainly walked with the powerful and the beautiful, and one of the things he didn't do was he wasn't so in love with his reputation with the bold, the powerful, and the beautiful that he wasn't willing to speak directly to them about sin, salvation, and the Savior.
He didn't love his political influence. He didn't love his friendship. He didn't love his welcome entrance into the castle so much that he compromised his message. One of the things you have to ask yourself and one of the things I have to ask myself is…Why do I love being around certain people so much that I don't serve them the way God would have me serve them?
It would have been so easy for Zephaniah to say, "That's my uncle. I could really disrupt the Thanksgiving dinner table if I go in there and talk to him about some major issues about the way he's encouraging child sacrifice in the nation." You talk about choking on a wishbone! That will do it!
You might be ostracized. This guy has some major opportunity to be politically involved in his country, but he wasn't concerned about being politically involved or being politically correct. He was concerned about being theologically sound. Would that be your testimony? Would there be those who know you…?
That doesn't mean you go around hitting people with a club called truth. You don't try to be offensive. You don't take great glory in insulting others with the truth, but with great gentleness and respect are you an individual in certain crowds who will always go the loving way? Sometimes truth is offensive, but it's always offensive when somebody is confronted with truth if they're not willing to humble themselves, but that doesn't mean we get to back off in delivering it.
Again, I've told people many a time, if what I say offends you, I will not apologize. If the manner in which I do it is the problem, for that I will be forever in your debt. Forgive me if it's my personality or my method of delivery that pushes you away from truth, but if it's the truth alone that must offend then offend it must.
Spurgeon said it this way. If God calls you to be a prophet, then don't stoop to be a king. Whatever opportunity Zephaniah had to reign one day because the bold, the powerful, and the beautiful thought well of him… He was their blood. He was their kindred spirit. He was their child or their uncle or their nephew. Whatever he was in relationship, he said, "I don't stoop to be a politician because God has called me to be a prophet."
Zephaniah 1:1 is enough right there, but we shall not stop. Look in verse 2. Here's what's going to happen. He's going to go forward here, and he's going to talk about this thing called universal judgment. Read verses 2, 3, and 4. Again, catch a glimpse of this, gang. This is Zephaniah! This is this little book stuck nowhere in the middle of your Old Testament. Most of us have never read it. If we've read it, we just haven't spent much time on it.
I have not spent much time with Zephaniah. One of the reasons I want to do Zephaniah and Zechariah is I want to know these books like I'm beginning to know Matthew and Mark and Philippians and other books of Scriptures I've spent a lot of time with. I want to spend a lot of time with Zephaniah.
I don't want to meet him in heaven and say, "I can't quite read your nametag. Zeph…Who? What did you do?" I want to see him and go, "Good work, friend! Nice job! I read it! I memorized parts of it. My life was changed by God working through you." I don't want to say, "Zeph… Who?" Look at verse 2.
"'I will completely remove all things from the face of the earth,' declares the LORD." Not Zephaniah. Not a prince. Not a pauper, but "…declares the Lord," through the son of a servant. "…from the face of the earth,' declares the LORD. 'I will remove man and beast; I will remove the birds of the sky and the fish of the sea, And the ruins along with the wicked; And I will cut off man from the face of the earth,' declares the LORD."
In verses 2 and 3, he says, "This is what I'm up to. God is coming, and if you will, it's an awful consequence to sin. God is going to make judgment upon the whole world." Just keep your little fingers right here. Turn with me back to Genesis 6. You know where to find that. It's just to the right of your table of contents.
In Genesis 6, I want you to look at a couple of places with me, read it, and then jump right back and read verses 2 and 3 in Zephaniah. Look at Genesis 6, verse 7. See if this sounds familiar. " The LORD said, 'I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.'"
Look over in Genesis 7, verse 4. "For after seven more days, I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights; and I will blot out from the face of the land every living thing that I have made." Excepting Noah, his three boys, and their four wives. Meaning, Noah had one, Shem had one, Japheth had one, etc… His three boys, his boys' wives, and his wife and all of the animals he gathered on the ark. "Everything but you eight people and these animals are going into judgment."
Look at verse 17. "Then the flood came upon the earth for forty days, and the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth." **Look at verse 24."The water prevailed upon the earth one hundred and fifty days." Verse 23 says,"Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark."**
Think about this. This is God letting you know that he is a holy God, an anointed God, a sovereign God who has always been and always will be offended by sin (by that which is contrary to his character). Very lovingly he said to a bunch of wicked folks, "I'm going to make something clear from the beginning. Sin bothers me. Noah, you and your boys and your women, get on the ark and get some animals to go with you. We're starting over."
Everything that was on the face of the earth and in the sky, because there wasn't a whole lot of room to land on that ark… Lots of birds were dropping, and they couldn't swim and they couldn't find food. They died, so what's left? Eight people, several animals, and Jaws (everything that was swimming in the ocean).
Look what happens a number of years later. You're going to find this as you study God's Word. God's Word shows his judgment and his punishment is patient. He's very patient. He waited 120 years before he destroyed the earth by a flood. He had a guy named Noah tell everybody… Noah, the righteous herald who called people to get on the ark… He waited. He had that guy build an ark in the middle of a land mass so that there wouldn't even be a reason to build a boat, and people said, "Why are you building a boat?" He said, "Because judgment is coming!"
"Great! What's judgment?"
"Well, it's when God opens a six-pack of trouble on your little behind."
"What else is going to happen? When is it going to rain? What is rain?"
They didn't have rain as far as we know. It was just a heavy dew that came down in the morning and the evening. "Rain is what happens when God opens up the clouds and the waters that are stored in the heaven dump on us. Then, we're going to have a flood."
"Really? What's a flood?"
"It's what happens when it rains for a long time. The earth becomes saturated, and the ocean becomes your backyard."
Judgment is patient but catch this. It's purposeful. It's to teach you something about who it is that is going to come. Here's the third thing. It is progressive. In other words, if you don't learn when he tells you to get in by 11:00 by getting a couple of licks and being grounded for a week, and you come in at 11:15 the next week, then the licks are going to continue, and the punishment will grow a little further.
He says this in one of my other favorite books of Scripture, Hosea. He said, "I will come to you like a moth. If that doesn't work, I will come back to you as a lion." What does a moth do? It ruins your picnic, doesn't it, but you can deal with a moth. You eventually catch the sucker and crush it and it's gone, but God says, "If that moth doesn't get you to get up and move, then I will come to you as a lion."
Do that same little deal with what a lion will do to your peanut butter and jelly sandwich and you wouldn't be eating your little Skippy and your little Smuckers. You wouldn't be plucking him out of your pudding. He'd step in your pudding, knock your peanut butter and jelly sandwich out of your hand, and eat you. That is the problem.
What God says is, "I'm going to be patient to try to get your attention, but I will be purposeful in getting your attention, and when judgment comes it's going to be worse than you want it to be if you don't listen to me." Now, we are centuries beyond where God first started in Genesis, and look what he says.
Read Zephaniah 1, verses 2 and 3. See what's different. He says, "Again, there is going to be universal judgment," doesn't he? Look at this. "I will completely remove all things from the face of the earth…" Okay. We've heard that before. "I will remove man and beast; I will remove the birds of the sky…" We've been there before. Now what? "…And the fish of the sea, And the ruins along with the wicked; And I will cut off man from the face of the earth…"
Something has happened where God is no longer going to save his little cute tuna fish. He said, "You're all done. All of creation will be judged." It has increased, and it is a terrible thing. Here's an awful fact. Because of the sins of man, the entire earth suffers consequences. It's true. In Romans 8, you can look. It says that creation is longing for that day. What day? The day of the Lord. What's the day of the Lord? When God comes and makes it right.
Do you know that creation suffers from the effects of your sin and my sin? There is a war, if you will, that wreaks havoc on the land. There is a great deal of animals that I think are extinct because of sin. Mark this down. If you are a nature freak and if you love the environment, do you want to know the kindest thing you can do for the environment? It's to repent and obey God, because the reason the wilderness and the rain forests and panda bears and peoples and the ozone suffers is because of sin.
It's not necessarily because of factories and advancing civilizations. God can manage that. The reason there is horror on the face of this earth when he created the earth is because of the sin of man. If you really love the environment, the greatest thing to do is not to put a bumper sticker on your car to save the whales, but it is to get on your knees and repent and live like you ought to live so God can bless this earth like he intended to bless it.
That means the next time you want to celebrate Earth Day, you can say to the folks at your office, "Do you want to celebrate Earth Day? Here's what we need to do. We don't need to hug a tree; we need to get on our knees and pray for mercy. If you love this earth, you'll repent." The fact is there is never going to be a time when everybody stops hugging trees and starts hitting their knees. As a result of that, God's judgment, though it is patient, is very purposeful, and he will come, and he will eliminate a lot of folks and a lot of pandas and a lot of ozone on that day.
Again, what you're going to find out is Zephaniah begs that you would be removed before that judgment comes and that you would find shelter and that the Lord would hide you in the cleft of his Rock, which is Jesus. We know what he's going to do. The question now is…Why is he going to do it?
What you have is the rest of chapter 1 telling you why he's going to do it. Let's read. "I'll tell you why I'm going to do it. I'm going to start with the people who know better (the people I've given my Word to)," in verse 4. "So I will stretch out My hand against Judah And against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, And the names of the idolatrous priests along with the priests."
Verse 5: "And those who bow down on the housetops to the host of heaven, And those who bow down and swear to the LORD and yet swear by Milcom…" **What in the world is he talking about right there? Verse 6:"And those who have turned back from following the LORD, And those who have not sought the LORD or inquired of Him."**
Let me very quickly tell you why he's going to judge and see if you can't find a reason why he might judge us, too, unless we do what Zephaniah is going to beg everybody everywhere to do. Verse 4: "And I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place…" In other words, individuals who worship a false god. Baal's name really means the lord. It was a pagan form of religion that practiced all sorts of immorality and every twisted thing that takes you away from what you would have with God and what he would want his people to look like.
He says, "I'm going to get a hold of the people who sit in Baal's pews and worship at the 'First Church of Baal.' I'm going to deal with them." This is outward idolatry. Watch this. He's going to deal with idol people and idol priests. "I'm going to take care of the laity and the leadership." There is no excuse for you to be led by the nose by some stupid teacher. I want to say this again.
Gang, there are no warning labels that come on pulpits, so you'd better be discerning who you sit under. The radio and TV stations are full of people who want you to sit underneath their authority. What you need to do is be discerning about how you're hearing, what you're learning, and how you're growing.
I will tell you that God will judge the teachers. He'll give them a double judgment, because not only are they stupid for themselves, but they're leading a bunch of people astray, but the fact is you are still culpable for what you ingest. He wrote a whole book of the Bible to you (2 Peter 3) telling you how to avoid poison in the pulpit. Make sure you know the truth so that you don't get led astray, because there are many false teachers, and he will judge the laity and he will judge the leadership who worship gods which are no God at all.
Look at what else he says. In verse 5, "And those who bow down on the housetops to the host of heaven…" What does that mean? He means, "I'm going to get a hold of those who worship the creation and not the Creator." We are not Mother Nature's children. We are God's children. Mother Nature, the name we want to give to God's creation, is our servant.
What God will say is, "You be good stewards over what I have given you, but don't worship creation." The spotted owl is not higher on the creation chain than you are. Be a good steward of the spotted owl, be a good steward of the rain forest, and be a good steward of the sea turtle, but don't worship them.
Do you know 34 percent of Americans read their Bibles on a regular basis? That's pretty encouraging, isn't it? By the way, you look at this. What does it mean to get up on your housetop and worship the stars? Basically, there is no God at all. "If there were a God," they basically say, "because the stars say this; therefore, we have to sleep together. Come on, honey. Let's go for the weekend."
There are 34 percent of Americans who read their Bibles daily, but 36 percent of Americans read the stars each day and read the horoscopes. We know that statistic is no different for Christians than it is for non-Christians. You might say, "Well, I read the horoscopes. It's simply printed paper." Fine.
Read twice as much Bible. You don't need somebody to give you loose practicings about what may or may not happen that you might go out and wonder, "Oh, my goodness! We have a synergy of the planets. By what it looks like at my office today I'd better walk lightly around the boss' desk."
No. You better walk lovingly around the boss's desk everyday that he might look at your life and see the hope that is in it and ask you, "What is the reason for your hope?" Then, in gentleness and respect, you explain to him not that you were born under the Bull in the month of Taurus but that you are God's child and he has delivered you from the oppression and hopelessness of this world.
You have an idolatrous people. You have people who worshiped gods that were no God at all. Then, in verse 5, "And those who bow down and swear to the LORD and yet swear by Milcom…" What does that mean? Milcom is another word for Molech. Molech was a false god (basically no god) where people were involved with child sacrifice.
What God was saying was, "It is fine to come to church for me at 6:30 on Sunday nights, but your problem is on Monday nights you're at the "First Church of Molech" and you're sacrificing your children. You're just basically paying me off. Then, you're paying that god off. You're like these people who have no God at all. There are a thousand shrines in their home, and they pray to them all that they might not forget."
Just like the people in Athens in Paul's day they raised up an idol to a god which they did not know (the unknown god) in case they didn't know who it was so they might not offend him." What God says is, "You've just kind of blended me in with everything else. Oh, you love the Bible, but you love your little horoscope. You love the cross, but you also love your crystal." He says, "I'm not really into dating around."
You have idolaters and here you have adulterers. He said, "You made a covenant to walk with me that I would be your God, but the fact is I'm not your God. I'm not your lover. You sleep around with whatever comes down your little street, and you're not committed to me. You've made no covenant with me. You say that you worship here, but the truth is you worship everywhere."
You go from idolaters to adulterers to idle. Look at verse 6. What's going to happen? Verses 2 and 3. Why is it going to happen? We're laying it out for you. Because we have idolaters (people who worship things which are not God), because we have adulterous people who say they love God but go other places, and because we have idol worshipers, those who have turned back from following the Lord and those who have not sought the Lord or inquired of him.
If you want to hear three little things I scribbled down, you have the insincere, those who said they were going to love him and were going to walk with them but they don't. You're going to have the indifferent, those who have not sought him. They really don't care. They're not anti-God. They're just not really for God. Then, you have those who have never inquired of him at all, those who just frankly ignore him.
God says, "That's why I'm going to get your attention, and that's why you're going to see one day that I am God and that I am great." Verse 7 simply says, "Hush up!" It's an onomatopoeia. What's that? It's a big word that simply means the way you pronounce the word becomes the meaning of the word.
In the Hebrew, we translate it, "Be silent," but a lot like the word in Hebrew actually is very similar to, "Hush!" What God says is, "Shut it. Hush yourself." He's like a parent over a child, and he looks at a world that claims it is innocent, and he says, "Hush! Quiet!" Gang, this is not a great thing to say. Don't think you're going to fill a pew. We're not trying to fill a pew.
We're trying to tell you this is a great word for us, that we are a people who sometimes some of us are idolaters. We don't worship the true and living God. Some of us are adulterers. We're here on Sunday night. We wouldn't miss it for the world, but who were you worshiping last night? Who are you worshiping tomorrow? Who are you worshiping with your remote control?
Some of us are just idle. "I'm not really against God. It's nice to go to church," but you're indifferent or insincere, or some of you, frankly, are probably like those folks who are ignoring him who just aren't here tonight, and to all of us, he says, "Hush!" Be silent before the Lord who is God, for the day of the Lord is near.
The Lord has prepared a sacrifice, and guess who it is. It is you. Romans 12:1 says, "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice…" What God says here in a very funny way but in a tragic way is, "I have prepared a sacrifice." The question is…Who is the sacrifice? The answer is, "All of those who are a living sacrifice are going to become a burnt offering." If you don't want to make yourself a living sacrifice to him, he's going to make you a dead sacrifice for him.
Smoke that comes up from the wicked will be an aroma that one day as God weeps over it, it will also be pleasing to the fact that he has judged sin, and in love he has drawn a line in the sand, and he has said, "I wish that you would repent. I wish that you would have responded to my coming and calling after you, but the fact is you didn't, and now love always will discipline error, and I will discipline you," and discipline from an eternal God is something you frankly don't want to mess with. He says, "I don't want to hear your excuses. Hush!"
It's interesting. We don't hang guilty people in this country. There is a story about a guy who lived at the turn of the century, "Two Gun" Crowley. Listen to this story. This is why God says, "Hush!" "Two Gun" Crowley was a guy who was a notorious New York City gangster. He killed a number of people. One day he had his car parked on a New York City street.
A cop walked up to him and said, "Excuse me, sir. Can I see your driver's license?" He reached down, pulled out a gun, pummeled him in the chest with a bullet, jumped into his car, shot him five more times, and ran off. They found him shacked up with his girlfriend in some swank, upstate New York City apartment. He was in a big gun fight with police, but he ran out of bullets, and the police got in there. They took him and sent him up the road to Sing Sing.
You would have thought that "Two Gun" Crowley would have realized he was a wicked man. He killed people. He murdered people. That's not at all what happened. They found a little note he had written. The note said, "Under my coat is a weary heart but a kind heart, one that would do no harm to nobody."
You tell that to that little cop who you just put six slugs in. You tell that to all of the people you rubbed off. When we look at "Two Gun" Crowley we go, "You're guilty. You went to Sing Sing." When he would try to defend himself in court, I wish there would have been a judge who would have just gone, "Hush, boy! Hush! You take your little Johnnie Cochran, you take your little Barry Scheck and you walk. Hush!"
That's what the Lord is going to say to us. We're going to stop right there at verse 7. We'll get more of it in a week or so. What we do tonight is read this book through. You read 2 Kings 21 through 23, and you see what the Lord is up to, and you find some of the applications from tonight. You read it through, you pray it in, you live it out, and you pass it on, because God wants you to be somebody he has hidden truth in.
He wants you to be somebody who can speak with a prophet's voice to a people who are headed toward meeting this awful God. Clearly, we don't want to be idolaters. That's the easiest one for us to avoid. We don't want to be, though, adulterers, and we don't want to be idle in the midst of sin. Let's pray.
Father, we just came across a little book that, frankly, we haven't pulled off of the shelf very often. I pray, Lord, through your grace you would instill in my friends a passion for your Word. I pray you would deepen in me a love, Father, for your book. I just read something that you had a guy write 2,600 years ago, and, frankly, that I'm even more convicted by than anything I've read in months.
I thank you, Lord, how relevant and how timeless you are. The application you had hidden for a group of Jewish people living in a desert land you have dripping with application for a guy who lives in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. I only pray that I'd respond. I pray that I would hide myself in you, as Zephaniah warned his brothers and sisters to hide themselves in you.
Lord, I don't want to have excuses to why you can't use me. I pray none of us this week would say, "I'm not a prince, so I can't be used," or "I'm just a pauper, so I can't be used." I pray we would just trust your Word, that we would speak the very words of God, that we would memorize your Word, and hide it in our hearts that we might not sin against you.
Father, I pray you would take whatever application that is necessary. If there are things we worship in our lives… Yes, there are none of us who are sacrificing our children in a literal sense, but many of us are sacrificing our children in what we're exposing them to through media in television and with videos. We're sacrificing them in the name of a job or in the name of priorities. Lord, just deal with us.
If we're idolaters and we're worshiping the almighty dollar and not you, expose that. Father, if we're adulterers…we say we love you, and yet, we go out and act as if we love ourselves…show us that. Father, finally, if many of us just sit still and we're idle and not passionate about your truth, I pray you'd awaken us tonight.
I thank you, Lord, that your discipline is purposeful, that you will get our attention, but I thank you so much more that it's patient. Father, may we respond today while the day is not yet here of great judgment that we might not find that it's also progressive. Lord, I thank you for the pain you've brought into my life in the midst of disobedience and sin.
I thank you for the time you've put each person in this room over your knee and have spanked them for the foolishness of their choices and decisions and the things they've put in their minds. I thank you for the hurt you've caused them in it, but Lord, I thank you that it hasn't been more severe.
I pray you would take that spanking we've all gotten either from your Word or from some circumstance or from some heartbreak and that you would then use that to turn us back that we would turn again toward you and when we turn we would find a loving Father who runs to meet us and we would gather together again regularly to sing of how deep and how wide and how long and how far is your love for us. In Christ's name, amen.
From one of the least-read books of the Bible's twelve minor prophets comes a message that could not be more relevant for us today. Pronouncing "the day of the Lord", Zephaniah warns of inescapable judgments against Jerusalem because of its sins. He declares that God is gracious and compassionate, but that when all His warnings are ignored, judgment can be expected.In these four messages Todd Wagner relates the warnings and blessings of this ancient book, highlighting the unmistakable application today both for Christ-followers and those far from God. We are reminded that while those who are faithful to God may be relatively few, He is faithful to remember His own and that in His justice He is still merciful.