This past Sunday was week 7 in my class on the Gospel according to the Minor Prophets. We worked our way through Zephaniah, one of my favorite Minor Prophets. Based on the brief genealogy in 1:1 he appears to have been the great-great-grandson of King Hezekiah of Judah (715-686 BC). He prophesied during the reign of Josiah (640-609 BC), during which the book of the Law was rediscovered in the temple (ca. 622 BC; see 2 Kings 22:8-13). Given the number of places where Zephaniah seems to echo the language of Deuteronomy, it seems possible that he wrote after this rediscovery but before the destruction of Nineveh in 612 BC.
The main theological theme in the book is the Day of the LORD. Throughout the book Zephaniah describes the utter destruction and desolation that will come when the fire of God’s jealous wrath is unleashed. The Day of the LORD will bring judgment on God’s enemies and salvation for his people. On the one hand the focus in Zephaniah is on the impending destruction of Jerusalem that eventually comes in 586 BC (1:7-13; 3:1-8). On the other hand, the language used goes beyond that event to the judgment that is coming on the entire world (1:2-6, 14-18). That’s because all throughout history there are a series of “days of the LORD” that anticipate the final and ultimate “Day of the LORD” at the end of human history. These small “d” days of the LORD include the destruction of the Northern Kingdom (722 BC) and the destruction of Jerusalem (586 BC), as well as the crucifixion, Pentecost, and the destruction of Jerusalem (70 AD). All of these events in some way anticipate the final Day of the Lord at the end of human history when God will bring final judgment on his enemies and consummate the salvation of his people.
How can we as God’s people today benefit from Zephaniah? What is it that God has to say to us today through this Minor Prophet?
I believe the starting point is determining the theological big idea, which I would summarize as follows: Yahweh is a mighty warrior who brings judgment but saves the remnant who flee to him as their King.
While Zephaniah describes in terrifying detail the coming Day of the LORD, he closes with a stunning picture of God restoring his people (3:14-20). As the true King of Israel Jesus dwells in the midst of his people. He is our mighty warrior who rejoices over us with gladness, is quiet in his love, and exults over us with loud singing.
Want to hear more? You can check out the audio and the handout below:
Week 7 – Zephaniah (AUDIO)