The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ
by Paul R. Van Gorder
Zephaniah prophesied during the time of Josiah, a time of temporary revival. He saw the dark clouds of apostasy and judgment creeping over the horizon. The book of 2Kings, chapter 22, gives the historical background of this period. Zephaniah has been called the ''compendium of prophecy.'' He saw the judgment that was soon to fall upon Israel for her apostasy. Then, he looked down the ages to the judgment of the whole earth. And beyond that, he envisioned the time of universal blessing to follow. We read one phrase repeatedly in Zephaniah's prophecy: ''The day of the Lord.''

Habakkuk stood high and looked far;
Zephaniah stooped low with the candle of searching and looked closely.

  1. The Day of the Lord (1:1- 2:3)
    The prophet describes the day of God's wrath, which will be fulfilled in the coming invasion and captivity of Israel. It foreshadows the final day of the Lord.
  2. Judgment upon the Nations (2:4-15)
    The prophet predicts an outpouring of God's wrath upon certain peoples and nations. Read the history books and you will find that these have been fulfilled in minute detail.
  3. Israel's Sinfulness (3:1-7)
    The terrible moral state of Israel is described. This is what called for and justified the judgment that was about to fall.
  4. The Kingdom Described (3:8-20)
    This passage presents an interesting glimpse of the millennial period and the blessings Israel will experience during that time.
The iniquity of the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem weighed heavily upon the heart of Zephaniah. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah, who was called the ''weeping prophet.''
In verse 2 of chapter 3, Zephaniah named the four sins that cursed Israel.
We will see that each was a sin of omission.
  1. She obeyed not the voice.
    What marvelous privileges the Israelites enjoyed! No other people had received such recognition from God. Elijah had come with the message of Jehovah; Elisha had followed him. Prophet after prophet had appeared with fresh pronouncements from the courts of glory. But Israel would not listen to the voice of the Lord.
  2. She received not correction.
    The Jews did not seem to understand why God had allowed the heathen kingdoms to come and plague them. Read again the book of Judges and the history recorded in Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. The record of judgment occurs over and over again. And yet the people would not learn.
  3. She trusted not in the Lord.
    The Israelites were relying upon something other than their God. When war was impending, they made alliances with other nations, rather than trusting Jehovah. Although these other nations worshiped false gods, Israel compromised by joining forces with them. As a result, idolatry soon was being practiced by God's people.
  4. She drew not near to her God.
    The people had no fellowship with the Almighty. The altars were torn down and the sacrifices were stopped. They had knowledge but no spirit.
What was the remedy for all of this? Divine judgment! And the judgments proclaimed by Zephaniah are forerunners of future judgments. Like the prophet Joel, Zephaniah spoke of the day of the Lord. In fact, just preceding the universal judgment that will come upon this earth in the endtime, worldwide conditions will be similar to those local conditions in Israel. The inevitable result is given as follows:
Therefore, wait 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. (Zeph 3:8)
But while these judgments are sweeping the scene of the world's defilement, a remnant will be spared. They are described by Zephaniah as ''an afflicted and poor people.'' Of them it is said, ''And they shall trust in the name of the Lord'' (3:12). [cp. Habakkuk 2:4]
This believing remnant will form the nucleus of a saved and restored people, at the second coming of Christ. No wonder the prophecy of Zephaniah ends with such a beautiful promise about the remnant of Israel!
Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel;
be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem...
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...
Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee;
and I will save her that is lame, 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 peoples of the earth,
when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord.
(Zeph 3:14,17,19,20)
Tell me, who is it that is going to perform this marvelous work in behalf of Israel? None other than the One whose right it is to reign-- God's anointed-- The Lord Jesus. The exhortation of Peter in his second epistle seems appropriate,
Seeing, then, that all these things shall be dissolved,
what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness,
Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God,
in which the heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved,
and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? (2Peter 3:11,12)

See the Book Notes on Zephaniah for a verse by verse study of this book.

Return to table of contents for ''The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ,''
written by Paul R. Van Gorder, Copyright 1982 by RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI.
Used by permission [within The Book from].
Further distribution is not allowed without permission from RBC.

For another brief look at this book of the Bible,
see the related chapter in Christ in All the Scriptures, by A.M. Hodgkin.

Go to The Book opening page.