Some Tips on How to Read the book of Zephaniah
“The LORD has taken away your punishment…” ~Zephaniah 3:15~
The book of Zephaniah is an oracle given to the people of Judah to warn them of the day that the Lord will come and bring His judgment on them and also an oracle of restoration for a remnant of Judah. It is good to note first as you start reading this oracle to know that the style this oracle is written is in a poetic way and do take some time to ask yourselves why is such symbols and meaning used? Note that such pattern of writing brings out a sense of feeling that God means business here when He declares His coming judgment and also His promise of restoration.
- i) As you read through the first part of the oracle; the series of judgment from the LORD (1:1-3:8), do take some time to go through this different section and discover what is the Word of the LORD saying?
Destruction awaits for those who neglect the LORD as their first love (1:1-13)
Nothing can save us from the LORD’s wrath (1:14-18)
The LORD’s mercies for Jerusalem and His judgment is just (2:1-3:8)
- ii) Reading the second part of the oracle; the promise of restoration of the remnant of Judah (3:9-20), do take some time to go through this section and discover what is the Word of the LORD saying?
The LORD’s mercies and grace for His people (3:9-20)
Reading the short book of Zephaniah leaves me with different questions as I try to see and understand how God, the LORD over all nations declares His coming punishment to the different nations and also a promise of hope for His people.
Zephaniah begins his prophesy in a very strong and terrifying manner of the coming judgement of the LORD. It starts with the destruction of the whole earth where every living thing will be wipe out from the face of the earth, and then the judgment was focused on the people of Judah where because of their arrogance and disobedience to be faithful to the LORD, they will be wipe away. We are told why such a judgment is coming upon them; because they had turned their backs against the LORD and worshiped idols. They also did not seek the LORD for guidance and blessings and instead put their trust in the material possessions that they possessed. ~Zephaniah 1:1-13~
Have I unconsciously placed my trust on the material possessions / relationships / achievements that I have made these my gods?
The prophecy continues by warning the people of ‘The Great Day of the LORD’ is coming and it is very near. It brings a sense of urgency to what will happen to them; the city they lives in will wail over its economic ruin and the people will be living in laying waste of homes and estate. Nothing will be able to save them; not even their gold or silver can save them on the day of the LORD’s wrath. ~Zephaniah 1:14-18~
The day of the LORD’s return is nearer than I think it is, am I prepare to face Him when that time comes?
With such strong warning and proclamation to the people of the judgment to come, the LORD gave a chance to the people of Judah by summoning them to repent and become like the humble righteous. And He proclaims what He will do to the other five nations (Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Cush, and Assyria) by punishing them for insulting God’s people and also for their arrogance against the LORD. The LORD also proclaims the future of Jerusalem that the people of Judah will be like their neighbouring countries if they do not repent and turn back to the LORD. Sadly, they refuse to come before the LORD in repentance. ~Zephaniah 2:1-3:8~
What is the LORD asking of me to come to repentance of my wrong ways against Him?
In the remaining of the prophesy, the LORD declares a message of hope to the remnant of the people of Judah who has been exiled. A promise that they will be purified and they will rest secure in Jerusalem and live humbly and righteously. There will be no more wailing or distress but instead, a sense of rejoicing in the hearts of the people that rings throughout the entire restored city. The prophesy ends with the gathering of the people of the LORD from everywhere and they will receive praise and honour in exchange of shame. ~Zephaniah 3:9-20~
What promises does the LORD offers to me when I return back to Him?
How true this message resonates for me as I look back in my own life and realize of all the wrongdoings I have done against God and yet, because of His gracious love for me, I stand before Him blameless. As I allow these thoughts to linger on, I can’t help but feeling humble before the LORD for His gracious salvation.
The LORD who shows judgment on sin and His gracious act of salvation for the humble and the undeserving that we may have a second chance.