Friday, February 24, 2017

The Structure of Zephaniah, part 1

This Old Testament book was written by Zephaniah, whose name means “God has secreted” or “Jehovah hides.” He was of royal lineage as is revealed in the first verse.
Though he prophesied in a time of revival, the coming captivity was imminent and Zephaniah points out that the revival is superficial. He foretells the coming invasion of Nebuchadnezzar, judgment on certain peoples, the moral state of Israel and the judgment of the nations followed by kingdom blessing under Messiah.
If you read the first chapter you’ll notice how angry God is in verses 2 and 3. In Genesis we read the creation account and learned that God created the fish then the birds then the animals and then man. Now here we have God sweeping everything from the face of the earth and in the reverse order: men, then animals then birds then fish. Despite the awfulness of these verses I can’t help but be amazed at God’s order. For those who like to say that the God of the Old Testament seems vengeful, angry and bloodthirsty and that their God is kind and loving, I’d like to point out that God is both loving and just. Of course He is going to get angry. When will man honor, worship, love and obey only Him?
There were 7 types of people that God will “cut off” according to chapter 1. They are pagans (vs.4), astrologers (vs.5), worshipers of other gods (vs.5), those who reject God (vs.6), those who side with the heathen (vs. 8), idol worshipers (vs. 9) and those who presume that God is indifferent to them (vs.12). What do these 7 groups of people have in common?
They are all breaking the first commandment.
I’d like to offer a little insight into a couple of verses that may seem confusing. In verse 8 God says he will punish those “clad in foreign clothes.” Strange, huh? It means that when you act and dress like those of another belief then you are siding with them and rejecting your own. We do judge by appearances, don’t we? Think of teens who like to dress as “Goths,” get piercings, tattoos, etc., and distance themselves from their parents’ beliefs and values. Nothing new under the sun.
In verse 9 God will punish “all who avoid stepping on the threshold.” What? Stepping on a threshold? The Bible sure seems strange until you do your research and study. This is a direct reference to a story in 1st Samuel 5: 1 – 5:
 1 After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 Then they carried the ark into Dagon's temple and set it beside Dagon. 3 When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! They took Dagon and put him back in his place. 4 But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained. 5 That is why to this day neither the priests of Dagon nor any others who enter Dagon's temple at Ashdod step on the threshold.
So, that’s why I listed idol worshipers among the 7 types of people God will cut off. The Bible is so rich. Open one little verse and it’s like opening a treasure chest that keeps overflowing. Someone who “avoids stepping on the threshold” is a metaphor for someone who doesn’t worship the one true God. That someone is who God will punish.

Is Jesus in Zephaniah? Look at verse 7: “The Lord has prepared a sacrifice” and I believe He means Jesus.

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