The Day of the Lord
Most of the prophets studied in this quarterly were sent to prophecy against Judah and surrounding nations. The words to Judah are as strong as, or stronger than, to the other nations. Zephaniah’s message is no exception. Zephaniah is speaking to the people of Judah and the nations surrounding them. What were the conditions in Judah at the time? It was an Idolatrous nation according to 2 Kings 21-25 and 2 Chron. 33-36. How had the nation gotten to this point? After Hezekiah’s death, Manasseh became king and led the country so far into idolatry so that “they did more evil than the nations” they had displaced in Canaan. (2 Chron. 33:9)
Who was the king when Zephaniah was prophet? Josiah. What was the king doing? He was attempting reform. What was his reformation like? He destroyed the high places, “did away with” the false priests, broke down Asherah poles, tore down the shrines of the male prostitutes which were in the temple, desecrated sites and shrines and he tried to get rid of everything else that was dedicated to false gods. The Bible says during his lifetime, the people “did not fail to follow the Lord, the God of their fathers” (2 Chron. 34:33.) Was Josiah successful? Not really. How do we know? As soon as he was gone, the people returned to their false gods. What does this tell us about the state of their hearts even during the reformations of Josiah? They were heard-hearted…they conformed outwardly, but there was no real heart change. With all this in mind, let’s take a look at Sunday’s lesson.
The First paragraph of Sunday’s lesson says: “The focal point of Zephaniah’s message is the “day of the Lord” (Zeph. 1:7). The Teachers comment says that The phrase “The day of the Lord” occurs seven times in the book of Zephaniah (Zeph. 1:7, 8, 14 [twice], 18; 2:2, 3). What us the day if the Lord? This day is a dreadful day, a day of God’s anger, and this day of judgment is near. Let’s look at a couple of texts that mention the day of the Lord that will to confirm this. Let us start with Isaiah 2: 6. (Actaully, verses 6 through 22 gives us the entire picture.) Verse 6 says that in that day, “You, Lord, have abandoned your people, the descendants of Jacob. They are full of superstitions from the East; they practice divination like the Philistines and embrace pagan customs” Isaiah 2:6.
What is the day of the Lord like in this passage? What action is God taking? God has abandoned His people because they turned to other gods, silver, gold, idols made by men. Ultimately, the day of the Lord is a day when many will be lead to only exalt the Lord, and their idols will totally disappear. Those described in this passage who flee from God are those who bowed down to their idols. Let us look at another verse,
They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be treated as a thing unclean. Their silver and gold will not be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord’s wrath. It will not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs, for it has caused them to stumble into sin. They were proud of their beautiful jewelry and used it to make their detestable idols and vile images. Therefore I will turn these into an unclean thing for them. I will hand it all over as plunder to foreigners and as loot to the wicked of the earth, and they will defile it. I will turn my face away from them, and they will desecrate my treasured place; robbers will enter it and desecrate it.
What is the day of the Lord like in this passage? What action is God taking? Note verse 22, “I will turn my face away from them,” which is how all the doom comes upon them. In the next chapter, God says, “do you see what they are doing—the utterly detestable things the house of Israel is doing here, things that will drive me far from my sanctuary?” And what had they done? They had set up idols in God’s temple.
There are many other verses, but we get the idea that it is about the Lord no longer restraining the winds of strife. It is the execution of Judgment. But, it cannot be seen only as punishment. It is the day when nothing can be done about the disease (Sin). The people have refused the cure and they have left the hospital, and nothing can be done to save them. Only a few which, although in bad condition can, under the right conditions, still survive a little longer. They stayed in the Hospital. These are called the remnant. Zephaniah speaks of them in Zephaniah 2: 1 -3,
Zep 2:1 Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired;
Zep 2:2 Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORD's anger come upon you.
Zep 2:3 Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD's anger.
Here the remnant are the call the meek or humble. The possibility of survival for the humble who are faithful is expressed through the word perhaps. It means that survival depends solely on divine grace. Ellen White elaborates on this,
“Nothing is apparently more helpless, yet really more invincible, than the soul that feels its nothingness and relies wholly on the merits of the Saviour. By prayer, by the study of His word, by faith in His abiding presence, the weakest of human beings may live in contact with the living Christ, and He will hold them by a hand that will never let go.”—Ellen G. White, Ministry of Healing, p. 182.
Question: Does this quote give us any insight into what being sheltered by God really means? Does this “sheltering” happen from or IN our circumstances? God’s people throughout earth’s history have been persecuted, abused, and misused…yet they were “sheltered” in God. Daniel and his friends were taken captive, yet they remained faithful, hidden or sheltered in God.
These are the ones of which God says,
“ ‘The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing’ ” (Zeph. 3:17, NIV).
Although strange to many this concept of the Lord rejoicing is not isolated to Zephaniah. We read in Isaiah,
Isa 62:5 For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.
Isa 65:19 And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.
This is also seen in the parable of the Prodigal Son, where the father is so joyful to receive his son back, that he orders a feast and for all to celebrate. Notice, that the son returns because he repents. He realizes his father’s goodness, compassion and mercy, “Even the servants in my father’s house are treated better” (Luke 15: 17). So, the prodigal son trusted his father. God rejoices over the prodigals who return, who are healed. He eagerly waits for them to realize their pitiful state and return to Him. Jesus states the reason why God rejoices: “ ‘I tell you that in the same way there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:7, NIV). Our God is very personable.
The eldest brother refuses to celebrate because he does not think the younger brother is worthy. But, the eldest brother thinks he is worthy, “… Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends” (Luke 15:29). Notice he used the word, “serve.” As if, like a servant he worked for hire and always did what was asked of him. This son acted like a hireling. This implied he saw his father as an employer; an unjust and uncaring master. What a misconception of his father. This one did not trust his father. He acted like the one servant in the in the parable of the talents that received the one talent and returned it without investing it because, “…For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow” (Luke 19:21). What a misconception of his master. Needless to say this one did not trust his master. Do you think Daniel and his friends trusted God? If they did not they would not hide themselves in Christ. The heavenly messengers refer to Daniel as greatly beloved, twice. Is this not a sign that God was pleased, and probably rejoicing over Daniel? I think so.
This has implications for us. What view do we have of God? Do we trust Him? If this is what we believe we will walk humbly before Him, we will be hid in Him. We will turn to Him. If this is not the case, then I enjoin you to give Him a chance. “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him” (Psalms 34:8).