TODAY’S READING: ZEPHANIAH 1 – HAGGAI 2
God’s judgment of Judah (Zeph. 1:1-2:3); God’s judgment of the Gentile nations (Zeph. 2:4-3:7); God’s restoration of His people (Zeph. 3:8-20); A call to build (Hag. 1:1-15); A promise of glory (Hag. 2:1-9); A problem of defilement (Hag. 2:10-19); A promise to a servant (Hag. 2:20-23).
HIGHLIGHTS & INSIGHTS:
Zephaniah is one of the strongest preachers in the entire Bible. Verse 1 merely introduces him, providing us his background and placement in history, and in verse 2 he is already going for the jugular! “I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the LORD” (1:2). Zephaniah’s message is a message of judgment. There are only 53 verses in the entire Book, and there are at least 20 references to “the Day of the LORD”! (See how many you can find — i.e. “the day of the LORD”, “that day”, “the day”, “same day”, “at that time”, etc.).
The “day of the Lord” is a two-edged sword. On one side, it is an horrendous day. For evildoers, Zephaniah says, “That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness” (1:15). Zephaniah adds that it is a day when the earth’s mightiest men shall “cry bitterly” (1:14), and the earth’s wealthiest men will see the futility and worthlessness of their “silver” and “gold” to “deliver them in the day of the LORD’S wrath” (1:18).
On the other side of the “day of the Lord” sword, it is a glorious day. For the Lord’s faithful, Zephaniah exhorts, “Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel: be glad and rejoice with all the heart” (3:14). In verse 17, Zephaniah adds, “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.” This two-edged sword describing the day of the Lord can also be seen in Paul’s words to the Thessalonians in II Thessalonians 1:7-10: “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the LORD Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our LORD Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the LORD, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our!
testimony among you was believed) in that day.” Note that while those who know not God are the recipients of His vengeance and punishment, on that same day, He is the recipient of glory and admiration from those who do know Him.
Though the Book of Zephaniah is built around the day of the Lord, another key word in the Book is the word “remnant.” In fact, the theme of the Book is the salvation of Israel’s remnant. Interestingly enough, the name Zephaniah means “Jehovah hides” or “Jehovah protects/treasures.” That is exactly what God will do with Israel’s believing remnant during the outpouring of His incredible wrath in “the day of the Lord.” (Rev. 12:13-17).
A brief breakdown of the Book is as follows:
In 1:1-2:3, Zephaniah reveals GOD’S JUDGMENT OF JUDAH. Notice in 1:4-6, that Judah, like Laodicea, had three kinds of sinners: 1) Those who have totally forsaken God and worship idols; 2) Those who worship (or think they worship) both God and idols; 3) Those who at one time followed the Lord, but have totally and openly forsaken Him and want nothing to do with Him.
In 2:4-3:7, Zephaniah reveals GOD’S JUDGMENT OF THE GENTILE NATIONS. After describing His judgment upon them, God makes an appeal to His own people (3:1-7), saying in effect, “If I will judge the heathen nations for their sins, how much more will I judge this sin of the nation that I separated out of all the nations of the world to be holy unto Me?”
In 3:8-20, Zephaniah reveals GOD’S RESTORATION OF HIS PEOPLE. The Book of Zephaniah ends with the incredible promise that God will one day punish the Gentiles, and regather and restore Israel and Judah to Himself and to their land. Notice that 3:8 is most definitely describing the Battle of Armageddon when the Lord Jesus Christ will return out of heaven to rescue Israel from the Gentile nations who will gather against her when He comes on the great “day of the Lord” to establish His millennial kingdom (Rev. 19:11-12: Zeph. 3:8,15). The Lord’s closing message to Israel through Zephaniah is that “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 people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord” (3:20). That promise has yet to be fulfilled, but certainly will be in the very near future!
Today’s reading also includes the two chapters that comprise the Book of Haggai (the second shortest Book of the Old Testament).
In order to understand the ministry of the last three prophets (Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi), you must understand that they prophesied after the exile in 520 B.C., and thus, their Books are referred to as post-exile Books. Here’s a simple way to get the setting of theses Books in your mind:
In 536 B.C., Ezra led approximately 50,000 Jews back into their land after the Babylonian captivity. Under Ezra’s leadership, they rebuilt the altar, reinstated the sacrifices, and in 535 B.C., laid the foundation for the rebuilding of the Temple. Because of the incredible opposition they faced, the work on the Temple ceased. It was through four godly men that the work finally continued and was ultimately brought to completion: Zerubbabel, the governor; Joshua, the high priest; and Haggai and Zechariah, the prophets.
When Haggai begins his prophecy (1:1), recognize that the date is September 1, 520 B.C. It has been 16 years since the construction on the Temple began, but rather than walls covering the foundation, it was covered with weeds. Interestingly, though God’s house lay desolate, they had found the time and money to make sure that their own houses were completed. Haggai’s message to Zerubbabel and Joshua, the two leaders of the nation, was: “The people have made a priority out of their own houses and careers, and it’s high time priority is given to the Lord’s house and His cause!”
The Book of Haggai breaks down into four sections. Each one is a “sermon” Haggai preached, and each one is prefaced by the date in which it was delivered (1:1; 2:1; 2:10; 2:20). In each “sermon,” Haggai points out a particular sin that will keep us from fulfilling God’s will and accomplishing His work.
1) Making self a priority instead of the Lord. (1:1-15 c.f. II Timothy 3:1-2)
2) Looking back instead of looking ahead. (2:1-9 c.f. Phil. 3:13-14)
3) Failing to be cleansed of sin. (2:10-19 c.f. II Cor. 7:1)
4) Unbelief. (2:20-23 c.f. Heb. 3:12-4:2)
What work has God called you to accomplish that you have not finished? (See I Cor. 15:58).
CHRIST IS REVEALED:
As THE KING OF ISRAEL, EVEN THE LORD – Zeph. 3:15 (John 1:49)