November 20, 2021
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen...”
“I will bring distress on mankind and they will walk like the blind because they have sinned against the Lord. Their blood will be poured out like dust and their flesh like dung. Their silver and their gold will not be able to rescue them on the day of the Lord’s wrath. The whole earth will be consumed by the fire of His jealousy. For, He will make a complete, yes, a horrifying end of all the inhabitants of the earth.” Zephaniah 1:17-18
We don’t know much about the prophet Zephaniah beyond what he tells us of himself in the first verse. His pedigree is traced back four generations, and the date of his ministry is given as “in the days of Josiah, the son of Amon, king of Judah.” Those were days of blessing and revival for a “remnant” of Judah, but, obviously, the vast multitude of Judeans, though outwardly reformed, were in the sad spiritual state described in this book (a message echoed in the early chapters of Jeremiah). Lesson: Having a reputation of holiness is not the same as being holy. And there is a time when the Lord will search throughout the earth, looking for half-hearted men, to separate them from His people, with the intent to destroy them. The object of Zephaniah’s prophecy, then, was to warn those clinging to a “form of godliness” of the coming judgment. The apostle Peter also echoed Zephaniah’s sentiments:
“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them and will bring swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their unrestrained ways, and because of them the truth will be blasphemed. In their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep.” 2 Peter 2:1-3
Besides clinging to a distorted version of the truth (a half-truth is no truth), the Judeans were counting on their stored-up wealth to help them ride out any seasons of a market downturn. Whenever people turn away from the invisible God, revealed only in Scripture, their only refuge is to cling-to tangible things. We see this even in our present-day culture. People are still looking towards modern versions of “gold and silver” to sustain them through turbulent times. I am not against wise investments, but if it were possible to pinpoint that the source of a specific market and natural disasters was Holy God, what other refuge would there be for the unrepentant?
God has determined a Day when He will completely sweep mankind from the earth. For those who do not believe in a literal rapture, you may find it hard to get around this statement! He is doing business in Jerusalem, just as He is cleansing the other nations. While this prophecy is in advance of Babylon’s invasion, its totality of destruction must also be extended to that “Day of the Lord” which is yet to come. In this knowledge, we have an advantage (and higher degree of accountability) over God’s people in Zephaniah’s day. Because we know how God’s prophecy was fulfilled – to the letter – we can only expect it will likewise be fulfilled in the end to come. Let’s take Zephaniah’s prophecy, therefore, to heart; let’s repent from our sinfulness and wholeheartedly follow Messiah, our only Hope.