Studying

(Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash)

I am in the middle of finding the answer. The middle is where the muddle is and I want to know now! But seeking wisdom is work. The next thing I look at is the big picture. What was going on at the time?

Last week Zephaniah 2:3 caught my attention with instructions for us to seek the Lord, righteousness, and humility. Reading the cross-references we found Amos said “Seek the Lord and live” [Amos 5:6]. Then Isaiah said, “Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near” [Isaiah 55:6]. But that little “may be” from last week is still bothering me.

Next, I read the book of Zephaniah. Mostly when I am given small studies like this, I only read the chapter or the few chapters around the verse, but this book is only three chapters long. So why not read the entire book? {big smile}

What I found was a Prophet proclaiming a coming judgment from the Lord on the world. The first chapter gives us details about him. Verse one declares Zephaniah’s lineage, and that he lived during the reign of King Josiah when the “word of the Lord” came to him. I see him as dedicated to God. Someone who would listen and not be afraid to proclaim God’s message. In verses two and three Zephaniah goes right into the prophecy:

2. “I will utterly consume all things

From the face of the land,”

Says the Lord;

3. “I will consume man and beast;

I will consume the birds of the heavens,

The fish of the sea,

And the stumbling blocks along with the wicked.

I will cut off man from the face of the land,”

Says the Lord.1

I get the sense Zephaniah does not tarry. He took the message to God’s people with confidence. As fiery as the best hellfire and brimstone preacher I’ve ever heard. God wanted to get their attention, and Zephaniah was the man for the job. He opens the sermon with the Lord’s anger. He doesn’t even wait long to tell the listeners why. In verses four thru seven he lays it out for those who have hardened their hearts:

4. “I will stretch out My hand against Judah,

And against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

I will cut off every trace of Baal from this place,

The names of the idolatrous priests with the pagan priests—

5. Those who worship the host of heaven on the housetops;

Those who worship and swear oaths by the Lord,

But who also swear by Milcom2;

6. Those who have turned back from following the Lord,

And have not sought the Lord, nor inquired of Him.”

God is not happy with His people. They have cheated on him with other gods. They worship the Lord in public and then swear oaths to another god behind His back. The people and priests no longer seek the Lord. God’s prophet warns of the coming day of the Lord’s anger. In the middle of Zephaniah’s fervent prophecy, we find a bit of hope for the faithful. Chapter two verses one through three describes God’s instructions for those who still believe:

1. “Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together,

O undesirable3 nation,

2. Before the decree is issued,

Before the day passes like chaff,

Before the Lord’s fierce anger comes upon you,

3. Before the day of the Lord’s anger comes upon you!

Seek the Lord all you meek of the earth,

Who have upheld His Justice.

Seek righteousness, seek humility.

It may be that you will be hidden

In the day of the Lord’s anger.”

Can you see it? Woven into the words? A warning for a time like ours. The scripture repeats the call to “gather together.” Then Zephaniah describes the timing twice. “Before the Lord’s fierce anger comes upon you,” and again the Lord’s prophet says: “Before the day of the Lord’s anger comes upon you!

This is important to note. Word of the Lord repeats so we hear him call and warn; “Gather together” and “before the Lord’s fierce anger.” As I understand it, once the Lord takes action, there is no turning back. We must be on God’s side before the day of the Lord’s anger. When we see the signs of the Lord’s anger simmering, it is time to gather together before him. Then what?

Zephaniah proclaims what the Lord said to do. The prophet calls the faithful to action: “Seek the Lord all you meek of the earth, Who have upheld His Justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility.”

He calls for His own to return and repent. Repent for my sins, and the sins of my people. I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to repent for someone else’s sins. Sometimes I think the Lord’s anger is justified. Still, I remind myself, I cannot see the heart of another person. Only God can make that call. He is the only one that sees those who seek Him and those who have turned away from him. He wants us to seek Him, along with righteousness and humility. Then Zephaniah speaks hope; It may be that you will be hidden In the day of the Lord’s anger.”

The book of Zephaniah goes on to describe what will happen. He details the judgment of the World to the west, east, south and north of Israel, in that order. The prophet describes Jerusalem’s injustice, the Lord’s Justice, and the promise of conversion and restoration.

Our little verse in this context is a call to us in a very similar situation. It is God’s call to our prodigal hearts: Find your way home. Seek Me while you have the time. I, the Father am waiting for you, longing for you. I want my people back. Do not tarry…

Lord God Almighty, through the precious blood of your son Jesus, forgive us for our sins. Open our hearts and eyes to see You. Guide us as we seek your face, righteousness, and humility. You are our only refuge. We trust in You. In Jesus’ name. Amen. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

My next step is to use my tools, may our God bless you today,

Milly

1All scripture is from the New King James Version (NKJV)

2Or Malcom, an Ammonite god

3Or shameless

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