The word ‘commentary’ has lost some of its meaning. The American Heritage Dictionary1, defines Commentary as: “An ongoing series of spoken remarks, especially during a television or radio broadcast of an event.” This seems to be the only type of commentary used in America at the current time. Instead, I want to look at this study tool.
26 Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. 27 So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” [Acts 8:26-31]
In Acts 8:26 God sends Phillip to guide the Ethiopian in understanding God’s words through the prophet Isaiah. I don’t have a Phillip coming to my house for understanding scripture. It does not mean God has not provided me tools to learn and understand His Words. I just need to use them. The first tool I take out of the toolbox is prayer asking for guidance.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. [Proverbs 3:5-6]
The next step in my study habits is to take out my books. This time I pulled out my old Webster’s Dictionary2 first which defines Commentary as, “a series of explanations or interpretations.”
Commentaries help us understand the context of the scripture we are reading. My Prophecy Study Bible3 gives me a commentary on each book. Zephaniah 1:1 traces Zephaniah’s linage back four generations to Hezekiah. The commentator states this is “probably the godly King Hezekiah, king of Judah.” Because the book also shows Zephaniah’s familiarity with Jerusalem, it is noted that he was probably a resident of Judah’s holy city and because of his linage he was probably a part of the royal court.
The commentary dates Zephaniah’s prophecy dates between 630 and 625 B.C. This places our prophet as one of Judah’s “eleventh hour prophets,” along with Jeremiah and Habakkuk. Here Zephaniah is warning us of God’s judgment on the Judah, Jerusalem, and the whole earth. In chapter three, Zephaniah finally describes the return to God and the salvation in the day of the Lord.
The priests and the people of Zephaniah’s time had turned to idols. Corruption riddled Judah’s officials and princes. I find this a striking parallel between our day and Zephaniah’s time. Yet, God appeals to his people through the prophets to repent and humble themselves before it is too late. Our verse is at a pivotal point. It is one of the last chances God is offering His people.
“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.4”
As the Father, He has a dual role: He is the Father waiting at the door for His children to return. He is also the Father guarding the door. The wayward one must return with a changed heart. A heart seeking to be in union with the Father.
As parents, my husband and I know the pain of having to say; “you can’t come in until you stop (insert vice here).” I feel it is also hard for God the Father. The proof is in all the warnings He gives us. When we do not heed His voice and His laws, we may unleash evil in our lives. When we use our will to walk away from the Shepherd, He cannot help us or protect us. In our arrogance, He cannot grant graces. From personal experience I know; When I think I know better, I am walking into the evil one’s trap.
Imagine the Father’s pain when we turn away, I can hear Him; “I love you… I created you… I breathed life into you… I give eternal life everlasting… I gave the ultimate sacrifice… My only son…”
In Zephaniah’s time just like today, The Father groans in agony. “Why do you reject Me? Why do you do evil and call it good?5 Why do you discard your brethren? The souls of the injured call out to Me, and your arrogance rejects Me.” Can you feel the Father’s sorrow? Do you understand how the Father must protect those he loves against the ones he loves who also harm.
But our Father gives us a way out. Seek righteousness, seek humility, and repent. Let us not be stiff-necked (stubborn). Remember the Book of Zephaniah is all about the fact that God will not remain silent forever. He will avenge the innocents.
An urgency races through this book. It is God’s last call before judgment begins. Now is the time to get it right. He is waiting for us to mean what we say and do it!
Dear Heavenly Father, we come to you with sorrow filled hearts. Setting aside our pride, we admit that we have done wrong. Please forgive us. Our nation has done wrong in your sight. Please forgive our people and put a stop to the evil one’s plans to destroy us. We humbly pray, in Jesus’ name, amen. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.
May the Lord bless you with peace today.
Note: All scripture is from the New King James Version.
1 American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.
2 Webster’s II New College Dictionary Third Edition
3 The Prophecy Study Bible edited by John C. Hagee, New King James Version
4 Zephaniah 2:3
5 “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” [Isaiah 5:20]