The DAY OF THE LORD is “The Day of Jehovah,” and its usage is always associated with something dire, with judgment, and with events outside the implementation of man. In other words, it is the intervention of God with the power of God in the affairs of this world. It has a primary application to Israel, but that is always extended, often to a wider field, which involves the world. Its main focus is in the Tribulation that is coming. We continue –
. Zephaniah 1:7-11 “Be silent before the Lord GOD, for the day of the LORD is near, for the LORD has prepared a sacrifice. He has consecrated His guests. 8 ‘Then it will come about on the day of the LORD’s sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, the king’s sons, and all who clothe themselves with foreign garments. 9 And I will punish on that day all who leap on the temple threshold, who fill the house of their lord with violence and deceit.
10 ‘On that day,’ declares the LORD, ‘there will be the sound of a cry from the Fish Gate, a wail from the Second Quarter, and a loud crash from the hills. 11 Wail, O inhabitants of the Mortar, for all the people of Canaan will be silenced. All who weigh out silver will be cut off.'”
((There is a tendency to think that Israel is so special that they are “good” and nearly blameless. That is far from true. The nation is reprobate and so far separated from God. God will punish them in the Tribulation, and Malachi calls this event the refiner’s fire. There were some in Israel who thought nothing bad could come because they had the Temple of God. History will repeat itself.
Zephaniah is a wonderful book that looks at Israel’s (Judah’s) punishment connected with the Day of the Lord and then to the future when the people rise up in restoration.
In this passage, the “Day of the LORD” is limited to what will fall on the sinful nation, and particularly on those who desecrate the Temple. This is one of those cases where the Day of the LORD has this double application; to Israel close to the time of writing, and a much wider application in the future for all the world. Zephaniah does both of these, as we shall see.
The next part follows on. Verse 9 may see application in the Tribulation when the temple then will suffer the abomination of desolation.
Zephaniah prophesied in the days of righteous King Josiah, but the people did not follow the devotion of their king, for they were sinful. Like Jeremiah, this prophet warned of the coming destruction and the overthrow of Judah as Babylon began to crouch over Judah.
Gaebelein says this, “In the verses which follow [most of chapter 1], we have a description of the moral conditions of the Jews when Josiah started his reformation, which prophetically gives us a picture of the conditions among the Jews when this age closes.”
The whole land was corrupt, from the priests to the common people. The expectation of the Day of the LORD that Zephaniah proclaimed to these evil people is not unlike the proclamation to our own generation. For the prophet, and we, lived and live in the last days of the existing order.
We do know that around the Tribulation time (before it, as in the last days of the Church age, or right at the start of it), there will be those going around saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there will be no peace. They promise peace, but there will be none, and destruction will break over the world and Israel.
In Noah’s time, they rejected his preaching, mocked and continued in their gross sin, believing nothing bad was going to happen. Is it any different in our age? And will it be any different in the age to come?
These verses following I will not discuss because they will be done later on. But consider the apathy of the people – 1Thessalonians 5:2-3 “for you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape.” At every juncture of decision, man has ignored the warnings about the peril he faces and gets swept away in destruction.))
. Zephaniah 1:14–18 “Near is the great day of the LORD, near and coming very quickly. Listen, the day of the LORD! In it the warrior cries out bitterly. 15 A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, 16 a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities, and the high corner towers.
17 I will bring distress on men, so that they will walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the LORD, and their blood will be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. 18 Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them on the day of the LORD’s wrath, and all the earth will be devoured in the fire of His jealousy, for He will make a complete end, indeed, a terrifying one, of all the inhabitants of the earth.”
((This passage continues the discourse from earlier and describes the features of that day, the same signs and somber language that all the prophets use. The prophet begins with a general description that very much includes Israel. The first verse emphasizes the nearness of that day. Jerusalem’s destruction was very near, only a few decades away from the time it was written.
Today we preach the gospel of grace, salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. What if we changed the emphasis of that a bit and began preaching the coming destruction of the world, that is, preaching the coming Tribulation? That would make us like Zephaniah. I think many would object if we did that, but part of me thinks it could be relevant. “Flee from the wrath to come.” Also, in a way, we would echo Noah, who preached judgment and destruction unless repentance led to salvation. I guess this is one of the ministries of RR, in that future destruction is highlighted.
After that introduction of the first verse, the prophet then moves to the next verse. Verse 15 is a verse that could sit aptly in any of the prophecies that talk of the Day of the LORD, for the language is that of judgment and destruction. It covers the somber atmosphere of the Day and the associated signs for that gloominess – clouds and thick darkness.
So far, the coverage has been limited to Israel, but the hint is in verse 17 that the Day will be more widespread.
When you come to verse 18, the transition is complete, for we read of “all the earth” and “of all the inhabitants of the earth.” The fire of His jealousy (v 18) will be the elements of God’s wrath and cleansing described in Revelation. Serious words are used in the NASB translation for the depth of this destruction proceeding from the Day of the LORD, and I will pick up on three of them – “devoured in the fire of His jealousy”; “a complete end”; and “a terrifying one, of all the inhabitants of the earth.”
Zephaniah 2:3 “Seek the LORD, all you humble of the earth who have carried out His ordinances. Seek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will be hidden in the day of the LORD’s anger.”
This verse will be done shortly, but I wanted to add this thought here.
Zephaniah warned his people. He pleaded with them. He appealed to the humble ones of earth, ones who might listen because the proud and arrogant would never listen. He spoke God’s truth. So did Jeremiah, but scarcely anyone took any notice. Judgment was about to open the door.
It is the same in our generation. Who believes our report? The Day of the LORD is about to fall, and who pays the slightest attention? As suggested earlier, we should be warning them in our preaching. It is one thing to preach gospel stories from the parables or incidents the Lord encountered, but preach what is coming on the earth, warning men and women.
The Day of the LORD is not only about destruction, for it also involves the restoration of the Jewish saints (and Gentiles who will believe as well) converted during the Tribulation. It is essential we keep both aspects in balance, for the Bible does.
The following verses cover both aspects, judgment and blessing – Zephaniah 3:8 “Therefore, wait for Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘for the day when I rise up to the prey. Indeed, My decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out on them My indignation, all My burning anger, for all the earth will be devoured by the fire of My zeal.” (That is the worldwide wrath of the Tribulation, all the judgments – seals, trumpets, bowls, and destruction on Babylon, and the wrath of Armageddon.)
Zephaniah 3:9 “For then I will give to the peoples purified lips, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD, to serve Him shoulder to shoulder.” (That looks to the Millennium, after the cleansing of the day of His wrath, and those purified go into Messiah’s Kingdom. It has a strong focus on Israel, as we know from Malachi, among many other prophets.)
As for the Jewish saints who are saved in the Tribulation and enter into the Kingdom when the Lord returns, all part of The Day of the LORD, this beautiful verse is said of them – Zephaniah 3:13 “The remnant of Israel will do no wrong and tell no lies. Nor will a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths, for they shall feed and lie down with no one to make them tremble.”))
. Zephaniah 2:1-3 “Gather yourselves together, yes, gather, O nation without shame, 2 before the decree takes effect – the day passes like the chaff – before the burning anger of the LORD comes upon you, before the day of the LORD’s anger comes upon you. 3 Seek the LORD, all you humble of the earth who have carried out His ordinances. Seek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will be hidden in the day of the LORD’s anger.”
((The anger in the Day of the LORD was dealt with just a few verses ago at the end of chapter 1, and it was declared there that the Day of the LORD was for all the earth. Of that, there is no doubt. Our present passage focuses more on Israel. In fact, it is Judah, and it was the nation in Zephaniah’s timeframe at the time of the impending invasion from Babylon. He addresses the nation, telling them to come together to seek the Lord that they may be spared.
Through human history, God always warns of impending doom. 120 years in Noah’s time; many decades before Babylon’s invasion; and in the Tribulation, I am sure the 7 years will be a time of warning from the 144,000 preachers.
Because we know this, this has a wider application, for then we place it also in the Tribulation period, especially when the 144,000 preachers seek to present the gospel of the Kingdom to the Jews to hope for a national conversion. Even so, it too will have a wider application because verse 3 talks of “all you humble of the earth.”
Those who are converted and live righteously in the Tribulation will have a terrible time. Without the mark of the beast, they will not be able to buy or sell, and they will be hunted down because they can’t give allegiance to the false prophet and worship the image. The message the Lord has for them is this – “Seek righteousness, seek humility.” It will be a very tough time. We remember in WW2 how some Jews were hidden from the Nazis and how they tried to protect themselves. Zephaniah says to those saints in the Tribulation – “Perhaps you will be hidden in the day of the LORD’s anger.”
I have wondered about the “Perhaps” in the verse above. God urges repentance upon the nation and asks for righteousness and humility, but even so, there does not seem to be any absolute security that they will be safe from the Lord’s anger. Maybe in the destruction under Nebuchadnezzar, some of the righteous also perished. We know that being in the household of faith does not guarantee deliverance in the time of tragedy and enemy invasion. The same will happen in the Tribulation, especially for those who refuse the mark of the beast.
I see the words of wrath in this passage – “the burning anger of the LORD” and think of the way this world is going to be scorched by warfare from the rider of the second red horse of Rev chapter 6, and by the coming judgments of the Tribulation, and especially this one – Revelation 16:8-9 “The fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun, and it was given to it to scorch men with fire. Men were scorched with fierce heat, and they blasphemed the name of God, who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory.”
The whole world is mad now with the new wine of its new religion – Climate Change. There is a mania about any warming, and if there might be one degree in the next 50 or 100 years, it is all going to be meaningless in the light of what is going to happen in the Tribulation. Man’s foolishness and Nature worship will be exposed.))
Part 7 will come next time.