Zephaniah 2:1-15 (NIV) 1 Gather together, gather together, O shameful nation, 2 before the appointed time arrives and that day sweeps on like chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD comes upon you, before the day of theLORD’s wrath comes upon you. 3 Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD’s anger.
On verses 1-3: Here Zephaniah implores the people of Judah to seek the Lord and to humble themselves before it is too late, “before the day of the Lord’s wrath comes upon you” (v2). Later on in this chapter, Zephaniah will introduce the idea of the “remnant”, that is, a group within the people of Judah who continued to seek the Lord and humble themselves before Him despite the widespread sin and rebellion around them. Zephaniah and other Old Testament prophesy about how the Lord will preserve and rescue this remnant from the destruction He pronounced on the land of Judah.
What can we learn from this? While God has wrath toward sin, He also has compassion toward those who humbly seek Him. The same God who warns about coming destruction almost always seems to provide a way of escape as well. Praise God that when we were subject to certain wrath and destruction, God made a way for us to escape through Jesus Christ. When we seek humility by trusting in Jesus Christ and not in ourselves, we become part of a remnant whom God will preserve and save from His wrath.
Zephaniah 2:4-7 (NIV) 4 Gaza will be abandoned and Ashkelon left in ruins. At midday Ashdod will be emptied and Ekron uprooted. 5 Woe to you who live by the sea, O Kerethite people; the word of the LORD is against you, O Canaan, land of the Philistines. “I will destroy you, and none will be left.” 6 The land by the sea, where the Kerethites dwell, will be a place for shepherds and sheep pens. 7 It will belong to the remnant of the house of Judah; there they will find pasture. In the evening they will lie down in the houses of Ashkelon. The LORDtheir God will care for them; he will restore their fortunes.
On verses 4-7: Zephaniah describes a time when Judah’s long-time enemy the Philistines will be destroyed and their land turned over to God’s people as pasture for their sheep (v6). In taking over the land of the Philistines, God will restore the fortunes of His people. As verse 7 says, “…The Lord their God will care for them; he will restore their fortunes”.
What can we learn from this? Here in chapter 2 when Zephaniah describes what the Lord will do to the enemies of Judah, I see this as a picture of what Jesus will do to His enemies as well. For example, here we see that God will restore the fortunes of His people by taking over the land of the Philistines. Likewise, Jesus has come to restore you by taking back what His enemy Satan has stolen from you, including peace, joy, hope, purpose, and freedom.
Zephaniah 2:8-11 (NIV) 8 “I have heard the insults of Moab and the taunts of the Ammonites, who insulted my people and made threats against their land. 9 Therefore, as surely as I live,” declares the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, “surely Moab will become like Sodom, the Ammonites like Gomorrah– a place of weeds and salt pits, a wasteland forever. The remnant of my people will plunder them; the survivors of my nation will inherit their land.” 10 This is what they will get in return for their pride, for insulting and mocking the people of the LORD Almighty. 11 The LORD will be awesome to them when he destroys all the gods of the land. The nations on every shore will worship him, every one in its own land.
On verses 8-11: In return for their pride, insults and threats against God’s people (v8, 10), God will ensure that His people will plunder the Moabites and Ammonites and inherit their land (v9).
What can we learn from this? Just as the Lord would cause His people to plunder their enemies, Jesus is activating His church to plunder hell and populate heaven. As He says in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not overcome it.” Church, our commander in chief Jesus Christ has given us a mission to search for and rescue those who are held captive by our enemy Satan. You have an important role to play in this mission by leading those around you to Jesus, the One who can rescue them. Zephaniah 2:12-15 (NIV) 12 “You too, O Cushites, will be slain by my sword.” 13 He will stretch out his hand against the north and destroy Assyria, leaving Nineveh utterly desolate and dry as the desert. 14 Flocks and herds will lie down there, creatures of every kind. The desert owl and the screech owl will roost on her columns. Their calls will echo through the windows, rubble will be in the doorways, the beams of cedar will be exposed. 15 This is the carefree city that lived in safety. She said to herself, “I am, and there is none besides me.” What a ruin she has become, a lair for wild beasts! All who pass by her scoff and shake their fists.
On verses 12-15: Here the Lord speaks against Cush (v12) and Assyria (v13-15), predicting destruction for both of these nations. Assyria in particular was seen as a “carefree city that lived in safety” (v15), a city in love with herself – “I am, and there is none beside me” (v15). Yet, as history would show, Assyria would be brought down from her powerful heights.
What can we learn from this? Pride goes before a fall. When things are going well, beware becoming prideful and complacent as Assyria did. For God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
Heavenly Father, You sent Your Son Jesus to die on the cross and to rise again so that You could plunder hell and populate heaven. Holy Spirit fill me today that I would be a useful player on Your team, someone You use to plunder hell and populate heaven by leading others to You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!