Sunday, November 10, 2019

Zephaniah 2 & 3

Today's reading in our daily plan is Zephaniah 2 & 3. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • In chapter one of Zephaniah we learned that the people of Israel (who had promised their devotion and worship to God) had turned their backs on God, were sinning against Him, and were worshipping other gods. There was an intense decree of impending judgment.
  • Chapter two starts with Zephaniah letting the people know that there was still time "before the decree takes effect" to humble themselves, turn from their sins, and turn back to God.
  • In verse 4 of chapter 2, Zephaniah again begins sharing disturbing imagery to warn the people of impending doom. But, in verse 7, he speaks of a "remnant." This is a common theme with the Old Testament prophets. There are warnings of judgment coming for people who turn away from God, but the mention of a "remnant" -- a small group of people who stay faithful to God.
  • All of the predictions Zephaniah makes about what would happen to the various countries and cities did happen. For instance, in verse 13 of chapter 2, he warns of the destruction of Ninevah. At the time, Ninevah was the center of culture and technology. It was 60 miles long and was fortified by 150 towers. No one could have dreamed it would be destroyed, but Zephaniah predicted it, and it happened. In fact, it was destroyed so thoroughly that people questioned whether it ever really existed until its remains were finally discovered by archaeologists in the 19th century.
  • In chapter 3, Zephaniah returns his focus to Jerusalem, saying that they especially have no excuse since God was with them (verse 5). They had been warned but refused to repent. They were punished for their sins but responded with an eagerness to sin even more (verse 7).
  • Zephaniah ends with hope: for those who "call on the name of the LORD and serve him" (verse 9). God will "take away their punishment" (verse 15). They will discover that they never lost God's love.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Who is God? God is love (1 John 4:8). And God loves you. In fact, Zephaniah tells us in verse 17, "For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With HIs love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs."
  • God is love, and God is also a righteous judge, who does not wink at sin. In fact, because God is love, and because the relationship He wants to have with us is one of love, when we sin against Him, we are committing adultery against Him.
  • So, what do we do if we realize that we have turned away from God and have been sinning against Him? We repent. Jesus said He came "to call ... sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:32). He sent His followers out with the message that, "There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent" (Luke 24:47). To repent means to turn around. We turn away from our sin and we turn to God, asking Him to forgive us and to strengthen us so we can stop sinning against Him. If we have put our faith in Jesus, we can be confident that our sins are forgiven. 1 John 1:9, "But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness."
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Where in your life have you turned away from God? Where have you accepted sin as "normal"? Ask God to show you your heart, to reveal your sin to you. Pray a prayer like David did in Psalm 19:12-13, "How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don't let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin."
  • Ask God to reveal your sin to you, and then confess that sin to Him, asking and thanking Him for His forgiveness. Then repent of that sin. Ask God to take away your desire to do anything that is not pleasing to Him. Ask Him to give you the strength to keep you from "deliberate sins! Don't let them control me." Thank Him for the freedom He gives from guilt and that, because of Jesus' death on the cross, you are forgiven and now innocent of your sin.
Here's a helpful video from a great resource called BibleProject that reviews and summarizes the book of Zephaniah: