Saturday, November 9, 2019

Zephaniah 1

Today's reading in our daily plan is Zephaniah 1. 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?)
  • Today we begin with Zephaniah. Zephaniah is one of the "minor prophets" - twelve relatively short books that make up the end of the Old Testament. Zephaniah was a prophet of God. A prophet was someone appointed and used by God to communicate his message to the world. Zephaniah comes at a time when God's people, the Israelites, who had committed to living for and worshipping God, were not living for and worshipping God. They were complacent and were sinning against God. We will see (especially in chapter one) that God takes sin very seriously, but also (especially in chapters two and three) that there is still hope.
  • After explaining who he is in verse one, Zephaniah immediately pronounces God's judgment.
  • What makes the people's disobedience to God especially troublesome is that Zephaniah is speaking to God's people soon after a large section of the (Old Testament of the) Bible had been discovered (see 2 Kings 22:1 - 23:25). It had been missing, but now found, the people of Israel had vowed to start living by God's Word. But, sadly, they did not.
  • We learn in verses 4-6 that it wasn't just sin; God's people were worshipping other Gods - Baal (Baal was one of the gods of the Canaanites), the stars, and Molek. (Molek was the national god of the Ammonites, and Molek worship included child sacrifice.)
  • The reference to "foreign" clothes in verse 8 is not about wearing clothes made in a different country, but about the desire the leaders had to be a part of foreign religions.
  • God says he will search the people (verse 12) and that destruction would come for those who ignored Him. This destruction did come (during the lifetime of these people) when Babylon invaded and took their land, killing many and taking others.
  • In verse 18 we read about God's jealousy. When we are jealous it is a bad thing, because we are jealous of something that belongs to someone else. God's jealousy is different because he is jealous for our worship, which rightly only belongs to Him. Only God deserves the praise and honor and priority we give to what's most important to us. God's jealousy is also driven by His love for us - our lives will not work right if we put anything else above God.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • In the Bible, worshipping something other than God is called "idol worship." An idol doesn't have to be a false deity like Baal. It can be anything people put as a higher priority in their lives and more trust in than God. People today are still guilty of idol worship, as we can put money or power above God, or trust in ourselves more than we trust in God. Jesus said to seek God first (see Matthew 6:33). God needs to be our top priority, allegiance, the one thing we prioritize and honor and obey. If not, God will be jealous. The word "jealous" might sound petty, but with God it's not. Think of a husband who sees the wife he loves flirting with another man. Jealousy would be appropriate. It's appropriate because (1) he loves her and she promised her love to him, and (2) if she continues down that path it will lead to all kinds of problems and pain. God's jealousy of us is appropriate because (1) He loves us and we promised our worship to Him, and (2) if we seek things other than God first, it will lead to all kinds of problems and pain.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • In verse 12 God says He will search out the people and their sin and idol worship will be found out. They should have searched themselves and never let what happened, happen. In the Bible we are repeatedly told to search ourselves to put a spotlight on our sin and to evaluate whether we might be worshipping something other than God. (One of the times we are encouraged to examine ourselves is before taking communion - see 1 Corinthians 11:28). We're told, in Lamentations 3:40, "Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord." Why don't you take some time to search yourself to see if there is some undetected sin in your life, or if there is something other than God you are putting first. If so, confess that to God and return to the Lord.