Vss. 7-13 – Zephaniah calls out for the nation to be silent, literally ‘to hush’, before the Lord (cf. Isaiah 41:1; Habakkuk 2:20; Zechariah 2:13). There comes a time when all man’s chatter must stop; an end to all debates, challenges, arguments, doubts and blasphemies (Psalm 46:10).

The announcement, “the day of the Lord is near” is vital to our understanding of the passage. As interpreters we must bear in mind that is it is vital to appreciate a number of issues here:

  1. Zephaniah was primarily ministering to Judah c. 630-620 B.C. Therefore the message is primarily for the audience of that period.
  2. From our vantage point of the yet unseen (to them) future, we are able to determine an even broader application of this message that in no way negates the message’s primary role.
  3. We are then able to determine a ‘then and there’ meaning and, having accomplished that, a ‘here and now’ application.

The primary meaning, i.e. that which is directed at Judah, is that God has appointed a day for Judah’s destruction (i.o.w. ‘sacrifice’). His guests who will benefit from this sacrifice (meal) have been selected and especially set apart for the ‘task’. On this occasion the ‘guests’ are the armies of Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar (Habakkuk 1:6). The idea of a meal being equated with judgement is an accepted Biblical metaphor (Revelation 19:17&18).

It is clear that God’s micro intent is the destruction of Judah. His macro intent is still to be interpreted. God’s actions in this regard will be judgment against the following:

  • The leaders and those in authority with privilege and power, except the king himself (vs. 8a).
  • Those who imitate that which ought to be foreign to God’s people (vs. 8b).
  • Those who practise false religions within the confines of the temple (vs. 9a) (Matthew 16:6; I Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9).
  • Those who make the temple a place of crooked trade and corrupt politics (vs. 9b) (Philippians 1:15).
  • Each area of Jerusalem and Judah as a whole will not be left untouched (vss. 10&11a) (Micah 3:12; Matthew 24:3).
  • Those who hold the strings of wealth (vs. 11b) (I Timothy 6:7; James 5:3).
  • God will be thorough in His actions. Jerusalem will be searched out with lamps so as to illuminate every hiding place (vs. 10a) (Matthew 3:12; cf. Romans 8:27).
  • Even those who have become spiritually dead and smelly because of unbelief will know that God has moved (vs. 12) (Isaiah 1:6; Revelation 16:2).
  • Those who have built with no regard to the coming judgement will be sorely disappointed (vs. 13) (Matthew 25:1-13).

As New Testament believers can we see a macro meaning superimposed over the micro meaning that came to pass historically for the nation of Judah in those days? Yes, we can.

The ultimate day of the Lord, as one looks back, took place at the very fulcrum of history, i.e. the crucifixion of the Son of God. That was the sacrifice prepared for all mankind – the invited guests (John 3:16).

For the New Testament believer there is still one ‘day of the Lord’ still to come. The Second Coming of Christ (I Thessalonians 4:13-18) and all that it will precipitate, i.e. The Great White Throne Judgement (Revelation 20:11-15) and the new heavens and the new earth (II Peter 3:10-13).

The offering of the sinless and pure Son of God for the sins of a guilty mankind was a sacrifice only God could prepare (Revelation 13:8). This great sacrifice will bring about the judgement of all those listed in verses 8-12, but on a universal rather than just a local scale (Revelation 17&18).

Produced by: Adrian Tamblyn-Watts

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