Archive for the ‘Listed teachings’ Category

John 2:1-11

Vss. 1&2 – The wedding, an event lasting seven days or more, was underway on a Tuesday (the third day of the week) a day of no real significance over any other day. God is not restricted by the world’s schedule of festivals, specials days and the like (Colossians 2:16&17).

In 21:2 it is noted that Nathanael came from Cana (cf. 1:45-49). Cana is approximately 12km north of Nazareth. It would appear that Mary was the principle guest from the family of Jesus. Jesus and the disciples were invited, it would appear, because of His mother or because of the their link to Nathanael.

Vss. 3&4 – The supply of wine was exhausted. In other words, the guests had just drained the lowest quality wine available (cf. vs. 10) in the wake of the better wine being served first.

Mary’s concern for the well-being of the couple is summed up in her observation, “They have no wine.” To run out of wine during a public celebration was a catastrophe to be avoided at all costs. “Had the wine actually failed, the occurrence would have been regarded as an insult to those present, and would have banished the host and hostess to practical isolation.”[1]

Her observation/hint is typical of most mothers in their belief of their son’s abilities. Hers was heightened because of what she knew for sure (Luke 2:19&51):

What did she know?

  1. Jesus was of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20).
  2. He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
  3. Jesus would be known as Immanuel, i.e. God with us (Matthew 1:23).
  4. They were to call Him Jesus meaning Saviour (Luke 1:31).
  5. He would occupy the throne of David (Luke 1:32).
  6. He would be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35).
  7. He was to be the salvation of the Lord (Luke 2:30).
  8. A light of revelation to the Gentiles (Luke 2:32).
  9. Her own soul would be pierced (Luke 2:35).

What did He mean by “My hour has not yet come?

Hour = The moment of significance, the reason for His existence. i.e. Calvary (the fulcrum of history). It would therefore appear that Mary’s expectations were not solely based on the salvation mission of her Son but rather upon who He was (John 1:1-4&14; Philippians 2:5-11). Her faith in her Son’s abilities, or who He was, stretched beyond dealing with sin. If He were indeed the Son of God, a King, then the production of wine was well within His abilities.

Note: Jesus asked what that situation had to do with “us”, i.e. Him, his mother and His disciples

Vs. 5 – Mary’s faith was not diminished by Jesus’ seeming unwillingness to be of help. She must have been confident that He would do something otherwise her comment to the servants would have been foolishness.

Or, was she manipulating the situation in pointing the servants towards Jesus so as to ‘pressurize’ Him into action? Could the Son of God be manipulated, or was she confident that He would serve His mother’s interests in seeking to prevent embarrassment that was about to befall the wedding couple? If so, it was not so much manipulation as it was seeking to serve what was important to someone else, in this case, His mother’s desire to see two young peoples’ celebration go well (Philippians 2:1-4).

Vs. 6 – It is interesting that Jesus chooses containers that held water (containing 75-115 litres) for purposes of outer purification. Now that these were empty at best, or half filled with not-so-fresh water at worst, He would use them as holders of new wine (cf. II Timothy 2:20&21). Was He trying to communicate something here? If so, to whom? If he was seeking to teach something or prepare someone for a teaching to come, it would be obvious that His disciples were the intended audience (Luke 8:10a).

Cf.Matthew 9:17 (whitewashed tombs, etc.).

Cf.Matthew 23:25-28 (new wine skins, new wine).

In addition, Jesus may well have been illustrating, to His disciples, the transient nature of the things of this world as opposed to the unending supply and superior quality of that which is from God.

Vss. 7-10 – The result of the waiters’ obedience and Jesus preparedness to honour the established chain of command in such matters, ensured an abundant provision. God will not violate the practices of any culture that do not contradict His Word (Acts 4:19 & 5:29).

Vs. 11 – This verse clearly allows the reader to interpret Jesus’ actions as those of intent. This was not merely a casual miracle to aid a failing party. “This [was the] beginning of His signs.” In doing so, Jesus had moved His disciples beyond their initial, theoretical belief.

What is a sign? – II Corinthians 12:12 teaches that a sign is an attesting miracle. To attest means to
“provide or serve as clear evidence of something’.


[1] Tenney. Merrill C. The Gospel of Belief. Grand Rapids. Eerdmans. 1976. Pg. 83.

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In II Corinthians 12:1-4 Paul speaks, possibly of himself, about the crossover between the supernatural world and this physical/natural realm in which we live. It is not as if he deems this ‘experience’ as anything extraordinary, after all, he uses the account to support another argument that he is seeking to make.

I Corinthians 2:9&10 makes a huge claim: “No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this, never so much as imagined anything quite like it – what God has arranged for those who love him.” (Message). In the light of this, we would do well to acknowledge, daily, that there is more to God to get to know than we, or anyone else for that matter, ever imagined (John 16:12).

So, how can all this mystery be made known? The short answer is by revelation through the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:3&5). He, the third Person of the Tri-unity, has come to lead the believer into ALL truth (John 16:13).

How is this possible?

  • We are tri-partite beings, i.e. we are spirit, we possess a soul and we live in a physical body (I Thessalonians 5:23).
  • The spirit aspect is for interaction with the realm of the spirit where God is (John 4:24).
  • Interaction with the material realm is the design aim of the physical body.
  • The soul is the receptor of stimuli/information/data etc. from both realms. It is here that decisions are made based on information received. The soul sorts through all of the information received and in so doing makes use of the filter of Scripture (assuming that such is in place), the ultimate standard for the Church in this stage of eternity. In short, the soul is the connector valve/air lock between the physical and the spiritual (cf. III John 2).
  • The soul is ‘home’ to the mind, will and emotions. Within the mind is the capacity of memory, intellect and creativity.

Genesis 3:8 proves beyond question that God’s original intent for man was to be able to interact with the realm of the spirit and the physical world simultaneously. This is a great mystery. To quote Leonard Sweet, “Christianity is a mystery religion. When you have wrung the mystery out of Christianity, you’ve wrung its neck.” In short, true fellowship with God is that intimate relationship across two realms that are in fusion (John 4:24).

In Acts 8:3a Phillip is ‘caught away’ and transported, if that is the correct word, to a town eighty miles away. Was this intended to be a one-off event? The Gospel is a power let loose in the world. The very energy of God’s Spirit is at work in all who believe.

Jesus Himself described the Holy Spirit as a wind. In John 3:8 Nicodemus is told of the unpredictability of the wind. However, He does not confine the attributes of the wind to the Holy  Spirit alone, “… so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

In John 15:15 Jesus made an astounding claim. He said all that He had heard from the [our] Father He has made known to us. That which the Father shared with His Son is now available to us in the Scriptures or supported by the Scriptures. The Church, by and large, has reduced that ‘knowledge’ into systematic theologies that can be learnt by rote. Such are devoid of mystery.

Christianity does not withhold secrets, its secrets have been willingly revealed, but it retains its mysteries. We must see doctrine, not as so many principles, but as gateways into the mystery of God. This mystery was hidden from past ages but has been revealed to His New Covenant saints (Colossians 1:25&26).

There is so much beyond the day-to-day Christian life, or what passes for it. Peter had a detailed vision which brought about huge change in the attitudes of the early Church (Acts 10:9-17). While contemplating what He had seen and heard, the Holy Spirit announced (Acts 10:19&20) the arrival of Cornelius’ delegation. These are examples of the clear and unmistakable interactions of the Holy Spirit with His people. The Holy Spirit’s involvement with the likes of Peter and Paul was not a matter of guesswork. He was a recognized partner whose direction did not require the deliberations of a committee (Acts 13:2; 16:6&9).

Jesus promised this Divine interaction in John 14:17 and 16:13. Nowhere did He imply that the Holy Spirit would need to be conjured up by some form of ritual at a particular time and place.

To speak of such things is never safe and when we realize that, we are in a place that is secure. Being blown along by God can be scary. What we must not do is block out all suggestions of a breeze and miss the mighty rushing wind altogether (Acts 2:1-4).

In our necessary journey from Athens back to Jerusalem, we must remove our Greekness and put on the clothes more suited to that of the mystic. What is a mystic? “A mystic is not someone who hears voices others don’t. A mystic is someone who is awake to the voices that everyone hears.” (Sweet). The materialistic mindset demands an image (Exodus 20:4&5; cf. Hebrews 11:6), the mystical only requires an acknowledgement of the realm of the spirit, the supernatural – a willingness to believe without crutches (Acts 17:22-34; I Peter 1:12; Luke 10:24).

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Vs. 17 – What a proclamation of victory and encouragement, “The Lord your God is in your midst.” As a result of the victory at Calvary redeemed mankind is no longer separated from God in terms of proximity or relationship. He is in our midst, in other words, He is among us (John 14:3b; Revelation 1:13a; 21:3) and wants to be (Genesis 3:8; Hebrews 13:8; cf. Matthew 23:37).Furthermore, He is my (your) God.

Revelation 19:11-16 confirms the warrior status of my God. Having said that, the literal interpretation of that statement is, “A warrior who saves.” (Revelation 19:1; cf. I Samuel 2:1; Psalm 27:1; 37:39; 62:2; Isaiah 12:2).

Our Warrior King will rejoice (to be bright and cheerful) and exult (to spin round under the influence of any violent emotion) over us with shouting (Isaiah 62:5b). The King celebrates His subjects and in so doing expresses a facet of His Kingdom (Romans 14:17) which He expects each citizen to nurture (Galatians 5:22&23).

The N.A.S.B. rendering, “He will be quiet in His love” is somewhat confusing given the context of celebration on His part. The N.K.J.V. says the following, “He will quiet you with His love.” (Psalm 29:11; 55:18; 85:8; 119:165; John 14:27; 16:33; Philippians 4:7) Some other ancient manuscripts state, “He will renew you in His love.”

Vs. 18 – The prophet seems to speak directly to Judah once again. God acknowledges that there are those who have remained righteous and are about to suffer exile because of the disobedient (Matthew 5:45b).

He assures that He will look after those who are concerned over the correct way of celebrating the feasts and the necessity of the temple to that end (faithfulness to the terms of the Old Covenant). Such people are rooted in Zion, i.e. what is right before the Lord and the location of the temple itself (cf. Colossians 2:16&17; Hebrews 7:18&19).

While such faithfulness is to be commended, Jesus warned that the new Covenant would usher in a time when no one temple would be a designated place of worship in the eyes of God (John 4:21-24).

Vss. 19&20 – Both these verses speak of “at that time” and refers us back to vs. 16. So Calvary will be the place where defeat is turned into victory as far as the redeemed are concerned. That which oppressed (Psalm 12:5) us has been dealt with (Colossians 2:17; Revelation 12:10&11) – past tense.

He promised to save the lame. Sickness and infirmity lost their authority and power because of the Cross (Mark 16:18b; Luke 4:18&19 & Revelation 22:2).

Those that were outcast would now be included (Matthew 8:11&12; John 10:16; Ephesians 2:13). The closing line of vs. 19 clearly illustrates the result of salvation. Shame has been removed for all time and in its place has come the ability to praise the God of all creation. Not only that, but the redeemed would have renown in the earth. This is echoed in vs. 20 (Micah 4:1; Revelation 21:24-26).

The festival that represents the accomplishment of salvation is the Feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16). No one will be prevented from attending as the oppressors (Isaiah 9:2-5) have been overthrown.

-Finis-

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Vs. 13 (cont.) – Zephaniah records the moral and ethical standard of this new people. His words are an echo of what David wrote many years before in Psalm 15.

The final two lines of this verse depict a people who can live with peace amongst many threats and enemies (Psalm 23:5). This blessed position flows from the Old into the New Covenant (II Timothy 1:7; I John 4:18). The very essence of the Kingdom in which the New Covenant people dwell is peace (Romans 14:17).

Vs. 14 – The prophet issues an invitation to celebrate over what the Lord has done at Calvary (obviously he sees this prophetically in the future).

The reason for the celebration? The answer is encapsulated in Isaiah 53:

Isaiah 53:4 – ‘My griefs (sickness) He bore’ and ‘my sorrows (as I see the broken) He carried.’ (Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:14-16).

Vs. 5 – Transgressions = A revolt. Wilful deviation from the path of righteousness. Premeditated crossing of the line.

Iniquities = Perversity. A depraved action from one who is morally corrupt. The sum of past deeds. (cf. Vs. 6). [Many transgressions make one perverse].

“Crushed for my iniquities” – Gethsemane = the place of crushing (The Garden of Gethsemane had an olive grove and the olives were also pressed (crushed) within the garden itself).

My well being (peace) was secured through His chastening. My health through His scourging.

Peace – Shalom (Hebrew) and Eirene (Greek) = A harmonious state of the soul both externally and internally. Calm delight (Philippians 4:6&7; cf. John. 14:27b). The guarding of your heart and mind are a blood secured (bought) certainty and right.

Vs. 6 – My iniquities only had power until they encountered Him.

Vs. 15 – All judgments that were to be passed against me have been taken away (Hebrews 8:7-13; 9:26; Revelation 12:10&11).

Under the New Covenant all enemies have been cleared away. Here it is necessary to appreciate what “cleared away” actually means. The underlying Hebrew text speaks of something or someone being  “turned away”, “put out of the way”. i.e. Clear away things that are scattered about. Make orderly. Make way clear from obstacles (Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1).

Unlike the arrangements that had gone before with the Lord interacting with His people, albeit through the intermediary ministry of the high priest, on the Day of Atonement, in terms of the New Covenant He would be present with His people all of the time (I Corinthians 3:16f; Revelation 21:3&22).

In addition to all of these benefits, fear and anxiety will now be things one must actively choose to partake in. Fear no longer has jurisdiction over any resident of the New Jerusalem (Philippians 4:6&7; cf. Galatians 5:22&23).

Vs. 16 – For those looking on at Calvary it would have been easy to see only failure and death (cf. John 1:5). He who had promised so much in word and deed was now hanging on a cross in what seemed to be total defeat. Satan was convinced of his victory (I Corinthians 2:8b) but, was himself, the one who suffered permanent defeat (Colossians 2:15; Revelation 12:10&11; 20:10).

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Vs. 11 – (cf. 2:1 & 3:5). In the previous two instances where the lack of shame had been highlighted among the people of Judah, God was indicating their moral position before Him in the negative. Here the context demands a change in interpretation. This verse begins with “in that day”. Which day? The day mentioned at the outset of the present paragraph (context) [See commentary on vss. 8&9 above].

The absence of shame, in this instance, is not a matter for concern but rejoicing. Calvary has removed all shame (that painful emotion caused by guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness or disgrace) (Philippians 3:9; Colossians 2:11&13), the redeemed have been set free (Colossians 3:1-4; Hebrews 12:1&2; cf. I John 2:1). from their sinful deeds and rebellion (Proverbs 28:13; Isaiah 1:18; Revelation 21:4).

It is more than interesting what the prophet says next, “… I will remove … your proud, exulting ones.” Once such people are removed the haughty will never again be tolerated on Mount Zion. As it has already been determined that the prophet is speaking about the New Covenant to come post-Calvary, Mount Zion is then identified in Hebrews 12:18-24 (cf. Revelation 21).

Definitions:

  • Proud – Arrogance or majesty.
  • Exulting – Rejoicing. 
  • Haughty – To soar, by implication to be lofty.

From these definitions we get a picture of the type of people God was going to remove from Zion. They were those who arrogantly, as if they were majesties themselves, carried themselves in public and rejoiced in what they said and did (Luke 18:11). This attitude is in direct opposition to that which is expected from God’s people (Ezra 9:6). They considered themselves elevated above the henhouse scratching of gentile humanity like the eagle high above.

What was the source of this pride? In short, religion. God had privileged Israel, now Judah only, with His covenants, Law and Temple service. Although no more, the Temple had been host to the Shechinah glory of God (II Chronicles 7:1-3). The Israel of God (Galatians 6:16) of the New Covenant would be purged of this spiritual pride.

Psalm 15 considers Zion’s population from an Old Testament perspective and makes some interesting and relevant observations. Furthermore, King Solomon, the writer of Proverbs 11:2 links pride to shame.

The pride that is condemned by the Scriptures brings with it strife (Proverbs 13:10a; 28:25). From the new Testament point of view John clearly defines such sin as opposed to the Kingdom and very much of this world (I John 2:16; cf. Proverbs 8:13).

Vs. 12 – Here God makes it clear that while Judah is currently proud, even in the face of imminent judgment and suffering, there was a time coming when her population would be made up of the humble whose only refuge would be in their Saviour (John 15:5, 7; 16:33; II Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 2:8-15).

Vs. 13 – Throughout the Old Testament it is clear that God works with remnants. This principle continues, evidently, into the New. Anyone looking at the Church would be left in no doubt that such people do exist, but not generally in the majority,. God has His people within a people (I Corinthians 13:4-8; Galatians 5:22&23; Philippians 2:1-4ff).

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Vs. 8 – “Therefore”, in this instance, is making reference to vss. 6&7. In other words God is saying, through the prophet, “given your attitude towards Me, just you wait. There is a day coming …”

The prophet moves on by saying, “For the day …” Which day is he referring to? Is this to be interpreted on a micro or macro scale?

Vs. 9 – A clue is given here, “I will give to the peoples purified lips…” It is here that one must allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. Such a purity of speech (lips) was what the prophet Isaiah sought and apparently received (Isaiah 6:5-7; cf. 29:13; 30:27; 59:3; Malachi 2:6&7). Lips, as pertaining to speech are discussed in the New Testament as well (Romans 3:13; Hebrews 13:15; I Peter 3:10). Words, in terms of quality and intent, as spoken (formed) by lips, have the capacity to be different in the life of the believer as opposed to the sinner (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 4:6).

Therefore, the interpreter can deduce that the prophet is referring to the age of the New Covenant, i.e. the age between the two advents of Christ.

Words and the associated ‘equipment’, i.e. tongue, lips, heart (when discussing motive (Matthew 12:34&35; Luke 6:45)), are a prominent aspect within the New Testament writings themselves. It should not be forgotten that words are hugely powerful. Allow all creation to bear witness to that fact (Genesis 1:3, et al).

James goes to some length to illustrate the powerful negative potential of words (James 1:26; 3:1-12). Paul shows us that words play a key role in the works of the flesh with regard to disputes and dissensions which are impossible without speech (Galatians 5:20).

“That all of them my call on the Name of the Lord, …” We read the same in Joel 2:32 where the prophet is without doubt referring to a covenant to come, i.e. the New Covenant which we enjoy. Joel’s words are quoted by Peter in the first great sermon of the New Testament period (Acts 2:16-21). Paul makes the same point through quotation in Romans 10:13.

In fact the entire ‘procedure’ to secure salvation revolves around calling on the Name of the Lord and nothing more (Romans 10:8-11).

It is interesting that Zephaniah points out a quality of these new people: They will serve the Lord “shoulder to shoulder.” In other words unity will be a chief component of the new society (Psalm 133:1; Romans 12:16; Philippians 2:1-4; 4:2).

Vs. 10 – Here the prophet makes it clear that the people of God will come from beyond the present confines of the land. As Egypt was often associated with Ethiopia one can envisage the expanse from which the people will come (Isaiah 43:5). In Old Testament terms that was a universal reach (Matthew 8:11; 21:43; Acts 2:5ff; cf. Zechariah 8:23; Galatians 6:6).

Vs. 8 (review) – Now, as to which day the prophet is referring to: If the covenant he envisages in the wake of the “day” is the new Covenant, then the ‘day’ must be Calvary where the New Covenant was made possible (Isaiah 66:8). If nothing followed vs. 8 one could safely say that Zephaniah was seeing the final judgement. However, he goes on to speak about “peoples [with] purified lips.” In addition, the closing verse (vs. 20) makes it clear that this group under discussion will have renown among the other nations (Revelation 21:24-27).

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3:1-4 – The prophet’s attention switches from the nations back to the capital of Judah, Jerusalem. The moral, religious and political state of the city is described in verse 1.

  • Rebellious – The A.V. uses the word ‘filthy’ which it draws from the Hebrew meaning “bitter or unpleasant, to rebel.”
  • Defiled – To soil or desecrate.
  • Tyrannical – To rage or be violent. To suppress, to maltreat. The opposite of loving one’s neighbour as oneself (Leviticus 19:33, cf. Exodus 22:21).

With these definitions in mind it is worth considering Paul’s words concerning first century A.D. Jerusalem in Galatians 4:25.

Vs. 2 clearly illustrates how Jerusalem came to be as she was at the time of Zephaniah’s ministry. She, her leadership and populace, had placed herself beyond all counselling and teaching. Perhaps the most damning were the last two on the list which can be summed up as a failure to believe (Hebrews 11:6).

Vs. 3 – The tyranny of the leadership is clearly shown in the analogy of roaring lions. It is said that the roaring of a lion spreads fear across the savannah. In the same way a tyranny holds a populace in fear. God’s form of government is not like that (Romans 14:17; I Peter 5:1-4; cf. I Timothy 3:6).

God is a God of justice (Genesis 18:25; Deuteronomy 32:4), those charged with the judicial leadership of the city were anything but (Deuteronomy 1:16&17; Matthew 23:23).

The last line of the verse describes the greed of the rulers and the judiciary. Like the predators used to describe them they are devoid of any thought of tomorrow and consume, with no thought of sharing, all that they have in one go.

Vs. 4 – Those with the responsibility for the spiritual welfare of the city and nation had failed as completely as the secular leaders. Verses 3&4 illustrate how grave a situation young Josiah inherited when he assumed the throne.

Zephaniah describes the prophets as:

  • Reckless – Rooted in a word which means to ‘bubble up or froth’, i.e. to be unimportant.
  • Treacherous – To act covertly, to pillage.

The priests had failed as well:

  • Profaned the sanctuary – Defile (originally sexual – Genesis 49:4 -, pollute, to prostitute, to make common.
  • Done violence to the Law – Sinful violence, extreme wickedness (Job 15:33; Jeremiah  13:22).

Vs. 5 – He holds Himself up as justice and righteousness, the God who does not fail. In spite of that fact the shameless remain untouched by the wondrous virtues of the living God (Romans 1:28-32).

In verses 6&7 God reminds all who would listen of the manner in which He had already dealt with other surrounding nations. The verse 7 illustrates God’s astonishment, again as if He were man, at Jerusalem’s unwillingness and seeming inability to revere Him and receive Divine instruction (cf. Matthew 23:37-39).

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Ch. 2: 1&2 – Zephaniah urges the nation to come together and seek God, to make right. It is clear that he considers the time short before judgement befalls the nation. It is interesting that the prophet calls for repentance even though such an action, no matter how heartfelt, will not delay or cancel the advent of God’s wrath. Judgment is a consequence of sin and rebellion. Forgiveness of sin will not remove the consequences of such actions (Exodus 20:5; II Samuel 12:15b-23; Ezekiel 18:20).

Vs. 1b is tinged with sarcasm (cf. I Corinthians 14:34-36), “Oh nation without shame.” Judah had carried on as if there were no God to answer to, or if there was, they did not care. Even in this attitude the love of God reaches out (Romans 5:8; I Timothy 1:15).

Zephaniah’s preaching is coloured by the need for haste, the window of opportunity – “the day passes like the chaff” – will quickly close (Joshua 24:15; Revelation 2:16, 21; 3:11; 22:20).

Vs. 3 – This verse makes it clear that there were some, a minority to be sure, who were godly. It is to this group, this remnant, that Zephaniah appeals (Deuteronomy 4:29; 30:1-3; Psalm 105:4). This verse carries echoes of II Chronicles 7:14 recording the reign of King Solomon.

The prophet hints that the remnant may be hidden during the judgment but they will still endure it, although vs. 7 may offer some insight. It is disturbing to the modern reader that the prophet, speaking under the direction of the Holy Spirit, can offer no certainty to the righteous. However, this does not imply uncertainty as to whether God will save anyone or whether anyone will repent. The word preserves the absolute sovereignty of God (Proverbs 21:1; Isaiah 40:23; 44:25).

Vss. 4&5 – The prophet now widens his scope to include the surrounding nations in the coming judgement. In other words the wrath of God is not to be spent only on Judah, but is to be transnational (regional) in its scope. He mentions Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Ekron. These were four major cities of the Philistines. This is a literary or poetic, i.e. the use of signs and symbols, way of saying that judgment upon the Philistines will be universal. The land of the Philistines lay to the west of Judah.

Vss. 6&7 – As a consequence of the Cherethites (some believe this is an early mention of the inhabitants of Crete – cf. Acts 2:11; Titus 1:5ff) being judged, their territory, the seacoast, becomes a place grazing and a sanctuary for the remnant that would apparently be hidden during the coming judgement, or, perhaps, those who would return after the seventy year captivity. Vs. 7 carries with it a promise of restoration, albeit in the houses of the enemy.

Vss. 8-11 – God is ever watchful over His people (Exodus 14:14; Psalm 125:2; Revelation 7:3), obedient or not. He listens intently to the threats and whispered hatred against His people. Moab and Ammon, located to the east, are about to find out what becomes of such people. They were as wicked as Sodom and Gomorrah and their punishment would be as bad. It is ironic that two nations born as the result of incestuous relationships (Lot and his daughters – Genesis 19:30-38) would be guilty of arrogance .

Vs. 9 closes with the remnant of Judah plundering their spoil and inheriting their possessions (Proverbs 13:22b).

Vss. 12-15 – The regional outpouring of wrath against the enemies of Judah will widen to become international: Assyria to the north and Ethiopia to the south.

Therefore, the judgement that was about to come upon Judah for her backsliding, would emanate outwards, like ripples on a pond, and execute a universal judgment upon the enemies of God in general. This would be applicable in terms of both the micro and macro applications of this prophecy (Revelation 7:1-3).

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Vss. 14-18 – This paragraph also focuses on [a] day of the Lord. The context will determine which the three, as already established, is in view here. In this instance the judgment of Judah is the immediate context and then the final global judgment is superimposed over that, so to speak.

The day of the Lord, as far as Judah was concerned, and us today, was coming quickly (Amos 5:18-20; Joel 2:11).

The Hebrew word ‘yֿm’, meaning day, is connected to the sovereignty of God (Psalm 90:4; Isaiah 43:13; Daniel 7:9) and His rule over the concept of time (Genesis 1:1; Psalm 74:16).

Verse 16 makes it clear that judgment was rapidly approaching in the form of an irresistible military strike, in this instance the Babylonian Imperial armies under the command of Nebuchadnezzar (cf. Habakkuk 1:15).

Verse 14 speaks of “the warrior cries out bitterly”, this is not the battle cry of a confident soldier but one who sees no hope of victory at all.

The day of judgement against Judah is described six (6 = the number of man, i.e. not quite 7) ways:

  • A day of wrath = Outburst of passion, anger, rage, wrath. Carried with such meanings is the idea of suddenness (Luke 21:35-36; I Thessalonians 5:2&3).
  • 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
  • A day of trumpet and battle cry

Each of the above ‘days’ can be easily interpreted as the immediate effects and ongoing consequences of mortal combat on the battle field.

The closing line of verse 18 makes it clear that this judgment will also impact upon the entire world’s population. One needs to ask whether or not the fall of Judah to the Babylonian invader would have had a direct impact upon the world’s population, even at that time. The answer has to be “no”. Therefore, Zephaniah is being used of God to project this judgment upon Judah onto the broad canvas of the end of days (II Peter 3:10-13; Matthew 24:4-14 & 29-51; Revelation 6: 12-17; 20:11-15). 

The middle line of verse 17 is the only reason that judgment must come, “Because they have sinned against the Lord.” How they came to sin is not the issue (Romans 3:23; 5:12; cf. Ezekiel 18).

Verse 17 leaves one in no doubt that the judgement is against sinners, for the consequences of sin in this life are often distress and the blindness that prevents one from seeing truth, morality and common sense (Proverbs 11:19; Romans 6:23; 7:11).

The closing lines of the verse clearly illustrates the dehumanizing effect of sin. Blood is dispensed with in the manner reserved for dust and human flesh is held in more regard than animal faeces. In short, sin has a dehumanizing effect upon the sinner (Jeremiah 42:22; Revelation 16:2). This serves as a graphic illustration of the aftermath of battle: Pools of blood trampled upon and human body parts and entrails strewn about the battlefield (cf. Leviticus 17:11; II Kings 13:7; Psalm 83:10; Isaiah 5:25).

Verse 18a carries a sobering truth for our materialistic world. No amount of wealth can withstand judgment, God cannot be bribed to turn a blind eye (Exodus 23:8; Proverbs 17:23).

Produced by: Adrian Tamblyn-Watts

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