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Welcome to the book of Zephaniah!With a child for its king (Josiah), the nation of Judah does not yet have the governmental leadership it needs for spiritual renewal. Therefore one of the young king’s distant relatives is called into God’s service as a prophet. Zephaniah, like young King Josiah, is a descendant in the fourth generation from King Hezekiah.
Zephaniah’s mission and message is the same as that of the prophets before him – bringing judgment against immorality, injustice and pagan idolatry – and yet his central theme is the coming of “the day of the Lord”: for Judah and for all nations. Zephaniah’s preaching (as recorded in these three chapters) may have contributed to Josiah’s reforms, which took place in 621 B. C.
Take note that Zephaniah prophesied about the same time of Jeremiah, Nahum, and Habakkuk. 1. For what was your great-grandfather noted? Your granddad? Your dad? Any royal blood? Or bad blood?
2. “Wait until your father gets home” – What did that mean for you?
- Court of appeal?
What went through your mind as you awaited that “appointed” time?
3. What is noteworthy about Zephaniah’s background? What social circles did he likely move in? What situation did he inherit (verses 4 – 6), after the reigns of two bad kings (Manasseh and Amon) – before Josiah’s reforms and renewal?
4. What “word of the Lord” does Zephaniah bring, after a long period of prophetic silence? What universal judgment does this house-cleaning imagery bring to mind (verses 2 and 3)?
5. What are five specific religious actions that have brought on this judgment (verses 4 – 6)? What does it mean to “swear by Molech” (see Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:1 – 5; 2 Chronicles 33:6)?
6. What five groups are indicted for their social practices (verses 8 and 9)? What has each done? What does it mean to “step on the threshold” (see 1 Samuel 5: 1 – 5)? How thorough and unsuspecting will God’s judgment be “on that day” (verses 8 – 13)? Who will suffer most? Why?
7. Judah seems to want her own cake (Yahweh) and eat someone else’s (Molech) too. What the danger in such syncretism, then and now? How might we become like those who or what we worship?
8. Gross pagan idolatry (verse 4) may not be your thing. But are you “caught up in the rat race” of high finance, bigger homes and fruitless labor (verses 11 – 13)? How so? How do you tell the difference between honorable wealth and unjust riches?
9. When told, “just wait until God your Father comes home”, what would that elicit in Judah and in you?
- hope of deliverance?
- fear of wrath?
- a vow or repentance?
- a lull of complacency?
10. Then and now, people “worship the starry host” (verse 2). Or read their horoscope. Do you? Why? What’s wrong with that?