The Future of Jerusalem (Zephaniah 3)

Scripture Text:

Zephaniah 3

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1. Share an anecdote about when you “took a short cut” after being told by a parent or other adult exactly how to do something. What happened as a result? How did you feel about being corrected? What lesson did you learn from that experience?

2. Which typifies your stance as a youth relating to that heavenly parent, Yahweh? Explain your answer.

  • “my way is Yahweh”
  • “any way but Yahweh”
  • “have it your way, Yahweh”

3. After announcing God’s judgment against Judah and her neighbors, upon what city does Zephaniah finally focus? What words does he use to describe her?

4. What four specific actions highlight her insensitivity to sin? What four leadership groups are singled out (verses 3 and 4)? In each case, for what?

5. What qualities of God does Zephaniah hold up as a standard for the people? How well have they modeled these qualities and held to this standard?

6. With their history and the destruction of neighboring nations, why does Jerusalem ignore God’s gracious warning (verses 6 – 8)? What’s so hard about “accepting correction” (see Zephaniah 2:1 – 3)?

7. How is God’s redemption (verses 9 – 20) consistent with His righteousness and wrath (verses 5 and 8)? Has God changed His mind? Or is there some cause-and-effect link operating here? How does this compare with what is happening in Matthew 5:5 and Luke 1:52?

8. What will God do for His scattered people to make them more like Himself (verse 19)? What will be the cause for their rejoicing “on that day”? How does that compare with why they were once weeping “on that day” (chapter 1:10 – 13)?

9. Which of God’s actions do you believe would make the people most glad, but seem “too good to be true”? Which aspects of God’s deliverance might be shrugged off as “too little, too late”? Which reassurance would sound most convincing to Israel?

10. Try reading this chapter from the perspective of a poor peasant in Latin America or a starving person in sub-Saharan Africa. What does the Second Coming mean to them? To their oppressors? Does it mean anything different to you? If so, what? Will you be classed with the rejoicers (verse 11), or with those who trust (verse 12)?

11. Throughout Zephaniah there is a pattern of rebellion, restoration and rejoicing. If this book were the story of your life, in which of those three stages do you find yourself in relation to God? Why?

12. Joy will displace mourning and calm will follow the storms of God’s refining fire. How does that square with your experience of God?

13. What is the most important thing you learned from Zephaniah? What life-changing application are you making?

14. What application would you like God to favorably “remember”?

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Zephaniah Prophecies Against Philistia, Ammon, Moab, Assyria and Cush (Zephaniah 2:4 – 15)

Scripture Text:

Zephaniah 2:4 – 15

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 1. What is your favorite sport? Your favorite sports team? When have you seen your team trail badly throughout a game, only to rally late and win? What did it feel like to have your team’s “fortune” restored?

2. Have you ever visited a ghost town, ancient ruins or once-famous building, long since abandoned? What was it like, then and now?

3. What desolation will God bring against the cities and land of Philista? How extensive will this destruction be? What will this land be good for, after God finishes with it?

4. In what ways will God’s punishment fall on Moab and Ammon as it did on their ancestor Lot (verse 9; see Genesis 18 and 19)? Will they be as fortunate? What will they get in return for their pride and arrogance? What will happen to the gods they chose to serve?

5. What is God’s verdict against the Cushites (Egyptians & Ethiopians)? Why would this be just, in light of their supposed power?

6. What irony do you see in the way God will ruin impregnable Nineveh (compare verses 15b and 5c, with Isaiah 45:5, 6, 18, 21)? See the books of Jonah and Nahum for how exact and true God’s vengeance against Nineveh would be in 612 B. C. at the hands of the Babylonians.

7. In what ways are your and your nation’s attitudes and actions like  and unlike Nineveh, Philistia, Cush, Moab or Ammon? What can be the outcome of overzealous pride in “God and country”?

8. In what sense do you act like “there’s none besides me”? In that case, how does this implementation of the Day of the Lord hit home with you?

9. What inner motives for God’s wrath do you see revealed against these nations?

  • wrath is the just reward for sinful pride
  • wrath pursues “all the gods” who vie for what is God’s alone
  • wrath vindicates God’s chosen people
  • wrath is designed to bring “every nation” to worship Him

10. God’s wrath has its flip side – restoration. What quality above all others do you think God wants restored in the nation, church, or individual who worships Him? How could you model that quality?

11. If all nations will end up worshiping God, “every one in its own land” (verse 11), what do you imagine that to be like? Will that include worship of the one true God by various names?

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The Great Day of the LORD (Zephaniah 1:14 – 2:3)

Scripture Text:

Zephaniah 1:14 – 2:3

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1. From your year-at-a-glance calendar, what “appointed time” are you eagerly anticipating? Which scheduled appointment are you dreading? Are you good at waiting? How so?

2. How close does Zephaniah say the people are to “the great Day of the Lord?” Is that day linked, penciled or not even on their appointment calendars? Why or why not?

3. Amid prosperity, how bright is Judah’s future? What will “that day” be like? Is there any escape or are God’s consequences universal? What escape routes are dead ends (chapter 1:18)?

4. What hope does God offer to any who gather contritely before Him (chapter 2:1 – 3)? What attitudes and actions please the Lord? What will be the result?

5. What do these judgments reveal about God’s view of sin and its consequences?About God’s view of the oppressor and the oppressed?

6. Why is it harder to hear God’s warnings during prosperity, when things are going well? Do you “shine” in suffering or in prosperity? Why is that?

7. What contemporary “signs” (dark clouds and social distress) do you see as God’s warning to the nation? To the Church? To you?

8. In what ways are you seeking the Lord? His righteousness? With what promise?

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