Friday, June 3, 2016

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 5, 2016

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(Seek righteousness while you still can)
(Zephaniah 1-2:3)

   The name “Zephaniah” is shared by four men in the Old Testament; the son of Maaseiah (2 Kings 25:18, Jeremiah 21:1, 29:25 & 29, and 37:3), a Levite of the family of Kohath (1 Chronicles 6:36), the father of Josiah (not king Josiah - Zechariah 6:10), and, the man who is the subject of our lesson this week, the prophet and author of this book, Zephaniah. The name “Zephaniah” has, over time, come to have two meanings “YAHWEH has hidden”, and, “YAHWEH treasured”.
    As one of GOD’s spokesman for Judah, the southern kingdom of Israel, Zephaniah began his ministry circa 627 B.C., which is approximately the same time as the great prophet Jeremiah. He was a member of the royal house of Judah, and traced his ancestry back to King Hezekiah. He, like Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and Micah, prophesied during the reign of King Josiah (641-609 B.C.). The fact that so many powerful prophets ministered during Josiah’s reign suggests to us the significance of this time-period.
    During this time, the nation was enjoying a brief period of relief from foreign intervention, as Syria’s power had diminished quite a bit. This gave the Israelites a chance to focus on internal affairs, and young King Josiah chose to concentrate on the moral and spiritual reforms of his people. However, the moral and spiritual decay of the people of Israel ran very deep, and not even the good and righteous intentions of Judah’s last GODly king would be able to save Jerusalem from destruction. And so, while Josiah, the son of Amon, was still king of Judah, the lord gave the messages compiled in this book to Zephaniah, the son of Cushi, the great, great grandson of Hezekiah.
    Zephaniah came along following a gap of silence from the LORD, after the fade of the ministries of Isaiah, Micah, Amos, and Hosea at the end of the eighth century B.C., and to those faithful who were beginning to think that the whole prophetic movement was over, Zephaniah’s appearance on the scene at the end of the seventh century was a welcome relief.
    However, little did the people of Israel know that Zephaniah’s coming would trigger the beginning of a final wave of Hebrew prophecy that would also include Jeremiah, Obadiah, Nahum. It would be Israel’s final chance to repent and return to GOD before HE unleashed the power of Babylon and King Nebuchadnezzar on not just Israel, but upon the whole world as they knew it at that time (Zephaniah 2:1-3).
    In Zephaniah 1, taking up at verse 2, the prophet Zephaniah unleashes a terrible warning of destruction from the LORD. There he tells the people that GOD will sweep away everything in the land of Israel, both people, and animals, birds and fish (in other words, anything that can embody a demon for the purpose of receiving worship through them). Every trace of Baal worship would be eradicated from the land of Israel. Even the priests who worshiped idols in secret, idols such as Osiris (the sun, moon, and stars – today in Freemasonry), and Molech (today in Hip Hop, to whom they sacrificed their children), GOD says, HE will destroy. The LORD also says that HE will even destroy the “backsliders”, those who formerly worshiped HIM, but now seek after other sources of worship (Vs.2-7).
    The “professed Christian Church” (those churches that give the world a bad impression of GOD, and help destroy, the image of JESUS CHRIST), has been prepared by GOD for a great slaughter, and HE has already chosen the elements which HE will use for its demise (v.7). On that day of the LORD’s judgment, HE will punish the leaders of the professed Church, and all those who chose to mix the holy with the profane by endorsing and following pagan behavior in the Church (v.8). HE will punish all those who participate in such worship services, and those who spiritually kill and steal to fill their pastor’s bank account with money (v.9).
    Everyone who sits content in their sinful practices will be searched out by the LORD in HIS coming Day of Judgment, and everything satan has given them, homes, cars, money, food, and drink, etc, will be taken away from them (Vs.12-13).
    In verses 14-18, Zephaniah gives the people a vivid description of what the coming “Day of the LORD” will be like. It will be a day when the LORD’s anger will be poured out;

·         It will be a day when men who have a reputation of being tough and strong, will wither and weep bitterly.
·         It will be a day of terrible distress and anguish.
·         It will be a day of ruin and desolation.
·         It will be a day of darkness and gloom, of clouds and blackness, trumpet calls and battle cries.
·         Strong nations will fall because of their sins, and be made as helpless as a blind man searching to find his way.
·         Blood will be poured out into the dust and bodies will lay rotting on the ground.
·         Money, silver and gold will be of no value.
·         The whole earth will be affected and GOD will make a terrifying end of all the unrepentant people of the earth.

    No doubt Zephaniah sounds here like a religious psychopath, even though he ministered at a time when religion was corrupt, the government had failed, and apathy and indifference ruled the day (umm, sounds like today). However history now tells us just how correct he was in his prophecy, as in 605 B.C. the destruction of Judah by the Babylonians had already begun. In fact, his prophecies were fulfilled quicker than any other messenger of GOD before him.
    When we search out and study the details of these prophecies for actual clues as to the state of humanity at the end of this age, we can see quite clearly that Zephaniah’s messages captures the character of both GOD and man, and what he envisioned can still be seen in the world in this day.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


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