INTRO: As I have read and reread the little book of Zephaniah, I have observed that it is, once again, a prophetic book filled with the day of the Lords wrath. The prophet Zephaniah lived and prophesied in the days of Josiah, a good and conscientious king of Judah. There is no mention made, however, of Josiahs reforms (as they are often called). The tenor of the book may suggest that the prophets ministry was in the early years of Josiahs reign and before Josiah began to rid Judah of idolatry. Whatever the case, this prophet saw Judahs moral and spiritual fabric in shambles. Perhaps he was looking beyond the almost temporary effects of Josiahs conviction to the reality that people would abandon his reforms when he was dead.
I. WHAT PRODUCED DECEPTIVE THINKING IN JUDAH?
A. At Zeph 1:5,6
1. v. 5 tells of those who swore by both the Lord and Malcham - so, there were divided loyalties
2. v. 6 tells of those who had turned away from the Lord and were completely indifferent about Him ... they did not seek Him; they did not inquire for Him
3. and there would be consequences: for the day of the Lord is at hand - 1:7
B. At Zeph 3:1-4
1. v. 2 gives us the general condition of Judah at the time of Zephaniah
2. vv. 3 & 4 tell us of four classes of people who should have been responsible for the spiritual and moral direction of the people
3. her rulers, rather than to protect the people, sought to devour them
4. her judges were sly, deceitful, unfair in their judgments
5. her prophets were empty and prophesied for their own gain
6. her priests had profaned the temple and improperly taught the law
7. it is no wonder the people of Judah were people whose thinking was twisted, deceptive! her civil and spiritual leaders had failed them!
8. (is it possible that such failures may occur within the Lords church? If the leaders fail in their awesome responsibilities, can we hope that the church will remain the pure, true Israel of God?)
II. SOME OF THE DECEPTIONS UNDER WHICH THEY LABORED
A. Zeph 1:12 - God is neutral where human behavior is concerned
1. perhaps their association with idols had convinced them that God was similar
2. the gods of paganism were only demanding ... not involved, not caring
3. if one can convince himself that God is totally uninvolved in human activity, he is then free to do as he pleases
4. recall Acts 17:27,28 - how very sad to be ignorant of the nature of God
5. settled on their lees is an expression for negligence, carelessness - Judah had certainly become negligent and careless in her relationship with God
B. Zeph 1:18 - Enough money can buy one anything, everything
1. these people were devoted to getting, gaining, possessing any way they could
2. if gaining by unethical, illegal means would net greater gain, fine!
3. they would not be able to bribe their way out of the judgment God had determined against them
4. Prov 11:4 - the people of Judah had forgotten this great truth
5. notice the fire of his jealousy - Deut 4:24 with Heb 12:29 ... God simply refuses to be in competition with other devotions!
C. Zeph 2:15 - I have not need of God - I am totally self-sufficient
1. this was the deception under which Nineveh was laboring, living
2. but she was not unique in such twisted thinking - Isa 47:8,9
3. is there really such a thing as a self made man? can anyone declare his independence from God without inevitable risk to his future?
4. it is my belief that this may well be the great sin of multitudes of the people in our own Nation
5. but it is may also be too prevalent among members of the Lords body
D. Zeph 3:5 - There is no shame in my behavior
1. first, notice Gods assessment: 3:1 - Judah had become a terrible place!
2. and from 3:5 is indication that the Lord had continued to plead with the people through the prophets
3. but the unjust knoweth no shame - no sense of shame among them!
4. Isa 5:20,21 with Jer 6:15
5. certainly 1 Tim 4:1,2 explains what had happened ... and what can happen when people abandon the standard which God revealed
CLOSE: Out of the awful judgments of Zephaniah comes wonderful promises of the Messianic age. Listen: Zeph 3:17,18. The present looked very gloomy. But the future was filled with hope. And we are very much part of that future.
Cecil A. Hutson
May 25, 2003
You Must Hear the Gospel
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
You Must Believe
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You Must Repent
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You Must Confess
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
You Must Be Baptized
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
You Must Be Faithful Unto Death
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)