B. Willingly Gathering (Zephaniah 2:4-3:13)
God's plan here is twofold:
1) Enable His people to see the world from His view and
2) Motivate His people to respond to Him.
Because God's judgment is thorough, fair and His covenant is grounded in love, a great plan exists for the people of God. We only need to humble our hearts. Our wills must be brought into alignment with His. If we despair, it means we have lost hope in His great plans (looking around brings despair -refugees). A spirit of non-interest and apathy display an unbelieving and rebellious heart. Intimacy with the Lord, however, means we are very interested in His purpose. We boldly succumb any of our private plans to His greater purposes. In this way we begin to observe all things, whether it be history, politics, economics or social movements, local, nationwide or worldwide as part of God's comprehensive program. We become caught up in His approach, in His program.
If God demands righteousness from the heathen, He will certainly demand it from his church. If God judges my neighbors, I therefore dare not delude myself as exempt from His judgment if my acts are the same as theirs.
It is not fair to say that Zephaniah was unoriginal and only summarizing the pre-exilic prophetical message. Zephaniah excludes a lot of material he could include, and includes a lot what he otherwise would not put in. A good example is the way Zephaniah deals with Israelite neighbors. The nations' sins are not included for the most part as in most of the other prophetical books. This is not because they did not have sin, but because Zephaniah had another purpose in mentioning them. Desolation was to strike these nations, and they were to be thought of no more. But not Israel - even in her judgment she would return. God's anger (2:3) is not expressed the same to the church and those outside the church. This is not to encourage disobedience among His people but to encourage obedience! He wants them to seek His grace and kindness and not to turn aside from His graciousness.
1. By exposing his plan for Judah's neighbors (Zephaniah 2:4-11)
A Judgment that reminds them of God's power and care. Can't live without.
a. In the West: The Destruction and Plan for Philistine (4-7)
The Israelites may have forsaken their duty by not destroying them but God did not.
1) The Destruction of Philistia (4-6) Well-planned, calculated judgment.
i. Philistines' Political-economic Culture (4) 4 out of 5 cities mentioned;
Gaza was taken by Alexander the Great in 332 BC and finally desolated in 96 BC.
The site of ancient Gaza lies in the modern city.
ii. Philistines' Land (5a) smooth coastland
iii. Philistines' Race (5a) Cherethites; lineage derived from Cretans
The great Minoan Crete (Mycenaean culture) suffered a catastrophe about 1200 B.C.
and large numbers fled into Palestine being unable to enter Egypt.
iv. Philistines' Culture (5b) Canaanite religion, art, writing
v. Philistines' Embarrassment (6) Used to be proud of us now - dead.
2) The Plan for Philistia (7)
i. Remnant's Occupation (7a)
ii. Remnant's Activity (7b)
iii. Remnant's Hope and Existence (7c) Phillip goes to Gaza (Acts 8:26); "this is a desert road."
b. In the East: For Moab and Ammon (8-11a)
Christianity had a great expansion in the Transjordan area in the early centuries. Prominent in this period were Gerasa, where the ruins of many splendid churches have been excavated and studied. A marvelous mosaic map of Palestine has been found in the floor of an ancient church in Medeba (p. 60b). Medeba at the time of Zephaniah belonged to Moab, while Gerasa, one of the Roman cities of the Decapolis, was situated on territory occupied by the Ammonites in the seventh century BC (Westminster Historical Atlas, p. 370).
c. Around the World : For the Coastland nations (11b)
All the coastland nations will bow down to Him. This speaks unashamedly of worldwide worship. There is no doubt that the modern mission movement has opened our eyes wide to what God has done in calling people from every tongue and tribe to worship Him.
God's plans might have sounded detestable to the Israelites before His judgment, but they swiftly became words of hope when in exile. The predicted judgment upon Philistia became a clear confirmation that God would carry out the rest of His promises to them. He would bring them back to the land of promise from exile.
God has far greater plans than we can ever comprehend. We need to stand back and be touched by the ways God reminds us that He loves and cares for us. The church is a mighty force that no enemies' swords, bombs, words, threats or attacks can assuage.
2. By exposing His plan for the Major Powers (Zephaniah 2:12-15)
A Judgment that reminds them of God's power, purpose and protection. Can't live without.
The author seems to have played a trick upon the readers by having them agree with the described judgment. They undoubtedly were thinking that it was for their enemies. Only later on does he reveal this judgment is for God's people who had lived like the Gentiles.
a. Judgment and Purpose for Ethiopians in South (12)
A powerful nation now decimated.
b. Judgment and Purpose for Assyrians in North (13-15)
Who would think the world powers who wiped out the northern kingdom and conquered most of the known world would have become a wilderness. It was simply unthinkable. This would be similar to saying a city like New York would not be here in 2050. God deals severely with pride which is evidenced by independent behavior.
The enemies of God's people are the enemies of God. Time will bring them all into the ashes. Revenge is the Lord's. We are mere spectators.
a. Reason for God's Judgment on Judah: Corruption (1-7)
3. By exposing His plan for God's People (Zephaniah 3:1-13)
Only here does Zephaniah begin to address the sins rather than just the judgment.
Judges, Princes, Prophets, and Priests (3-4).
You know better right?! No. They were eager to corrupt all their deeds (7).
God's people will be judged; there is no escape.
We can not find security in our relationship with God and yet believe our sins will be overlooked.
b. Purpose of God's Judgment on Judah: Purging & Saving (9-13)
Rebukes Israel for their pride by converting the nations (their enemies) (Ro 11:11).
The converted non-Jews become an evangelistic tool toward the Jews (Ro 11:11).
Both these situations display God's power and glory.
1) God's Purpose in & through the Gentiles believers (3:9-10)
Purging & Salvation
a) Worldwide judgment (8)
b) Gentile conversions (9) Not prideful but dependent on the Lord
c) Gentiles service (10) Not judging but saving!
"My worshipers, My dispersed ones, will bring my offerings."
or "They will bring my worshipers, my dispersed ones." (Isaiah 66)
2) God's Purpose in the community of believers (3:11-13)
a) Pride and rebellious hearts gone
b) Humbly and lowly people before the Lord
c) Like good lambs
Pray for salvation of the lost. Look at those who taunt God's people and raise up their might and minds against Christ. Let's claim the victorious blood of Christ against them. What tremendous things does He want to do in our midst that will bring Him great glory. Not a little glory. If we seek His spectacular glory, rather than meet our own particular concerns, then we will see His mighty works. Let's pray and see all the gods of the earth bow down before the Lord of the earth!
Notice Jesus' intimacy with the Father. The closer one draws, the cleaner one must become. The cleaner we are, the clearer we can see God for who He is and what He wishes. Then we will pray His will almighty will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Where among us will the Lord work? Hopefully in our own hearts where we are humbly and obediently seeking His will.