Zephaniah’s Context: If King Josiah was the Martin Luther of the Old Testament, then Zephaniah was his John Huss. Josiah is remembered for his sweeping religious reforms that resulted in one of the most significant revivals in biblical history (cf. 2 Kings 23-24). It is plausible that Zephaniah’s denunciation of apostate practices was a contributing influence on Josiah’s reforms. If so, Zephaniah is one of the few prophets in biblical history who lived to see the widespread religious and cultural results of his ministry.
Zephaniah’s Message – Theological Theme(s): Like other prophets, Zephaniah announces the consequences of sin—the coming Day of the LORD (1:7). This judgment is both global and local. That is, God will not only judge the nations, but He will also judge Judah (the southern tribes) for polluting and corrupting worship by mixing elements of neighboring religions with the worship of the LORD. The second theme in Zephaniah’s message is a theological thread that will pervade most of the New Testament: God will redeem people from other nations (3:9-10) as well as Israel (3:11-13). The prophetic message of Zephaniah ends with one the most beautiful (and overlooked) songs of praise in which the LORD rejoices over His redeemed (3:14-20).
Significance of Zephaniah’s Message for Christians:
1. Syncretistic worship is not halfway right, it is completely wrong.
2. God’s promise to redeem people from the nations became a reality at Pentecost and will continue until the return of Christ.
3. God still rejoices over those He saves!
Further Study in Zephaniah: The Psalm of Praise (3:14-20)
The future blessings that the LORD promises to His redeemed:
1. The LORD cleanses His people of sin (3:15).
2. The LORD is imminent (near) and in the midst of His people (3:17a).
3. The LORD rejoices over those His redeems (3:17b).
4. The LORD gathers and preserves a remnant (3:18).
5. The LORD will free the oppressed (3:19a).
6. The LORD heals the broken and calls the unworthy (3:19b).
7. The LORD transforms lives (3:19c).
8. The LORD’s saving power has no limits and will be displayed among His people (3:20).
Zephaniah 3:17-20 (ESV) – The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. 18 I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival, so that you will no longer suffer reproach.19 Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. 20 At that time I will bring you in, at the time when I gather you together; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes,” says the Lord.