Daily Devotional

March 18, 2020

Daybreak: Zephaniah 1:1 through 2:3

“Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger.” (Zephaniah 2:3)

When I think of seeking the Lord, the testimony of Jack Robbins comes to mind. Raised in a mining town where the men drank whisky and gambled, Jack was only four years old the first time he got drunk. Some in his hometown labeled him as “the boy who would come to a bad end.” By the age of seventeen, he could drink the strongest whisky, use the strongest tobacco, shuffle cards, shake dice, swear like a pirate, and fight, and his life was headed in a downward spiral. He testified, “I would get good jobs and lose them or give them up, and then go back to town to try to drown my troubles with whisky. I staggered the streets bleary-eyed, defeated, hopeless, and helpless. Nobody would hire me. My life was wasted and ruined.

“It was in an old shack on the mud flats in Portland, Oregon, where I finally met God. I was dying; a hopeless sight with my eyes sunken in my head — just a shadow of the man I used to be. I had walked that place night after night, as Satan taunted me with, ‘You’re lost, you’re lost!’ I would try to sleep it off, walk it off, drink it off; but ‘lost, lost!’ always rang in my soul. 

“I thank God that, in the darkest hour of my life, I prayed. Lying there, alone and miserable, I had time to think about my childhood, and memories of my mother flooded my mind. She had taught me about Jesus when I was a little boy, telling me that if I ever got into trouble and needed a friend, Jesus could help me. Somehow, in my despair, those memories got hold of me.

“Full of sorrow, pain, and hopelessness, I sent up an SOS to God. I crawled out of my bunk, got down on that old, dirty floor, and asked God to help my miserable soul. I said: ‘Jesus, won’t You help me? I don’t want to go to Hell like this!’ I prayed not only once but I prayed night and day. I determined that if I never got God in my life, I was going to Hell praying. 

“I praise God that one night after three weeks, Heaven opened and the power of God shot down into my dead soul. Up until that night, the devil had full run of that old shack. But when God came in, Hell and Satan went out. It seemed that the room was filled with light and peace. It was the most wonderful night I ever spent! That night God saved me and changed my life!”

God had mercy on Jack Robbins when he sought forgiveness with all of his heart. The words of our focus verse indicate that the people of Judah, too, could have sought and received mercy, for Zephaniah proclaimed that if they would seek righteousness and meekness, “. . . it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger.” While he foretold the coming destruction, he also offered a means of escape and protection, if only the people would turn from their sins and walk with God.

Today, too, mankind has received warning of a coming Day of Judgment. We thank God for the provision He has made for a way of escape. Let’s do our best to alert those around us to seek Him and thus take advantage of His provision!

Background

Zephaniah the prophet, whose name means “hidden by Jehovah,” ministered from approximately 640 B.C. to 621 B.C., during the reign of Josiah, King of Judah (640-608 B.C.). Identified in the first verse of the book as the great-great-grandson of King Hezekiah, Zephaniah’s purpose was to warn the people of Judah of impending judgment, and to urge them to return to God. Although Zephaniah’s message dealt primarily with the theme of judgment, it is characterized as a “word” rather than a “burden,” probably because the message does not predict doom for a specific nation. He was one of the last prophets God sent to Judah before the nation was carried into captivity by Babylon.

In chapter 1, the prophet launched immediately into predictions of judgment. He warned what Jehovah would do, why He would do it, and upon whom the judgments would fall. He proclaimed that judgment would fall because the people did not honor God’s name (verses 4-5), did not seek God’s face (verse 6), did not obey God’s word (verse 9), and did not acknowledge God’s rule (verse 12).

Zephaniah’s proclamation about this tragic situation was clearly a message of warning. He told his fellow citizens of the coming “day of the Lord” and described three things about that great Day. He announced that it would be a day when:

God searches (verse 12) – Nothing is hidden from Him and the spiritually indifferent would be found.

God judges (verses 13-18) – The judgment was near (1:14) and inescapable.

God pardons (chapter 2, verse 3) – For some that day will hold no terrors; God Himself will hide those who have sought Him in repentance. 

The “fish gate” referenced in verse ten was on the northern side of the city, and was the gate through which the Chaldean armies of Nebuchadnezzar, the agent of God’s destruction, entered. “Maktesh,” alluded to in verse 11, was probably a district of Jerusalem where business was carried out — perhaps similar to Wall Street in New York City.

Amplified Outline

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I.   Introduction (1:1)
II.   The Day of Jehovah’s judgment 
      A.   Judgment upon all the earth (1:2-3)
      B.   Judgment upon Judah (1:4-2:3)
            1.   The objects of judgment (1:4-13)
                  a.   The idolaters (1:4-6)
                  b.   Parenthesis: the sacrifice (1:7)
                  c.   The princes (1:8)
                  d.   The oppressors (1:9)
                  e.   Parenthesis: the invasion (1:10)
                  f.   The merchants (1:11)
                  g.   Parenthesis: the search; / The indifferent (1:12)
                  h.   Parenthesis: the desolation (1:13)
            2.   The description of judgment (1:14-18)
                  a.   The nearness (1:14)
                  b.   The horror (1:15-18)
            3.   The deterrent of judgment (2:1-3)

A Closer Look

  1. What did God say He would consume?
     
  2. Why do you think God had Zephaniah offer a glimmer of hope at the end of today’s text?
     
  3. What will be some of the evidences in our lives if we are truly seeking the Lord, as instructed in our focus verse?

Conclusion

God promises that those who seek Him and His righteousness will escape judgment. Let’s not neglect to avail ourselves of that promise!

Reference Materials