Zephaniah announces judgment against Judah’s enemies. Yesterday he said the Lord will destroy the Philistines, and their coastland will be left for the remnant of Judah that will be brought out of captivity. Today he proclaims judgment against Moab and Ammon, Lot’s descendants, who have continually attacked the Israelites. The Lord says He will destroy Moab and Ammon like He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah in the days that Lot and his daughters fled the destruction. Then His people will possess their land.
Highlighting God’s sovereignty over all the nations, Zephaniah says the Lord will also cut down Ethiopia and Assyria because of their wickedness. Then Zephaniah turns his attention to the city of Jerusalem, who has not obeyed the voice of God – “Woe to her who is rebellious and polluted, to the oppressing city! She has not obeyed His voice, she has not received correction; she has not trusted in the Lord, she has not drawn near to her God.”
Although Judah has seen the Lord judge the nations around them for their wickedness, Judah still does not turn from their evil ways. Therefore, the Lord is bringing judgment upon His own people. However, the Lord will one day bring restoration – “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord… And you shall no longer be haughty in My holy mountain. I will leave in your midst a meek and humble people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord.” Many commentators believe that the Lord is speaking of the day when Jesus returns and rules as the righteous King. In that day there will be great rejoicing – “Sing, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your judgments, He has cast out your enemy. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall see disaster no more.”
The current king of Judah, Josiah, dies in battle because he does not heed God’s warning not to interfere with Necho of Egypt who was aligning with the Assyrians to attack the Babylonians. Then Jehoahaz, Josiah’s son, becomes the next king of Judah.
In addition to Zephaniah, the Lord is also using Jeremiah to speak of God’s judgment upon the nations of Philistia and Moab. Babylon will overthrow both these nations. The Lord says to Moab, “For because you have trusted in your works and your treasures, you also shall be taken. And Chemosh shall go forth into captivity, His priests and his princes together. And the plunderer shall come against every city; no one shall escape. The valley also shall perish, and the plain shall be destroyed, as the Lord has spoken.” Chemosh is the national deity of the Moabites. And since Chemosh is a false god, he will provide no saving power for the Moabites.
However, the Lord gives Moab a word of hope similar to that of Judah. He says, “Fear and the pit and the snare shall be upon you, O inhabitant of Moab… Woe to you, O Moab! The people of Chemosh perish; for your sons have been taken captive, and your daughters captive. Yet I will bring back the captives of Moab in the latter days.” Many believe the restoration that will occur in the latter days is a prophecy of the coming Messiah, when we will see Gentiles convert to Christ followers.
Tomorrow we learn that Jeremiah isn’t very popular with the people in Judah — not everyone wants to hear the truth from the Lord. However, Jeremiah will stay faithful to sharing the word of God in spite of public opinion and his own comfort and security. Keep reading. (Zephaniah 2:8-3:20, 2 Chronicles 35:20-27, 2 Kings 23:29-30, Jeremiah 47:1-48:47)