A. The last chance.
1. (1-2) Repent while there is still time.
Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together,
O undesirable nation,
Before the decree is issued,
Or the day passes like chaff,
Before the LORD’s fierce anger comes upon you,
Before the day of the LORD’s anger comes upon you!
a. Gather yourselves together: The idea is gathering together in a solemn demonstration of national mourning and repentance.
b. Before the decree is issued: All the announcement of judgment in the previous chapter is understood as a warning and as an invitation to repentance. The often-unwritten theme behind most every prophecy of judgment is, “This is what will happen if you do not repent.” Here the prophet pleads with the nation to repent before it is too late.
c. Before the day passes like chaff: Here the prophet called for a sense of urgency in repentance. Each day passes like chaff, and there is nothing to show for the day if we neglect what is most important: getting right and staying right with God.
i. How easy it is to let the days pass like chaff, and never get right with God! Often the devil’s most powerful lie isn’t that there is no God, or no Bible, or no truth – often his most powerful lie is that there is no hurry. Nevertheless, today is the day of salvation.
2. (3) The last chance.
Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth,
Who have upheld His justice.
Seek righteousness, seek humility.
It may be that you will be hidden
In the day of the LORD’s anger.
a. Seek the LORD, all you meek: Even the righteous must take heed to this warning. It would do them no good to say, “The LORD speaks to my wicked neighbor and not to me.” At a critical moment of national danger, even the righteous must seek the LORD.
b. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the LORD’s anger: In more than one place, God promises to hide His righteous in the day of great judgment. This is especially relevant to the time of the Great Tribulation, when Jesus warned us to Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:36)
B. Judgment against the nations.
1. (4-7) Judgment against the Philistines.
For Gaza shall be forsaken,
And Ashkelon desolate;
They shall drive out Ashdod at noonday,
And Ekron shall be uprooted.
Woe to the inhabitants of the seacoast,
The nation of the Cherethites!
The word of the LORD is against you,
O Canaan, land of the Philistines:
“I will destroy you;
So there shall be no inhabitant.”
The seacoast shall be pastures,
With shelters for shepherds and folds for flocks.
The coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah;
They shall feed their flocks there;
In the houses of Ashkelon
They shall lie down at evening.
For the LORD their God will intervene for them,
And return their captives.
a. For Gaza shall be forsaken: Judgment will come against an unrepentant Judah, but it will also come against the pagan nations neighboring Judah. God promises to destroy the cities of the Philistines and give their land as pasture for the remnant of the house of Judah.
b. The nation of the Cherethites: The name Cherethites is “a reference to their early geographical links with Crete.” (Baker)
2. (8-11) Judgment against the Moabites and Ammonites.
“I have heard the reproach of Moab,
And the insults of the people of Ammon,
With which they have reproached My people,
And made arrogant threats against their borders.
Therefore, as I live,”
Says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel,
“Surely Moab shall be like Sodom,
And the people of Ammon like Gomorrah;
Overrun with weeds and saltpits,
And a perpetual desolation.
The residue of My people shall plunder them,
And the remnant of My people shall possess them.”
This they shall have for their pride,
Because they have reproached and made arrogant threats
Against the people of the LORD of hosts.
The LORD will be awesome to them,
For He will reduce to nothing all the gods of the earth;
People shall worship Him,
Each one from his place,
Indeed all the shores of the nations.
a. I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the insults of the people of Ammon: First God looked to the west and saw the Philistines; then He looked to the east and saw the Moabites and the Ammonites. God promised to judge these peoples and bring them to perpetual desolation.
i. “The comparison of Moab and Ammon to Sodom and Gomorrah is not surprising in view of their origin: Moab and Ammon were the offspring of the incestuous relations of Lot’s daughters with their drunk father after he fled the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.” (Walker)
b. The LORD will be awesome to them, for He will reduce to nothing all the gods of the earth; people shall worship Him: God would glorify Himself among the nations, and one way He would do it was to bring the idols of the nations low. All would see that their idols are vain and that the LORD alone is God.
3. (12) Judgment against Ethiopia.
“You Ethiopians also,
You shall be slain by My sword.”
a. You Ethiopians also: Now God looked to the south, announcing judgment against the Ethiopians.
4. (13-15) Judgment against Assyria.
And He will stretch out His hand against the north,
And make Nineveh a desolation,
As dry as the wilderness.
The herds shall lie down in her midst,
Every beast of the nation.
Both the pelican and the bittern
Shall lodge on the capitals of her pillars;
Their voice shall sing in the windows;
Desolation shall be at the threshold;
For He will lay bare the cedar work.
This is the rejoicing city
That dwelt securely,
That said in her heart,
“I am it, and there is none besides me.”
How has she become a desolation,
A place for beasts to lie down!
Everyone who passes by her
Shall hiss and shake his fist.
a. And He will stretch out His hand against the north: God completed the circle of judgment against Israel’s neighbors by looking at Assyria and her capital city of Nineveh, which would be made a desolate city fit only for the habitation of animals and birds.
b. This is the rejoicing city that dwelt securely: Nineveh felt strong and confident, but God knew how to bring her low. Here the LORD fulfilled the principle of James 4:6: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
i. Zephaniah never mentions why the nations were ripe for judgment. Perhaps he assumed we’ve already read Amos and Isaiah and Nahum, which described the sins of these neighboring nations.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission