The book of Zephaniah begins by tracing his ancestry back four generations. “The word of the Lord which came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.” (Zephaniah 1:1-NKJV) We see from this genealogy that Zephaniah was a descendant of King Hezekiah, a former king of Judah.

The book begins with a proclamation of judgment from God to a sinful and rebellious people such as we read in verses 2-4, “I will utterly consume everything from the face of the land,” says the Lord; “I will consume man and beast; I will consume the birds of the heavens, the fish of the sea, and the stumbling blocks along with the wicked. I will cut off man from the face of the land,” says the Lord. “I will stretch out My hand against Judah, and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. I will cut off every trace of Baal from this place, the names of the idolatrous priests with the pagan priests.”

Now, let’s read Zephaniah 1:7-8, “Be silent in the presence of the Lord God; for the day of the Lord is at hand, for the Lord has prepared a sacrifice; He has invited His guests. And it shall be, in the day of the Lord’s sacrifice, that I will punish the princes and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with foreign apparel.” As the Lord moves in judgment towards His guilty people He demands silence. He has prepared a sacrifice, Judah will be punished for their idolatry. The guests were the Babylonians, whom the Lord will use to administer His judgment by taking them into captivity. The punishment begins at the top with the princes and the king’s children which shows the influence towards idolatry came from the leadership in Judah. The “foreign apparel” is a sign that they had adopted the religion and habits of foreigners. For all this, Judah brought the wrath of God down upon themselves.

To get an idea of the harshness of the Lord’s wrath, let’s read Zephaniah 1:17-18, “And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.”

Our God is a jealous god. He is jealous of the affections and loyalty of His people. In chapter two, the Lord exhorts His people to repent. We read in Zephaniah 2:3, “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.” This is a precious and tender call to repentance. What a compassionate and long-suffering God we serve! (288.10)