Perhaps the Book of the Prophet Zephaniah is skipped over by some who would rather not hear its proclamations of judgment: judgment on Judah (Zeph 1); judgment on the Gentile nations (Zeph 2:4-15); judgement on Jerusalem (Zeph 3:1-7); judgment on the nations: “All the earth shall be devoured with the fire of My jealousy.” (Zeph 3:8). Gloom and doom is decidedly forecast.*
However, while judgment is the theme of Zephaniah, it is not the theme of this essay. This theme is how to be hidden through the judgment. Zephaniah holds hidden treasures beyond the reach of the gloom and doom. Indeed, the name “Zephaniah” means “the LORD hides”. That’s very comforting in times of disaster. Wouldn’t you be grateful if you were hidden through disasters? Wouldn’t you be praising the LORD had He by His divine Providence kept you away from the World Trade Center through unusual circumstances as He did for so many on 9-11?
Zephaniah tells us how to be hidden through disastrous times. “It may be that you will be hidden in the Day of the LORD’s anger.” (Zeph 2:3) For a believing Christian, Colossians 3:3 reads that “your life is hidden with Christ in God.” That’s why the devil can’t touch your eternal spirit. It’s hidden in Christ where the enemy has NO access! HalleluYAH1 On the other hand, we might through disobedience give the devil opportunity to mess with our souls (mind, will and emotion) and bodies. The Colossians passage goes on to tell us to “put to death” (Col 3:5) those tendencies that would give the devil a foothold. (James 4:7) (Eph 4:27)
Chriistians are “not appointed to wrath” (1 Thess 5:9) referring to some horrid judgments of Revelation, but nonetheless there are tough times ahead for all. So what keys does Zephaniah give us as to being hidden through troublesome times ahead?
Eleven Points for being Hidden through Impending Judgment
1. Seek the LORD
2. Inquire of the LORD
3. Be silent in the Presence of the LORD (Zeph 1:7)
4. Don’t be complacent (Zeph 1:12)
5. Don’t think that the LORD is aloof or apathetic (Zeph 1:12)
6. Don’t rely on riches for deliverance (Zeph 1:18)
7. Uphold justice (Zeph 2:3)
8. Seek righteousness (Zeph 2:3)
9. Seek humility (Zeph 2:3)
10. Don’t curse Israel (Zeph 2:10)
11. Intercede!!!! (Zeph 3:18-20)
1. SEEK THE LORD
Points number one through three, are actions not being done by Judah and are cited as reasons for the judgment. Judah has turned from the LORD. They are not seeking nor inquiring of the LORD.
We need to seek the LORD daily to learn to recognize His voice. It is crucial to know the LORD’s voice so that we clearly hear from Him, especially during crucial times.
2. INQUIRE OF THE LORD
Many a battle has been lost because of failure to consult the LORD. King Ahaziah died because he did not inquire of the LORD, but instead inquired of another god. (2 Kings 2:16) On the other hand, King David had a godly habit of inquiring of the LORD before decisions. In times of crisis, it is even more crucial to ask the LORD, “What do I do now?” Much pain and suffering on the part of the saints could be avoided would we only consult with the LORD before taking a course of action.
In the days to come, it will become more and more critical for us to consult the LORD. Sadly, even Christians listen more to other voices than to the voice of their Father. But if you want to be hid, you will need to hear His voice telling you which way to turn.
3. BE SILENT BEFORE THE LORD
Many of us fail to listen and sit quietly before the LORD to wait upon His voice, His guidance, His heart. Even if we don’t have a specific inquiry at the time, the LORD can warn us of snares ahead of which we are unaware.
4. DON’T BE COMPLACENT
In this list of eleven, there are seven “do’s” and four “don’ts”. This first “don’t” cautions against complacency, against “lukewarmness”, against apathy. You might NOT be hidden from judgment if you are hiding in front of the television or in your own little world all the time. Will you be prepared for trouble, if you have the attitude that you need only concern yourself with your own life?
“First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
(Attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) concerning apathy towards the Nazis.)
5. DON’T THINK THAT THE LORD IS ALOOF
Some think the LORD created the world and then left it to its own devices. They don’t believe in a God who interacts with His creation. They think we need to fend for ourselves. Their unbelief in a caring Father cuts them off from the grace and mercies of God available through faith!
Some say the LORD will not “do good” – in other words, the LORD won’t help us through. Therefore, they don’t turn to Him for help.
Some say the LORD will not “do evil” – in other words, “God wouldn’t send an earthquake in judgment. God is love.” I hear this a lot even from leaders in the church. They say that since we’re “under grace” now, that all these current disasters have nothing to do with the judgment of God. “God is love”, they opine. Yes, God is love. But a loving Father does discipline those He loves. (Heb 12:5-11) Love does not neglect to give a warning before the Final Eternal Judgment. In His mercy, He has provided the warnings and signs that Jesus spoke of in His Olivet discourse. (Matt 24; Mark 13; Luke 21) God will not allow evil to forever run rampant because sin brings death and destruction. Though He is extremely patient, “not willing for anyone to perish,” (2 Peter 3:9) there is an end to evil. That is good news for those who would live righteously in peace!
If you still think God does not judge in our days of grace, have you read the Scriptures for yourself? Or have you only had your ears tickled by politically-correct speakers? (Can one rightly call them pastors if they don’t warn against the wolves in sheep’s clothing?) There are plenty of instances of judgment in the New Testament. Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for lying “to the Holy Spirit” (Acts 5:1-5) Herod was struck dead “because he did not give glory to God.” (Acts 12:20-23)
If that’s not enough for you to see that God can in our days of grace bring severe judgment, then listen to His rebukes to the churches in the Book of Revelation:
“or else I am coming to you swiftly, and will move your lampstand out of its place, unless you repent.” (Rev 2:5)
“Repent therefore, or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth.” (Rev 2:16)
“If therefore you won’t watch, I will come as a thief, and you won’t know what hour I will come upon you.” (Rev 3:3)
“So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth.” (Rev 3:16)
Perhaps the strongest warning is that to the compromising church in Thyatira:
“Behold, I will throw her into a bed, and those who commit adultery with her into great oppression, unless they repent of her works. I will kill her children with Death, and all the assemblies will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.
If you’re in a compromising church, may you seek the LORD for guidance because judgment will come to the churches! It is the Word of the LORD.
You may want to heed this warning:
“Come out of her, my people,
lest you take part in her sins,
lest you share in her plagues” (Rev 18:4)
God is calling His people out of the Babylonian captivity of the church to a place at His feet, listening to His voice and not the voice of those who would use and abuse God’s people for their own greed and empowerment. The warnings in Revelation show clearly to the wayward churches, that they will experience judgment from God in the last days.
The Good News? You can choose to be part of the faithful church of Philadelphia who are promised:
“Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” (Rev 3:10)
That sounds a lot like Zephaniah’s word that “It may be that you will be hidden in the Day of the LORD’s anger.” (Zeph 2:3)
It also sounds like Psalm 27:5 : “For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of the tabernacle He shall hide me.”
If you don’t know where the “secret place” is, you had better find out before the “time of trouble” is upon us! Seek Him.
6. DON’T RELY ON RICHES FOR DELIVERANCE
If you can’t rely on your riches (Zeph 1:18), then you had better be trusting the LORD! In times of trouble, God works miracles for His people. He can have a prophet strike a rock in the desert and water gushes forth! He can send manna from heaven. Don’t think that God won’t do it! (Point #5)
Seek the LORD (Point #1) whether or not you need to stockpile something. He may have some doing this, but others are called to something else. Only run with the pack, if the LORD told you to run with the pack. What does God want you to do in preparation? As the song goes. “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way…”
7. UPHOLD JUSTICE
8. SEEK RIGHTEOUSNESS
9. SEEK HUMILITY
These three exhortations in Zephaniah 2:3 are echoes of the words of the Prophet Micah:
“He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
10. DON’T CURSE ISRAEL
Judgment is pronounced on Moab and Ammon because “they have made arrogant threats against the people of the LORD of Hosts.” (Zeph 2:10) If you threaten God’s people (Israel or the Church), you are messing with the “apple of His eye” – not a smart thing to do.
“For thus said the Lord of hosts,…. for he who touches you [Zion] touches the apple of His eye.” (Zech 2:8)
Indeed, the LORD said to Abraham, from the Book of Beginnings: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. All of the families of the earth will be blessed in you.” (Gen 12:3)
Be very careful how you speak of God’s anointed people.
Those who sorrow over Israel, those who bear the burden to pray and intercede for Zion, have a promise that the LORD will “deal with all those who afflict” them, and a promise that the LORD will give them, in the end, “fame and praise among all the peoples of the earth.” Wow! (Zeph 3:18-20)
A duty of a priest is to make intercession before the throne of God on behalf of others. We, Christians have the great privilege to intercede. And our promise is that we shall “reign with Him’. (Rev 20:6)
So, Zephaniah closes on a note of hope – not with gloom and doom but with the glory of God in His overcoming saints! “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev 2:7)