The Day of the Lord. Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? No minor prophet mentions this event more than Zephaniah, and for good reason. Zephaniah prophesied in Jerusalem during a time when the nation of Judah was in rebellion against the Lord. Judgment was delayed, but it was definitely on its way.
We know more about Zephaniah than we do any other minor prophet, with the possible exception of Jonah. From his introduction we understand that he came from a royal lineage, and that Hezekiah was his great-great grandfather. As a member of the royal family he would have had access that most people did not have. He would have grown up around the royal court, and their idolatrous practices.
This is important to understand for two reasons. First, Zephaniah was an eyewitness of the rebellious leadership in Judah, and so therefore he was more than qualified to pronounce judgment. Second, it shows us what kind of man he was. It would have been easy for him to succumb to the idolatrous practices of his house. Yet he continued to follow the Lord, and even pronounced judgment against his own family! He was a true worshipper of God.
When most people think of the day of the Lord, they think of the final judgment and the return of Jesus Christ, and that is partially true. Zephaniah definitely refers to the final triumph of good over evil and justice over injustice. But his main concern is with the people of his time period. He is announcing that even though everything looks fine right now, judgment is on the way. It is the main theme of the entire section of the minor prophets. The judgment of God may seem delayed, but it will eventually come.
But as much as the book of Zephaniah seems to be about judgement, it is also a book about hope. Those who trust in the Lord will find shelter in the day of the Lord, and he ends his book by talking about a remnant of Israel who will be spared. Judah will be judged, but as we see in the other minor prophets, that will not be the final word.
The truth of the matter is that those who trust in the Lord should not be afraid of the day of the Lord. Although it is a day of judgment of evil, it is a day of vindication for those who live in righteousness. In the same sense that Judah and Assyria would be judged, the faithful remnant would be preserved. God is faithful to his people and he will not abandon them.
God promised in Zephaniah that he would search Jerusalem with lamps. If the people of Judah thought that God was not paying attention, they were about to see that they were dead wrong. This is important for us even today. Sometimes it seems as if God is not paying attention. But he is paying attention, and there will be a day of reckoning. Its up to us to make sure that we are on the right side when judgment comes.
Zephaniah is a grave warning for all of those who would align themselves against the will and purpose of God. It may seem as if they are winning for a time, but the day of the Lord is coming. When that day comes, those who align themselves with the Lord will receive the vindication they desire and deserve. Fear not. In the end God will have his way, and we are on his side.