Zephaniah 3, A Vision of God’s People

Intro: As we have noticed Zephaniah preached judgment to a people under the sentence of exile. It has been called by some the “hottest book in the Old Testament.” But Zephaniah prophesied that one day God would have a people who would truly please Him. The last chapter of this book gives hope to Judah in the form of clear Messianic prophecy. As the prophet looks forward to the coming age he sees a different people who have a different heart. They will serve the Lord in a way that Judah did not.

It may be that we were able to see ourselves in the character of the condemned of the earlier chapters. But we must be able to see ourselves in the pictures of chapter 3. Zephaniah is speaking about our time – the Kingdom of God, the church of the New Testament. In this vision of God’s people we can see what god expected and predicted His people to be. Are we that people that Zephaniah saw?

I. Zeph 3:8-9 – “Therefore wait for Me,” says the Lord, “Until the day I rise up for plunder; My determination is to gather the nations To My assembly of kingdoms, To pour on them My indignation, All My fierce anger; All the earth shall be devoured With the fire of My jealousy. 9 “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.

A. The prophet speaks to the faithful remnant of God’s people. In the midst of His judgment, they are called upon to “wait for Me”, says the Lord. The exhortation “wait for Jehovah” is a favorite with Isaiah. It seems to refer to trusting in the Lord to work out the future. Not despairing, but waiting.

      • They that wait for Jehovah shall renew their strength” (40:31);
      • “the isles shall wait for his law” (42:4);
      • “they that wait for me shall not be put to shame” (49:23);
      • “neither hath eye seen a God besides thee, who worketh for him that waiteth for him” (64:4)

1. What were they to wait for?Until they day I rise for plunder (prey)” The NIV translates this as when I rise to testify. The thought points to a time when God will be victorious and gather the “plunder” of His victory to Himself. This plunder on those who are converted to Him out of the nations who have risen against Him. Hailey says… The “prey” seems to indicate the ones who become His, the converts who, out of the impending judgment, turn to Him. This interpretation is in harmony with the exhortation to wait for Jehovah, and with God’s promise that the servant “shall divide the spoil with the strong” (Isa. 53:12), the prey being His part of the divided spoil. It is God determination to gather people from all the nations into His kingdom, when all the earth will be devoured by His jealousy (love). This points to the time fo the preaching of the gospel in the N.T. The time of the establishment of God’s kingdom or church.

B. What type of people will worship God in this Kingdom?

1. PURE: 3:9 – For then I will give to the peoples purified lips, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord… (Zephaniah 3:9) The lips of God’s people had become impure, calling upon the name of many gods; but Zephaniah sees a time when God’s people will call on the name of the Lord alone! God expected a people who would be loyal to Him and not worship any other god.

a. this may also point to the removal of the curse of Babel (many tongues) because of pride and rebellion. On Pentecost, God provided reunited the language for the fulfillment of His promise.

2. TOGETHER: 3:9- to serve Him with one accord (shoulder to shoulder) (Zephaniah 3:9) During this period Israel had been divided and there were many conflicts among the people of God because their departure from His ways. However, the picture of this prophecy is derived from the yoke and suggests people who stand united in their service to God. This unity is the result of the purity of lips (given in or to serve) that comes through the single message of the Holy Spirit. The 1st church in Jerusalem continued in one accord, as they followed the apostles’ doctrine. Maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace..

3. SACRIFICING: 3:10From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My worshipers, The daughter of My dispersed ones, Shall bring My offering. The righteous remnant(even from the farthest places , Ethiopia) will willing offer sacrifices or offering to God. This is not referencing the Jewish sacrifices of the temple, which would soon be destroyed, but the spiritual sacrifices of praise and worship. Rom 12:1-2, Heb. 13:15-16Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

a. some see a reference to the dispersed ones as being the Jews among the nations who would convert the Gentiles, and thus bring them to God as an offering. The church would be characterized by teaching and bringing the lost to God.

4. OBEDIENT: 3:11 – In that day you shall not be shamed for any of your deeds In which you transgress against Me; The people of God would be an obedient people, who did not have to live in shame or disgrace. In fact, those who refused to obey could not be in the Kingdom. Jesus became “the source of salvation to all those who obey Him.” 1 Peter 1:14-15 – As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;

5. HUMBLE: 3:11-12 – For then I will take away from your midst Those who rejoice in your pride, And you shall no longer be haughty In My holy mountain. 12 I will leave in your midst A meek and humble people.. , God was ready to punish Judah for their arrogance and haughtiness before Him. But His coming people would walk in humility and be characterized by meek spirits. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for they shall see God; Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” Jesus’ kingdom in based in submissiveness and humility.

6. TRUSTING: 3:12 – And they shall trust in the name of the Lord. (take refuge) …Israel had sought deliverance from or refuge in everyone but the Lord. They had made alliances with other nations, trusted in diplomacy, worshiped false gods, all to ensure their safety against enemies. But Zephaniah says that God’s future people would depend only on Him for deliverance. The church’s weapon against the forces of evil around them was fervent prayer.

7. PEACEFUL: 3:13The remnant of Israel shall do no unrighteousness And speak no lies, Nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth; For they shall feed their flocks and lie down, And no one shall make them afraid.” This picture suggests a people who walked with integrity because they would not be afraid to tell the truth and to acknowledge the Lord. The reason is because they would feel secure in God’s provision. As His sheep they would enjoy a place to feed and lie down where there was safety. In Micah we saw the picture of one sitting under his fig tree, and eating the fruit. He was safe and secure. This security was a spiritual peace that came through a relationship with Jesus.

        • Phil 4:6-7Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Col 3:1515 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.

8. JOYFUL: 3:14-15 – 14 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. This culminating picture of God’s future people is powerful indeed. They are called upon to sing and break out in praise (rather than lament or mourn over what was to come). The reason for their joy is stated: As the prophet had introduced the character of the redeemed remnant under the Messiah (vv. 9- “Jehovah has taken away your judgments” which had been brought upon them. He has “cast out your enemy” that had inflicted it. This is the joy of victory. God’s future people will live the daily presence of God’s victory over their enemy! Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)

9. COURAGEOUS: 3:15-16 – …The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; You shall see disaster no more. 16 In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak. Another reason for their joy is the recognition that God is in their midst. This was also to produce courage in the face of danger. The constant presence of God, in the person of Jesus, was a powerful promise among the apostles and those who were called upon to suffer for the cause. (“I am with you always..”)

1. “Let not thy hands be weak (slack).” weak may not be the best thought here. Slack or fallen hands are a symbol of despair; so now with Jehovah in their midst they have nothing to fear. Particularly is the fear of condemnation. Through Christ we can have confidence that we are not in condemnation (“There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus” – Rom. 8:1) the work of Christ provides for true and complete forgiveness.

10. RESTORED: 3:18-20The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” 18 “The sorrows for the appointed feasts I will remove from you; they are a burden and a reproach to you. 19 At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you; I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they were put to shame. 20 At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes,” says the Lord. NIV Zephaniah pictures those among the nation who were sorrowful and remorseful over the loss of their temple and their ability to keep the feasts (appointed assemblies). To those who were repentant, there was hope. God overcome their enemy and gather them together again. This restoration would come first through Nehemiah, Joshua, Ezra; but more perfectly through the work of Christ. He made a way of restoration for His people.

        • Acts 3:18-21But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.

Conclusion: Zephaniah describes God’s reaction to His restored people as well: Zeph 3:17 – The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

God will rejoice over you… God will quiet you with His love…

NLT For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

  • Does the love of God calm all your fears? Are you restored to God through Christ?
  • Let each of ask ourselves, “Am I the person God envisioned? What is lacking that needs change?” Let each of affirm these truths, “God will give me victory! God rejoices over me! God will bring me home!

If you are not among the people of God, let us assist you in obeying the gospel.