Zephaniah was no ordinary preacher. He was a great, great grandson of King Hezekiah, one of Judah's most famous rulers. He was of the royal line but, more important, he had the message of God on his lips and in his heart. Zephaniah preached during the time of godly King Josiah.
By all appearances it was a time of religious concern and consecration in the land. But Zephaniah knew the religious zeal of the people was not sincere. Their reforms were shallow. They had gotten rid of the idols in their homes, but not the idols in their hearts.
Zephaniah's message can be divided into three parts. Two of them deal with judgment and one with mercy. In chapter 1 God said, speaking of the land of Judah, "I will utterly consume all things from off the land." Nothing would escape His judgment. It would include even the beasts, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea. It would especially affect those who worshiped idols and those who had turned their backs on God. This judgment would virtually wipe out the land of Judah.
Chapters 2:4--3:7 indicate that God would also judge many other nations. Zephaniah names the various Gentile nations around Judah, and announces that God will judge them also for their sins.
Zephaniah closes with a message of promise that God will one day regather the people, punish the Gentile nations, and restore Israel and Judah to their land.
In order to understand the work of the last three prophets of the Old Testament (Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi), we must review Jewish history. The Book of Ezra recorded that Ezra took some 50,000 Jews, returned to the Holy Land (536 b.c.), rebuilt the altar, and started the sacrifices again. In 535 b.c., the foundation was laid for the Temple, but there was considerable opposition and the work stopped. It was the work of four godly men that finally brought the task to completion. Those four were Zerubbabel, the governor; Joshua the high priest; and Haggai and Zechariah, the prophets. The whole purpose of Haggai's ministry was to awaken the lazy people and encourage them to finish God's Temple.
There are four sermons recorded in the Book of Haggai. In chapter 1 Haggai's message is against putting self ahead of the Lord. The people had built their own houses and did not find time to build the house of the Lord. Haggai points out the selfishness of their hearts.
The second message is found in chapter 2:1-9. Here Haggai warns against looking back. The third message is recorded in verses 10-19. It deals with the failure to confess sins. The people expected material blessings the very day they began to work on the Temple, but Haggai explained to them that they were still unclean. They had not confessed their sins, and God would not bless them until they repented before Him and were cleansed.
The final message is in verses 20-23. It deals with unbelief, and was directed to the governor personally. No doubt Zerubbabel needed special encouragement as he directed the work of the Lord. Satan always attacks spiritual leaders. It is our duty to pray for them and work with them.
Perhaps Zerubbabel saw the great empires around him and feared for the future of the tiny remnant of Jews. Circumstances have a way of discouraging us as we seek to build a work for the Lord. God told Zerubbabel, through Haggai, that He would shake the heavens and the earth. He told him not to be afraid of these enemy kingdoms, because He would overthrow and destroy them.
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