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Zephaniah 1:1-6 – The sweeping away all the earth

The prophet Zephaniah was from the royal family of Judah. He was probably a distant cousin of the young king, Josiah (aged 8). It was during the reign of Josiah (aged 26) that the book of Deuteronomy was rediscovered in the partially abandoned temple of the LORD. Josiah led a restoration of the worship of Yahweh motivated by the rediscovery of Deuteronomy and supported by the reaching of Zephaniah (2 Kings 22-23).

Zephaniah begins with a word of judgment for sin. Yahweh will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth. Specifically, he will sweep away man, land animals, birds in the heavens and fish in the sea. As with Noah’s flood, judgment is an un-creation of creation. Notice the reverse order of creation i.e. man, beast, bird, fish whereas God had created fish, bird, beast, man.

This announcement of God’s judgment is because of his wrath against idolaters. God will stretch out his hand/power against idolaters and cut them off. Fashioning God after our own imagination is sinful.

Idolaters worship creation (e.g. the sun, moon and stars). The reason for this celestial worship is that people thought they could worship the sun, moon and stars in certain rituals designed to secure their own futures rather than trust in the providence of God.

A third sin if idolaters is two-timing – bowing down before God and swearing oaths to him as one’s great king while at the same time making oaths to the Ammonite god Milcom (King) – serving two masters or two kings or two gods is not possible.

Idolaters by necessity turn their backs on the LORD and a turned back is not able to follow.

Finally, idolaters do not seek the LORD or inquire of him regarding how they live their lives or with regard to how one ought to worship the true God.

Are we fashioning God in our own image? Do we seek to manipulate things rather than trust God’s providence? Do we two-time? Is our back turned to the LORD? Are we failing to inquire of him?