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Sunday, July 24, 2016

When God Sweeps (Zephaniah1:2-3a)

"I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth," declares the LORD. "I will sweep away both men and animals; I will sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea."

Zephaniah prophesies 40-50 years prior to the Babylonian captivity. He speaks of a coming day ("the day of the LORD" is mentioned at least twelve times in the book of Zephaniah) - a day when God will set up housekeeping and sweep the earth. Both men and animals, birds of the air and fish of the sea will be swept away.

Zephaniah's prophecy reverses God's command for reproduction in the Garden of Eden. God had commanded both plant and animal life to reproduce according to its kind, "Let the earth bring forth the living creatures according to its kind . . . Then God blessed them, and God said unto them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth . . . " (Genesis 1:14, 28). Sin has so infiltrated every area of creation that what He created and called "good" He now destroys. God cleans house.

So what does Zephaniah teach us about God? Sin is serious, God is long-suffering but He will one day punish sin and cleanse the earth of sin. That day quickly approaches. He says that it is "near and coming quickly" (1:14) and that it is "a day of wrath" (1:15). It won't be a pretty day! God, however, graciously communicates His willingness to protect and shelter the remnant on that day by inviting them to "Seek the Lord . . . Seek righteousness, seek humility" (2:3).

According to the Fox 411 report some time ago actor Brad Pitt declares his unbelief in God by stating that he is "20 per cent atheist and 80 percent agnostic". He also states that "you'll find out or not when you get there, until then there's no point in thinking about it." Zephaniah addresses that very attitude. God will sweep house. Ignoring or denying His existence will not make it any less true or terrifying on that day.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Zephaniah 1:1-3:20
  • How does Zephaniah describe "that day"?
  • Which surrounding nations does Zephaniah specifically mention and why will they be "swept"?
2 Chronicles 34:4-7; Jeremiah 1:1-19
  • How does Josiah respond to Zephaniah's prophecy?
  • What enabled or empowered Jeremiah to prophecy boldly?
  • What visuals does the LORD use to reveal His plans to Jeremiah?
  • How does the LORD view Jeremiah's presence and prophecy?
  • What does this tell you about the LORD's preparation of His prophet and the cost involved?
  • How does the LORD describe Jeremiah's ministry?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the LORD to help you to become more sober-minded and intentional in how you live so that "that day" doesn't catch you unprepared.