Living in Light of the Coming Day of the Lord
Our passion at Faith Bible Church is to be a loving community making disciples of Jesus Christ. This means that all of us who are part of the Faith Bible Church family are seeking to live as disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus. We do this primarily through hearing God’s Word together and responding to God’s Word in faith and repentance. Therefore, it is really important to learn how to read the Bible well!
We are going to work on our Bible reading skills together as we study Zephaniah. David Helm in One to One Bible Reading describes four phases of Bible study that can be summarized with the acronym COMA. COMA stands for:
The main task in good Bible reading is observation. We are always looking to see what God is saying.
● In the CONTEXT PHASE you are observing to learn about the genre of literature and how communication happens in that kind of literature (poetry versus history versus letters versus wisdom literature, etc…). You are also observing the context in the story of the Bible. Finally, you are observing the immediate context of the passage in its book that it is in and the overall context of the book.
● In the OBSERVATION PHASE you are observing carefully what the author is saying. It is important to write these observations down and to make sure that they carefully reflect what the passage is saying.
● In the MEANING OR INTERPRETATION PHASE you are asking questions about what the passage means. These questions lead you to make more observations in the passage and in other related passages. The observation and interpretation or meaning phases are both happening at the same time and it is important to both observe and ask questions at the same time.
● In the APPLICATION PHASE, you are asking what the Biblical author’s intent was for the original audience and then how it applies to us now. All of this is based on careful observation.
● Lesson 1 - Zephaniah, Deuteronomy 27-30, 2 Chronicles 33-34
● Lesson 2 - Zephaniah 1
● Lesson 3 - Zephaniah 2:1-3:7
● Lesson 4 - Zephaniah 3:8-20
May the Lord help us to live in light of His coming day when He will destroy His enemies and deliver His people!
Nathan (for the editing team: Marty Tornquist, Jenni Rainbow, Tom Dudenhofer, Brian Sayers)
Living in Light of the Day of the Lord
Learning Goal: Understand the context of Zephaniah by reading Deuteronomy 27-30 and 2 Chronicles 33-34.
Application Goal: To respond to God’s character and His actions.
What do you usually think of when you think of curses and blessings?
Read Zephaniah 1:1.
1. What do you observe about who Zephaniah is?
What do you see about the context of when he was prophesying? Who was the king of Judah?
To understand the prophecy and historical books of the Old Testament, you must understand the Pentateuch or the Five Books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy). The historical books are God’s people living out what was promised in Deuteronomy. The prophetic books are God reminding them what He had said in Deuteronomy and explaining how the blessings and curses and restoration promised in Deuteronomy will be worked out. You could say that the key to understanding the context of the entire Old Testament is the Pentateuch (or the Book of the Law) and in particular, the book of Deuteronomy!
One important feature of the book of Deuteronomy are all of the curses listed if the people of God do not obey His words. These curses sometimes are a means of God disciplining His people, thus expressing His love and drawing His people to repent and to turn to Him again for their own good and salvation. These curses can also sometimes be an expression of His wrath, which is not just a bad mood that God is in. It is God’s settled disposition towards all that is in opposition to His perfect rule and will. God is perfectly holy and just in every expression of discipline of His people and destruction (wrath) towards His enemies.
Read Deuteronomy 27-30
2. Deuteronomy 27:15-26
What do you learn about the curses that God promises on Israel if they disobey?
3. Deuteronomy 28:1-14
How would you summarize the blessings that God promises on Israel if they keep the covenant?
4. Deuteronomy 28:15-68
God already promised certain curses if they rejected God and choose to disobey Him in chapter 27. Here God is describing in more detail what those curses will be. What are some of the consequences of disobedience that stand out to you from this chapter?
5. Deuteronomy 29
How would you summarize the message of chapter 29?
6. Deuteronomy 30:1-14
Here the Lord is promising restoration after He has poured out the curse on them for disobeying. Which aspects of the restoration promises stand out to you?
7. Deuteronomy 30:15-20
The message of future prophets repeats the message here. The message of Zephaniah is another version of this section. How would you summarize the message of 30:15-20?
After the reigns of David and Solomon, God’s chosen people were divided into two kingdoms: the Northern Kingdom, still called Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, called Judah. Israel, the Northern Kingdom, had already been taken into exile in 722 B.C. Now only the Southern Kingdom, Judah, was left. After a good reign by Zephaniah’s great grandfather King Hezekiah, Manasseh and Amon mostly led the nation in idolatry. Josiah reigned from 640 B.C. until 609 B.C. During this time right before the great day of judgment on Judah, Zephaniah writes about the Day of the Lord, the coming wrath and salvation of the Lord. The message of Zephaniah had an impact on Josiah, perhaps early on when he was 16, and he began his reforms. Later on, it seems, when he was 26, Josiah was greatly impacted by the reading of the Book of the Law (the Pentateuch, Genesis through Deuteronomy, and in particular Deuteronomy).
Read 2 Chronicles 33-34
8. Write down what you learn about the context in which Zephaniah was written. Specifically, write a little about each of the following:
a. Manasseh’s idolatry
b. The Lord rebukes Manasseh and he is humbled
c. Amon’s idolatry and demise
d. Josiah’s early reforms (when he was 16)
e. Josiah repairs the temple and finds the book of the law (when he was 26)
9. What do you learn about God from what we have seen in Deuteronomy 27-30 and 2 Chronicles 33-34?
10. How does the revelation of God’s character displayed here make the grace He offers in Christ in the New Testament truly amazing?
11. Thinking about how God’s people in 2 Chronicles were prone to idolatry and pride, how do you see idolatry and pride showing up in your life?
12. Thinking about how God used His Word to cause Josiah to lead Judah in repentance and worship of the one true God, how do you see God using His Word, even Deuteronomy 27-30, to help you to pursue repentance and worship?
13. What is one way of worshipping and obeying God you are pursuing today?
14. Spend time praising God for what you see about His character in these passages we have read.
Living in Light of the Day of the Lord
Learning Goal: Become familiar with the message of Zephaniah 1 and with the coming day of the Lord.
Application Goal: Realize that apart from Christ we will all be destroyed on the day of the Lord.
Spend time (at least 5 minutes) looking out your window at your yard or sitting in your yard and write down as many observations as you can of what you see in your yard or in your area where you live. (This exercise is to help you think about the task of observation in Bible study.)
Read the whole book of Zephaniah. You might consider taking a piece of paper and writing down your observations and questions as you read through the book.
1. How would you describe the purpose and message of the book? If you notice multiple themes or purposes, what do you think they are?
If Zephaniah were a movie, what kind of plot would it have? What kind of movie would it be?
What questions do you have so far about the book?
In the Bible, understanding the literary genre (the type of writing) that you are reading helps you to enjoy and rightly understand what God is saying. We see examples of “literary genres” all around us. When you pick up the newspaper to read an article about some politicians, you are expecting one type of writing. When you read the funny page or the comics, you are expecting a different type of writing. The instruction manual for your new appliance is a different type of writing than the biography about a missionary. In the Bible, it is also important to understand what type of writing you are reading.
Prophetic Literature and Poetry
Prophetic literature usually has oracles (speeches given by God through a prophet) of judgment and oracles of salvation. It is based on God’s character and what He has promised, especially in Genesis through Deuteronomy. One common feature of prophetic literature is that some of the prophecy might be fulfilled in the “near” future (like the exile of Judah in 586 B.C. and their occupation even sooner) and some of the prophecy might be fulfilled in the “far” future at the final judgment (Revelation 19-20). This final judgment is called “the day of the Lord.” Also, prophecies are often given in the form of poetry.
Hebrew poetry (the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew) uses rhyming ideas instead of rhyming sounds. So, the poem will have two lines that “rhyme” by saying the same thing two different ways or by contrasting two things or sometimes saying something further about what was already said in the first line.
For example, in Zephaniah 1:4 God says, “So I will stretch out My hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” The first line is about Judah and the second line is about the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This is the same group of people. He is not describing two different groups, but rather he is describing Judah, the southern kingdom, whose capital is Jerusalem, two different ways. He is rhyming ideas. He does the same thing in the next set of lines in 1:4. The “remnant of Baal” and the “idolatrous priests” are describing one group of people two different ways.
Read Zephaniah 1
Make as many observations and write as many questions as you can from this chapter. You could organize the observations and questions in four sections:
2. Zephaniah 1:2-3
What is being described here in 1:2-3?
3. Zephaniah 1:4-13
God’s judgment against Judah on the day of the Lord is being described here.
What do you observe about what God will do to Judah?
What do you observe about why God will judge Judah? What are some of her sins?
4. What questions do you have from this section (1:4-14)? Some of the answers may be found in the context or the rest of the book. Some of the questions may not have a direct answer in the book of Zephaniah and you may have to look outside in other sections of Scripture, like 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles where the story of Judah is told. Other questions may not have an answer. The important thing is to write down your questions and let them help you as you make more observations. Even if you don’t find answers to your questions, thinking about them will help you to observe more carefully what the text does say!
5. Zephaniah 1:14-18 According to this passage, what does the day of the Lord mean for the whole earth?
6. How would you summarize each of the sections of chapter 1? Give them each your own heading:
7. What do you learn about God from Zephaniah chapter 1? (Consider Hebrews 12:29 as a good cross reference.)
8. Compare Zephaniah 1:18 with 2 Peter 3:8-13. What do you learn about the day of the Lord from these two passages?
9. Based on Zephaniah 1, what should come to our minds when we think of the day of the Lord?
10. In what ways should our lives be impacted by the coming day of the Lord?
What kinds of repentance do you need to pursue when you consider the message in Zephaniah 1? Look at 2 Peter 3:11-14 also for some ideas.
11. Think back to the previous growth guide, Learning Compassion, and explain how knowledge about the day of the Lord will motivate you to speak the gospel to those you are praying for who do not know Christ.
12. Use Zephaniah 1 to shape your prayers as follows:
● Offer praise to God for the way He is revealed in Zephaniah.
● Pray that we will be a holy people in the light of the coming day of the Lord.
● Continue to pray for the people you are sharing the Gospel with.
Living in Light of the Day of the Lord
Learning Goal: Understand the coming Day of the Lord and how He will pour out His wrath on His enemies.
Application Goal: Be humble before the Lord, seek the Lord, and take refuge in Him that you might be hidden from His wrath on the day of the Lord.
If you could say the word and cause one thing to stop that is currently happening regularly, what would that one thing be?
In the coming day of the Lord, all those things that are outside of God’s perfect rule and desire for His people will be stopped forever!
Read Zephaniah 2:1-3:7.
In your notebook or on a piece of paper make a list of all the observations that you see in this section. Write down your questions as well. Try to write a summary of what you think each section is about. You could divide up your observations and questions in the following sections:
On the west side of Judah lived their perennial enemies, the Philistines. They lived in the cities of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Ekron along the seacoast (2:4-7). On the east side of Judah lived the Ammonites and the Moabites (2:8-9). To the south were many other peoples, including the Ethiopians (2:12). To the north were the Assyrians, whose capital city was Nineveh (2:13-15). So, we see in chapter 2 of Zephaniah that God will humble and bring desolation to His people’s enemies on all four sides (the west, east, south and north).
1. Zephaniah 2:1-3 In light of God’s wrath that will be poured out in the Day of the Lord (as was described in Zephaniah 1:2-18), God calls them to respond appropriately to Him. What are the things that the Lord calls them to do in light of the coming day of the Lord?
2. To understand the application to our own lives, it is important to understand the application of the passage to the lives of the original audience. Thinking about what you read in 2 Chronicles 33 about Judah during the time of Manasseh, and what you read in Zephaniah 1:4-6 about Judah, what would it mean for them to heed what the Lord says in Zephaniah 2:3? What would it look like for them to:
a. Seek the Lord
b. Being humble, carrying out His ordinances
c. Seek righteousness
d. Seek humility
e. Hope to be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger
3. Having thought about how the people of Judah and King Josiah might apply the exhortations of Zephaniah 2:3, how might we now apply these exhortations in light of Christ’s first and second coming? Think of some specific things that we do now that relate to these exhortations:
a. Seek the Lord
b. Being humble and carrying out His ordinances
c. Seek righteousness
d. Seek humility
e. Hope to be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger
4. Zephaniah 2:4-11 The destruction of some of Judah’s enemies on the day of the Lord is given as a motivation for them to seek the Lord. What does God promise to do in this section to the Philistines to the west and the Ammonites and Moabites to the east?
5. What promises does God give to the remnant of the house of Judah in 2:7 and 2:9b?
6. How does Zephaniah describe what God will do on a global scale in the day of the Lord in 2:11?
7. Zephaniah 2:12-15 How would you summarize what God will do to Ethiopia and Assyria, including the great city of Nineveh?
8. Zephaniah 3:1-7 Who is the “woe” or the judgment directed at in this section? What are the sins that are listed?
9. When you see God’s pronouncement of judgment against the enemies of His people and then immediately following you see His pronouncement of judgment against His people for their sins, what effect should that have on His people?
The Final Day of the Lord vs. the many smaller scale expressions of His wrath
Zephaniah 1:2-4 and 1:14-18 describe the final day of the Lord when He will on a global scale pour out His wrath and destroy all of His enemies. This is what we see happening in Revelation chapters 19 and 20. However, this same wrath of God that will be poured out in the end is poured out in “miniature” on nations prior to the final day of the Lord. We see this in Genesis 19 with Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction. We see this being promised in Zephaniah 2:4-3:7 with the destruction of Judah’s neighbors on all sides and the judgment of Judah. These preliminary expressions of God’s wrath serve as a great sign of His coming wrath in the end and should cause us to take His promise of a final day of wrath seriously. They are a gift to all those who would take refuge in Him to help them to humbly seek the Lord and trust in Him.
10. How does the reality that God will destroy all of His enemies on the day of the Lord give you confidence and comfort? In what ways does this reality make you unsettled or sad?
11. What changes need to happen in your life if you are going to live in light of the coming day of the Lord in such a way that you are “hastening” the day of the Lord (looking forward to it and wanting it to come sooner)? See 2 Peter 3:8-13 again for some ideas.
12. Use Zephaniah 2 to shape your prayers as follows:
● Praise God for His just wrath and salvation that will be seen on the day of the Lord.
● Pray for His people to be living in light of that coming day.
● Pray for those in your life who do not yet know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, that God would humble them before the day of the Lord so that they might take refuge in Christ.
Living in Light of the Day of the Lord
Learning Goal: Understand the promise and hope of the salvation and restoration of God’s people.
Application Goal: Rejoice in the salvation of our God and live in light of that salvation.
What is your favorite song that rejoices in the salvation that we have in Christ?
Read Zephaniah 3:8-20. Write down your observations and questions as you read through this section. Here are some ideas for sections for your observations and questions:
Summary of Context of 1:1-3:7
1. Zephaniah 3:8 Thinking about the context of 2:4-3:7 where the destruction of Judah’s enemies and the destruction of Jerusalem are described, how would you summarize what God is saying in 3:8?
2. Zephaniah 3:9 This is a key verse in this section describing the way that God will bring salvation to the remnant from the nations, including Judah. See the context of 3:8: “Therefore wait for Me...” and then He describes how He will pour out His wrath on the nations. 3:9 begins with a connecting word that could be translated “surely then”. The reader of Zephaniah is to wait for the Lord who will pour out His wrath and surely then He will give pure lips to His people.
What do purified lips represent or mean? (See also Isaiah 6:5-7 and Zephaniah 3:13)
When did God pour out His wrath so that He could surely give pure hearts and pure lips to His people? See Hebrews 9:11-14 for help.
3. Zephaniah 3:9-11 What are the results of the purified lips that God gives the peoples in 3:9 according to the second and third lines in 3:9 and 3:10-11?
4. Zephaniah 3:12-13 How is the remnant of Israel, all those who will be given pure lips and saved, described here?
5. Zephaniah 3:14-20 What are the various reasons given to God’s people for rejoicing in this section? Make a list of the things you see that God will do that give them cause to rejoice and add your questions about the things you don’t understand.
God’s Heart to Bless People
God’s desire was and is that sinners would repent and get in the place of blessing. He wants to bless; He wants to extend grace. His wrath is the response of His holiness to sin; but included in it is His grace driving people to repent so He can come near to them and bless them. “Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you and therefore he waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; how blessed are all those who long for Him.” (Isaiah 30:18) Also “Say to them, ‘As I live,’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:11)
6. Thinking about what you read in 3:15-17 & 3:20 especially, identify the ways in which Jesus Christ has fulfilled some of these things already.
Which prophecies do you see in this section that Jesus will fulfill when He comes the second time on the great and final day of the Lord?
7. What have you learned about the attributes of God through studying the book of Zephaniah? Think about how He is described in 1:2 thru 3:8 and then how He is described in 3:9-20. In what ways does this expand or challenge your thinking about God?
How do you see the wrath of God as described in 1:2 through 3:8 and the salvation of God in
3:9-20 coming together in Jesus Christ on the cross?
7. According to Isaiah 6:5-7 and Isaiah 53:4-6, what has God done to give you pure lips (and a pure heart)?
8. What does it look like in your daily life to rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4, Zephaniah 3:14)? What are some ways that you pursue rejoicing in the salvation of the Lord?
9. What is one way you can live differently in light of the coming day of the Lord?
10. The day of the Lord is coming. His wrath and anger will be poured out on His enemies. His love and salvation will be poured out on His people. Which are you? If you are His enemy still, will you look to Christ and trust in Him, humbling yourself before Him and calling out to Him to give you a pure heart and pure lips because of His death and resurrection?
If you are His child because you have trusted in Christ, will you take some time now to praise Him? Pray that He will empower you to live your life in light of the coming day of the Lord, with great humility and worship and awe and hope.
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A loving community making disciples of Jesus Christ.
Nathan Thiry is the Growth Groups & Outreach Pastor at Faith Bible Church. He enjoys biking and outdoor activities, and has a passion to see the gospel spread throughout our community and the whole world!