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Lesson 9: The Day of the Lord (Zephaniah) *

Introduction: Do you feel nervous? Does life make you anxious? Do you try to calm yourself by saying, "I can handle this?" Our lesson this week is about people who got into a whole bunch of trouble. The trouble began because they depended upon their own power and authority. They relied on their gates, walls, wealth, and intellect to keep them safe. They sacrificed others to protect themselves. God has a better way for us. Let's plunge into our study of Zephaniah and find out more!

  1. Sweeping

    1. Read Zephaniah 1:1-3. This does not sound like good news! Now read Genesis 8:21-22. How do you reconcile these apparently conflicting statements?

      1. Notice in Genesis 8:21 God says, "as I have done" and in Genesis 8:22 "as long as the earth endures." Could "as I have done" narrow the promise to mean only that God would not destroy the earth with another flood. It would not be a comment on other means of destruction? (Compare Isaiah 54:9)

        1. Should we understand "as long as the earth endures" as a prediction that God will again destroy the earth in the end?

      2. Notice in that Zephaniah 1:3 it talks about the wicked having "heaps of rubble." Does this mean the wicked will survive? Does it mean the wicked will be left behind?

      3. What event do you think is being described in these verses? (I think it is the Second Coming of Jesus.)

    2. Read Zephaniah 1:4-5. Does this sound like the end of days or a problem in Zephaniah's day? (This sounds current to Zephaniah: Baal in Jerusalem. Recall that in Matthew 24 Jesus simultaneously discussed the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Coming, so discussing the end of days and current catastrophes together is not unique to this passage.)

      1. Is there a Baal warning here for us today? (Yes. I don't know anyone who bows down to an idol. None of my neighbors do that. But, I struggle with depending on the things "I have made" rather than on God. We can trust nothing but God.)

      2. Notice that these people are in accord with (swear by) Molech. Read 2 Kings 23:10. Is that a current problem? (Yes. People abort their children to improve their own life. People no longer seem willing to sacrifice their own lifestyle to send their children to Christian schools. Swearing by Molech is preferring yourself over your children in a way that harms your children.)

    3. Read Zephaniah 1:14-15. I remember when I first started teaching in law school. I was very excited to see my new office. A former judge had previously been in that office, and I was looking forward to meeting him. I thought he would embrace me as his successor, but it turned out that he did not like leaving his office, and he saw me as the reason he had to leave. Have you had a situation in which you and someone else have a completely different view of a situation?

      1. Do you look at the Second Coming as a day of darkness and gloom? (No! Praise God! He is coming to take me (us) home with Him.)

    4. Read Zephaniah 1:16-17. What kind of people are distressed by the Second Coming? (Sinners.)

    5. Read Zephaniah 1:18 and consider it with the last two verses. We are all sinners. What stands out about these sinners? (These are sinners who depend on their wealth, their fortified walls, and their high towers. Those sinners are unforgiven sinners. Forgiven sinners depend upon the Lord.)

  2. Shelter

    1. Read Zephaniah 2:1-3. We just read about blood, guts, fire, battle, and distress. Is that inevitable? (No! Destruction in the end is inevitable, but being a part of it is not.)

      1. What does God call upon us to do? (Seek God.)

      2. What is God looking for in us? (Humility, righteousness, obedience.)

        1. Does this sound like righteousness by works? (Look at the big picture here. Those targeted for destruction depend on what they have made: towers, walls of defense, and money. Those who are saved depend on God. That is why they are humble and obedient.)

    2. Read Romans 3:22-26. Have we all sinned? (Yes.)

      1. How do we acquire righteousness? (Through faith in Jesus. These are the dependant people, not the independent people.)

    3. Read Zephaniah 2:15. Of what does the phrase, "I am, and there is none besides me" remind you?

    4. Read Isaiah 45:5-6 and Isaiah 47:10. Who is speaking in Isaiah 45? (This is the Lord saying "I am" and "there is none besides Me.")

      1. Who is speaking in Isaiah 47? (The wicked who think they are like gods.)

    5. Are you seeing a theme here? The righteous depend upon God. The wicked depend upon themselves. When sin arises in your life, on whom do you depend? When troubles arise in your life, to whom or what do you turn?

  3. The End of Fear

    1. Read Zephaniah 3:11-12. What attitude does God despise? What attitude characterizes His people? (This is the flip side of what we just discussed. God is against the proud and haughty. He will remove them and leave the meek and humble.)

      1. In so many ways I know I am proud. Is it mere pride that is the problem? Look again at Zephaniah 3:12. (The problem seem to be pride that arises from self-dependance. The central question is whether we depend upon God or depend upon self. Those who remain are those who depend upon God.)

    2. Read Zephaniah 3:13. Are you nervous? Are you afraid?

      1. Read Revelation 21:8. What is the first sin that is mentioned? (The "cowardly." It seems very odd that being a coward seems worse than being a murder!)

      2. What does Zephaniah 3:13 suggest is God's goal for us? (There is a very strong link between humbly depending upon God and having no fear. God's goal for our life is to live without fear. Being a coward shows a lack of trust in God.)

    3. Read Zephaniah 3:14-15. Remember that the sins of the people got them in trouble. God sent very wicked people to punish the mildly wicked. Must we continue to suffer for our sins? (No. God wants to take away our punishment. He will take away our fear.)

    4. Read Zephaniah 3:16. How frightened are you if you cannot raise your hands in defense? (You are not only fearful, you have given up.)

    5. Read Zephaniah 3:17. Is God greater than our problems? (He is "mighty" to save!)

      1. When you forgive someone, are you grudging about it? Are you reluctant to forgive?

      2. What is God's attitude about forgiveness? (He delights in our dependance. He wants to put His arms around us and "quiet [our fears] with His love." He breaks out in singing when you rely upon Him because He is celebrating!)

        1. Can you imagine what it is like to have God break into singing because of you?

    6. Read Zephaniah 3:19-20. Recall the problem with pride? What does God say He will give us? (Praise and honor.)

      1. How do you explain this? Doesn't praise and honor create pride? (Our "honor" comes not from what we do, but from what God does. When we get this confused, and start crediting ourselves, we get into trouble.)

    7. Friend, why not make your life easier? If you give up pride and vanity about your own works, and humbly depend upon God, He will take away your fear. He will give you peace. He will start singing about you!

  4. Next week: First Things First! (Haggai).
* Copr. 2013, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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