BACKGROUND: Zephaniah was likely related to the royal line and had considerable social standing in Judah. His book of prophecy deals specifically with the current political issues of the day due to his familiarity with them. This book was written during the reign of King Josiah – which means he was a contemporary of Jeremiah, Nahum, and possibly Habakkuk. His book was very likely written before Josiah’s reforms when the nation was still in the horrible spiritual condition that the reigns of Manasseh and Amon brought. The big idea of the book is to announce God’s impending judgment for Judah’s sinful rejection of him and to highlight the coming day of the Lord when God will judge all the nations – including rebellious Judah. There is powerful and graphic imagery throughout and it ends with the hopeful note of God showing mercy and restoring Judah.
THINK: This is Charles Spurgeon’s devotional commentary on some of the final verses of the book. Soak it in as you read:
3:12 “I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord.”
When true religion is ready to die out among the wealthy it finds a home among the poor of this world, rich in faith. The Lord has even now His faithful remnant. Am I one of them?
Perhaps it is because men are afflicted and poor that they learn to trust in the name of the Lord. He that hath no money must try what he can do on trust. He whose own name is good for nothing in his own esteem, acts wisely to rest in another name, even that best of names, the name of Jehovah. God will always have a trusting people, and these will be an afflicted and poor people. Little as the world thinks of them, their being left in the midst of a nation is the channel of untold blessings to it. Here we have the conserving salt which keeps in check the corruption which is in the world through lust.
Again the question comes home to each one of us: am I one of them? Am I afflicted by the sin within me and around me? Am I poor in spirit, poor spiritually in my own judgment? Do I trust in the Lord? That is the main business. Jesus reveals the name, the character, the person of God: am I trusting in Him? If so, I am left in this world for a purpose. Lord, help me to fulfill it.
3:13 “They shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.”
[Already we’ve thought] of the afflicted and poor people whom the Lord left to be a living seed in a dead world. The prophet says of such that they shall not work iniquity nor speak lies. So that while they had neither rank nor riches to guard them, they were also quite unable to use those weapons in which the wicked place so much reliance: they could neither defend themselves by sin nor by subtlety.
What then? Would they be destroyed? By no means! They should both feed and rest, and be not merely free from danger, but even quiet from fear of evil. Sheep are very feeble creatures, and wolves are terrible enemies; yet at this hour, sheep are more numerous than wolves, and the cause of the sheep is always winning, while the cause of the wolves is always declining. One day flocks of sheep will cover the plains, and not a wolf will be left. The fact is that sheep have a shepherd, and this gives them provender, protection, and peace. “None,” which means not one, whether in human or diabolical form, “shall make them afraid.” Who shall terrify the Lord’s flock when He is near? We lie down in green pastures, for Jesus Himself is food and rest to our souls.
3:17 “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.”
What a word is this! Jehovah God in the center of His people in all the majesty of His power! This presence alone suffices to inspire us with peace and hope. Treasures of boundless might are stored in our Jehovah, and He dwells in His church; therefore may His people shout for joy.
We not only have His presence, but He is engaged upon His choice work of salvation. “He will save.” He is always saving: He takes His name of Jesus from it. Let us not fear any danger for He is mighty to save.
Nor is this all. He abides evermore the same; He loves, He finds rest in loving, and He will not cease to love. His love gives Him joy. He even finds a theme for song in His beloved. This is exceedingly wonderful. When God wrought creation He did not sing, but simply said, “It is very good.” But when He came to redemption, then the sacred Trinity felt a joy to be expressed in song. Think of it and be astonished! Jehovah Jesus sings a marriage song over His chosen bride. She is to Him His love, His joy, His rest, His song. O Lord Jesus, by thine immeasurable love to us, teach us to love thee, to rejoice in thee, and to sing unto thee our Life-psalm.
3:19 “I will save her that halteth.”
There are plenty of these lame ones, both male and female. You may meet “her that halteth” twenty times in an hour. They are in the right road, and exceedingly anxious to run in it with diligence; but they are lame, and make a sorry walk of it. On the heavenly road there are many cripples. It may be that they say in their hearts, what will become of us? Sin will overtake us. Satan will throw us down. Ready-to-halt is our name and our nature; the Lord can never make good soldiers of us, nor even nimble messengers to go on His errands. Well, well! He will save us, and that is no small thing. He says, “I will save her that halteth.” In saving us, He will greatly glorify Himself. Everybody will ask how came this lame woman to run the race and win the crown? And then the praise will all be given to almighty grace.
Lord, though I halt in faith, in prayer, in praise, in service, and in patience, save me, I beseech thee! Only thou canst save such a cripple as I am. Lord, let me not perish because I am among the hindmost, but gather up by thy grace the slowest of thy pilgrims, even me. Behold He hath said that it shall be so. Therefore, like Jacob, prevailing in prayer, I go forward though my sinew be shrunk.
PRAY: Thank God for his grace. Confess your own Judah-like rebellion and spend some time considering the fate that you deserve for it. And then come humbly before God, admit that only he can save you and fall upon his grace.