My Come, Follow Me studies for this week took me to the books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. The lesson was titled “His Ways Are Everlasting” and was introduced with the following information:
Reading the Old Testament often means reading prophecies about destruction. The Lord frequently called prophets to warn the wicked that His judgments were upon them. The ministries of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah are good examples. In dreadful detail, these prophets foretold the downfall of cities that, at the time, seemed strong and powerful—Nineveh, Babylon, and even Jerusalem. But that was thousands of years ago. Why is it valuable to read these prophecies today?
Even though those prideful, wicked cities were destroyed, pride and wickedness persist. In today’s world, we can sometimes feel surrounded by the evils that were condemned by the ancient prophets. We may even detect traces of them in our own hearts. These Old Testament prophecies reveal how the Lord feels about pride and wickedness, and they teach that we can turn away from these evils. Perhaps that’s one reason we still read these ancient prophecies today. Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and the others weren’t just prophets of doom—they were prophets of deliverance. The descriptions of destruction are tempered by invitations to come unto Christ and receive His mercy: “Seek ye the Lord …; seek righteousness, seek meekness” (Zephaniah 2:3). This was the Lord’s way anciently, and it is His way today. “His ways are everlasting” (Habakkuk 3:6).
The three books are short ones, but they contained some important principles. The principle that I wish to discuss is found in Zephaniah 2:3: “Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth.” According to the Old Testament Student Manual –Kings through Malachi, “Zephaniah was probably a contemporary of Jeremih, Lehi, Nahum, and possibly Habakkuk.” He was most like prophesying as the enemy was approaching Jerusalem to destroy it.
Zephaniah prophesied that the people of Judah would be completely destroyed by the Babylonians because of their wickedness. “I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the Lord” (Zephaniah 1:2). And yet Zephaniah also said that a “remnant” would be preserved (Zephaniah 3:13).
You may wonder why the Lord would destroy some people while preserving other people. Zephaniah gives us the answer. The Lord said that He would destroy Judah because they had turned their backs on Him and started to worship false gods (Zephaniah 1:4-6). The Lord said that He would destroy the people of Moab because “they have reproached my people” and “magnified themselves against the people of the Lord of hosts (Zephaniah 2:8, 10). The Lord said that He would bring destruction upon an unnamed city (Nineveh was the last city named in the previous chapter) because her people were filthy, polluted, and disobedient, and her priests and prophets violated the law and polluted the sanctuary (Zephaniah 3:1-4). For the above-named reasons, the Lord allowed the Babylonians to come through the area and destroy it.
You may also wonder about the characteristics of the people that God would preserve. The Lord through His prophet Zephaniah tells us about them also. “Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness; it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger” (Zephaniah 2:1-3). The word of the Lord through Zephaniah told us: “The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth; for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid” (Zephaniah 3:13). Zephaniah’s final words to the people are as follow:
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.
18 I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, who are of thee, to whom the reproach of it was a burden.
19 Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee: and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out; and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame.
20 At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you: for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord (Zephaniah 3:17-20).
The Lord showers blessings down upon the people who will obey His commandments and keep His covenants, but He extends no such promises to the wicked and unrighteous people. However, He promised rebellious Judah that He would gather a remnant of them at a later day. That later day is now, and the people of Judah are gathering and prospering. At the time that the Savior returns to earth, the Jewish people will recognize Him as their Messiah and will be converted to His gospel.
What is the message that you and I should take from the writings of Zephaniah – and all true prophets? The Lord will bless us and prosper us as long as we are willing and obedient as we strive to follow Him. In the last days, He will gather all of His true followers to safety, while the wicked will be destroyed by His coming.