Today: [Zephaniah 2] Gather together and Seek the Lord: In chapter 2 of Zephaniah the prophet sees the nation of Judah and all the neighboring peoples coming under the gathering storm of God’s anger. He calls upon the people to do two things that if they complied would cause them to be sheltered and protected when all the world around them was plunged into chaos and destruction.
[Zep 2:1-15 KJV] 1 Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired; 2 Before the decree bring forth, [before] the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORD’S anger come upon you. 3 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. 4 For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation: they shall drive out Ashdod at the noon day, and Ekron shall be rooted up. 5 Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites! the word of the LORD [is] against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant. 6 And the sea coast shall be dwellings [and] cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks. 7 And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; they shall feed thereupon: in the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening: for the LORD their God shall visit them, and turn away their captivity. 8 I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon, whereby they have reproached my people, and magnified [themselves] against their border. 9 Therefore [as] I live, saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, [even] the breeding of nettles, and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of my people shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people shall possess them. 10 This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified [themselves] against the people of the LORD of hosts. 11 The LORD [will be] terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and [men] shall worship him, every one from his place, [even] all the isles of the heathen. 12 Ye Ethiopians also, ye [shall be] slain by my sword. 13 And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and will make Nineveh a desolation, [and] dry like a wilderness. 14 And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations: both the cormorant and the bittern shall lodge in the upper lintels of it; [their] voice shall sing in the windows; desolation [shall be] in the thresholds: for he shall uncover the cedar work. 15 This [is] the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I [am], and [there is] none beside me: how is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in! every one that passeth by her shall hiss, [and] wag his hand.
Chapter 2 of Zephaniah begins as a gathering storm against Judah and against the nations on her borders. The call of the prophet is that the people come together before the season of God’s fierce anger comes upon the nation and to “seek the Lord” in hopes that they will be sheltered in and hidden from the judgments to come as the “meek of the earth”. The exhortation therefore is to give themselves over to contrition and self-examination in the good years before difficulty evidences itself. Zephaniah prophesied during the prosperous reign of a godly king, Josiah – yet his message is one of reproof and repentance in light of coming judgments. True to the predictions, after Josiah passes from the scene there will come three generations of disruption, polluted altars and corrupt kings, ending with the entire southern nation marched into captivity for 70 years.
Self-examination and repentance are commonly resorted to after troubles come, but seldom practiced even when called for in the prosperous times. Zephaniah’s message is two-fold:
- Gather together.
- Seek the Lord
This is the picture of revival among God’s people. To come together, setting aside personal agendas and placing God at the center of our attention, disrupting our schedules and making the main the main thing in terms of seeking God’s face and examining ourselves to see if we are in the faith. These are qualities and activities that are sadly fading from the collective memories of the people of God. Individualism and personal pursuits have eclipsed what it means to be a part of the corporate body of Christ even in places where they gather together. In the 60’s and 70’s during the beginnings of the Charismatic movement, there was a great emphasis on unity of Spirit and unity of the faith. There are graces in God that are not experienced outside of a sense of connection and commitment to something larger than yourself. David declared this in the Psalms:
[Psa 133:1-3 KJV] 1 [[A Song of degrees of David.]] Behold, how good and how pleasant [it is] for brethren to dwell together in unity! 2 [It is] like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, [even] Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; 3 As the dew of Hermon, [and as the dew] that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, [even] life for evermore.
When Jacob met Rachel, he questioned why the flocks were not being watered, because it was late in the day. The answer speaks to us of the need for unity among God’s people and God’s leadership:
[Gen 29:7-8 KJV] 7 And he said, Lo, [it is] yet high day, neither [is it] time that the cattle should be gathered together: water ye the sheep, and go [and] feed [them]. 8 And they said, We cannot, until all the flocks be gathered together, and [till] they roll the stone from the well’s mouth; then we water the sheep.
There is a grace and a gift from God that is not accessed by the people of God until all the flocks and the shepherds come together. In Jacob’s day, one shepherd could not roll away the stone. It took all the shepherds working and cooperating together in heart and in spirit to bring forth that which will refresh the people of God. This has been so lacking among God’s people that the parameters of understanding for the anointing and the message of the gospel have been changed to fit a paradigm that no longer requires men and woman of God to abandon the lone wolf, one man mentality and to set the example for the flock of being committed to something beyond themselves. In Zephaniah’s day, this is the first thing the prophet mentions that will cause the people to be unprotected in the day of God’s fierce anger. Whether our leaders take the initiative or not, we must begin to come together with those of like faith and have more than a passing relationship with the body of Christ. To do otherwise is to set ourselves up for destruction.
The second thing we are called to do, lest we suffer with the company of goat nations mentioned in ch. 2 is not just to come together, but to come together to seek the Lord. There are many ways you can draw a crowd. You can have a concert, or host a meal. You can have a political rally in the church house, but what happens if you announce on an off night we are going to come together and seek the Lord? How many would be missing? If you announced there was going to be a meeting to expose a sex scandal in the church, the police would be in the street directing traffic. If you announce you are coming together to seek God’s face in a time of prayer, the outcome would no doubt be much different.
We must come together, and we must come together to seek His face. In the Welsh revivals the churches and their leaders were going on their way with business as usual, but it was men and women in their homes, gathering their families together after 18 hour days in the mines, to seek God’s face that ignited one of the most radical, nation transforming revivals that we have seen in the last 100 years. Let us not delay, let us put it on the calendar and even if it is in your house, let us call and invite those who would come, to seek the Lord and as Zephaniah exhorts, seek the Lord, seek righteousness, seek meekness, that it may be we shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger.
The remainder of the chapter speaks of God’s chastisement on Assyria, Gaza, Canaan, the Philistines and the Ethiopians, but the first focus is upon the people of God. Peter cited the principle as follows:
[1Pe 4:17 KJV] 17 For the time [is come] that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if [it] first [begin] at us, what shall the end [be] of them that obey not the gospel of God?
The judgements that Peter spoke of resulted in the beginning of three centuries of brutal persecution of the faith. The early church was commanded by Jesus to go into all the world, but the apostles were inexplicably reticent, choosing rather to consolidate the governing of the early church with its center as Jerusalem. What God would have done by precept He then brought about by compunction, when Herod reached out and had James the brother of Jesus and the head of the church of Jerusalem put to the sword. A young ruler named Saul (soon to be Paul) consented at that time to the stoning of Stephen – and many other persecutions of the early church. Then the believers scattered throughout the known world preaching the gospels (except however the apostles).
[Act 8:1 KJV] 1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.
The point is that the people obeyed what God was saying, even though their leaders held back, and were possessed of other considerations other than what Jesus specifically and emphatically told them to do. The question for you is are you going to let your pastors and leaders set the tone for what you walk with God looks like, or are you going to listen to the voice of God and step out in obedience regardless of what those in authority are doing or thinking? The early church, had they followed the example of the apostles at this time would have been slaughter wholesale, but because they followed the Spirit of God, the known world was evangelized until the day came that the might of Rome itself bowed its knee at the cross.
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