Zephaniah 2:15



In describing the sinfulness of Israel, the Bible says in Zephaniah 2:15, “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.” Notice that Jerusalem is called “the rejoicing city.” But that phrase is used in a derogatory manner. What could be wrong with rejoicing? That depends upon what they were rejoicing about. If they were rejoicing in the Lord Jesus and what He had done for them, that would be great. But they were not. What were they rejoicing in that was so bad? The next phrase tells us. It says that Jerusalem “said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me.” That is the height of arrogance. That is forgetting God, and forgetting what God had done for them. They looked at their successes and their benefits, and they took the credit to themselves for what happened. There is nothing worse than an ungrateful person.


There is nothing worse than receiving gifts and then failing to understand and recognize the kindness and the generosity of the one who gave the gifts. Jerusalem said, “I am.” That statement was not only totally self-centered and humanistic, but it was also blasphemous. When God revealed Himself to Moses, God said in Exodus 3:14, “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” Jesus was equating Himself to Jehovah when He called himself “I AM.” Jesus said in John 8:58-59, “Jesus said unto them, Verily,verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.[59] Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.”


The Bible says in Zephaniah 3:1-4, “Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city![2] She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the LORD; she drew not near to her God.[3] Her princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; they gnaw not the bones till the morrow.[4] Her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law.” Why was Israel filthy and polluted as it states in Zephaniah 3:1? The first reason is given at the last part of verse 1: Jerusalem was called “the oppressing city.” That means that she harmed people in some way. They took advantage of people, they oppressed people, and they were violent with people. The Israelites failed at the greatest commandment which is to love God with all the heart, and the people of Israel also failed at the second commandment, which is to love thy neighbor as thyself.


Concerning the failure of the Israelites to obey the greatest commandment, Zephaniah 3:2 has four things to say:


1.      “She obeyed not the voice.”

2.     “she received not correction.”

3.    “she trusted not in the LORD.”

4.     “she drew not near to her God.”


The Israelites “obeyed not the voice.” What voice is God talking about? God is talking about His own voice. His truth is marching on. God has spoken. Just because people are not listening, does not mean that God has stopped speaking. God speaks by His Word. God speaks by His Holy Spirit. God speaks through His creation. And God speaks by His believers who are walking in fellowship with Jesus. In order to hear what God is saying by one of these means, it helps if a person wants to hear from God. It says in First Kings 19:11-12, “And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:[12] And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”


The Israelites “received not correction.” Everyone needs correction. No one is standing still. You are either getting better or you are getting worse. The path to an ever-improving life is to come to Jesus as your Savior, and then grow in the Lord through feeding upon His Word. But you must be willing to take correction. It says in Second Timothy 3:15-16, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:[17] That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”


 The Israelites “trusted not in the LORD.” Everyone trusts in someone or something. Jesus wants us to trust in Him. It certainly is a safe haven to trust in Christ. The first time that anyone truly trusts in Christ is the day they receive Jesus into their heart as Savior. To trust in Christ means that you are relying on Him to save your soul and to forgive your sins. You came to realize that Jesus was your only option for that most important need: to obtain eternal life. After you are saved and become a true believer, part of growing in Christ will be learning to trust Him for everything in your life. Part of growing in Christ will be learning to trust Him every day and every moment of every day. It is interesting that sinfulness is equated to not trusting in the Lord. That is because human self-centeredness is at the core of sin. Trusting in Jesus will cause you to turn away from your own self and be focused on Him instead.


Zephaniah 3:2 says that Israel, “drew not near to her God.” Being close to God is an important spiritual concept. It speaks of having a close and meaningful relationship with God. A human being can either be far away from God or close to God. The way to become close to God is through Jesus. It says in Hebrews 10:19-22, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,[20] By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;[21] And having an high priest over the house of God;[22] Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” Both the passage in Zephaniah and in Hebrews make is clear that if you are not close to God, you are the problem. The Lord is always there wanting each of us to be close to Him. In other words, if you want to be close to God, you will be. God gives each person a free choice. If you do not want to be close to God, then you will not be.


The Bible says in Zephaniah 3:3-4 condemns three groups of people in the nation of Israel: the governmental leaders, the judges, and the religious leaders. The governmental leaders are called the “princes” and they are called “roaring lions.” The “judges” are called “evening wolves.” Of course, both of these terms refer to predators who devour their prey. The prey are the people of the land, and the leaders and judges use their positions of power to prey upon the people. Do we see any parallels to the day in which we live?


It says about the religious leaders in Zephaniah 3:4, “Her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law.” To say that the prophets were “light” means that they had no substance to them, and no values. They should have had the highest of values. One of the great challenges of the Christian life is that we are given a very high standard to follow: we are given the standard that Christ left to us. Every true believer is a follower of Christ. Christian leaders should be people who have matured in Christ far beyond the average believer. That is why the New Testament gives such a high requirement for pastors as stated in First Timothy 3:1-7, “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.[2] A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;[3] Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;[4] One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;[5] (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)[6] Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.[7] Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” This is not a description of a “light” person. A “light” person is not in the least bit qualified to be a leader no matter how many degrees they have from a seminary. The prophets were not only light, but they were also “treacherous.” This means that they were dangerous because such religious leaders are quite capable of causing harm to anyone who crosses their path. Instead of being a shepherd who cares for the sheep, these prophets will rend the sheep. Truly, you have a wicked society if and when preachers fall into this category.          


It says two things about the wicked priests in the time of Zephaniah: 1. They “polluted the sanctuary.” 2. They did “violence to the law.” The priests polluted the sanctuary because they performed sacrilegious acts within the temple. In the day in which we live, there is no building called a temple that we go to; but our bodies are called in the New Testament the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” It says in First Corinthians 6:15-20, “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.[16] What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.[17] But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.[18] Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that commiteth fornication sinneth against his own body.[19] What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?[20] For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.” If it was evil for the priests to pollute the sanctuary, how much more evil is being done today when people pollute the temple of the Holy Spirit, which is their own body?


The sinful priests in the days of Zephaniah “did violence to the law.” This means that they misused the law and taught it wrongly. The law was the highest revelation of God at that time. It was the old covenant. Now we have the new covenant that is based upon grace, but there are people who are doing violence to the new covenant. They teach it wrongly. The Bible is the Word of God without error. It is unlike any other book because it comes directly from God. It is our spiritual food. It tells us about Jesus. Without the Bible and its great teachings, we cannot grow in Christ. One of the reason that the false teachers do violence to the revealed truth from God, is because these supposed teachers do not know the Lord Jesus as Savior. That is the first requirement. And then to be a teacher of the Word, you must have the gift to teach. Every Christian has a gift. Make sure you use the gift that God has given to you. Talking about the gifts that Jesus has given, it says in Ephesians 4:11, “And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” A pastor should be primarily a teacher. That is why it says in First Timothy 3:2, “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach.” Terrible damage has been done that can take a lifetime to get over when someone listens to the wrong teacher. But how good and how beneficial is the Word of God when it is taught properly by a person who knows Jesus, who has the gift to teach, and whom the Lord has prepared to properly teach His Word.         





Copyright; 2015 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
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