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Bible Order: 1 John 1–5
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New Testament Only: Revelation 17

A Mighty One Who Will Save

Zephaniah 1–3, Haggai 1–2

Cross of nailsToday we cover 2 books of the Old Testament; Zephaniah and Haggai.  It is always amazing to me that in the midst of God spelling out the coming punishment He also spells out salvation.  I saw the same pattern in Zephaniah.

Zephaniah 3:17 ESV

“The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.”

How amazing it is to consider God’s plan.  It has been in motion since before man first set foot upon the Earth.  To think that He who suffered and died for us, and saved us, will “rejoice over you with gladness”, makes me tremble at His love.  He is indeed a mighty one who will save.  He has saved.  He does save.  He will save!

Below are outlines for the books we read today.

Zephaniah

Zephaniah, like young Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and Micah, ministered during the reign of Josiah of Judah. The emergence of so many powerful prophets during this king’s reign suggests how significant the moment was. As Josiah, who became king at age eight, matured, Assyrian power was at a low ebb. The nation enjoyed a brief period of relief from foreign intervention, and attention was focused on internal affairs. The primary concern of the young king, which was increasingly evident, was the moral and spiritual reform of his people. We can divide Josiah’s reign into three stages: a pre–reformation time, from 640 to 628 b.c., a period of intense reform, from about 629–622 b.c., and a post–reform period from 622 to Josiah’s death in 609 b.c.

Commentators debate which of these periods Zephaniah’s messages belong to. Yet it is clear from history and from the other prophets that despite Josiah’s personal commitments, the people remained indifferent to Yahweh and involved in pagan religious practices. So at this critical time Zephaniah, whose name means “Yahweh protects” or perhaps “Precious to Yahweh,” boldly announced his grim message of imminent judgment. Yet the same God who announces through Zephaniah that “I will sweep away everything” has a promise for His people. In a coming Day of the Lord, God’s judgment will extend to all people. Then, with Judah’s evil purged, the Lord at last “will gather you; at that time I will bring you home.”

ZEPHANIAH AT A GLANCE

MAJOR THEMES OF ZEPHANIAH

Pride. Arrogance is mankind’s major sin (2:10; 3:11), and produces rebellion against God (3:1–4), idolatry (1:4–6, 8–9) and injustice (1:7–13; 3:3–5).

Judgment. God will respond to mankind’s pride by a judgment expressed in the “Day of the Lord,” which is to have an immediate impact on Judah (1:14–17 a future impact on all nations (2:4–15).

Purification. God’s judgment will have a purifying effect on the survivors of Judah (2:7; 3:9–20) and thus is intended to correct as well as punish. A humbled and believing Israel will be returned to the Promised Land (3:14–20).

Authorship. While little is known of Zephaniah aside from his name, several things can be deduced from his book. We do know from the lineage reported in 1:1 that Zephaniah was an aristocrat, one of the royal family. Yet rather than enjoy the rights of his privileged position, the young prophet took a passionate stand against religious and moral depravity in his society. Although burdened with a message of judgment, Zephaniah was also confidently optimistic. He continued to hope, proclaiming that in the end God would usher in an era of peace. His lineage and the fact that he ministered in Jerusalem (cf. 1:4, 8, 12) suggest it was his home and that he was intimately acquainted with the capital, its people, and its ways. Bold and brave, Zephaniah serves as an example of a man of commitment and faith.

THEOLOGICAL OUTLINE OF ZEPHANIAH

I.

JUDGMENT

Zep 1–2

II.

JERUSALEM

3

CONTENT OUTLINE OF ZEPHANIAH

I. Introduction (1:1)

II. Judgment Day (1:2–2:15)

A. Against Judah (1:2–2:3)

1. Warning (1:2–3)

2. Judgment ahead (1:4–13)

3. Judgment described (1:14–2:3)

B. Against the Nations (2:4–15)

1. Philistia (2:4–7)

2. Moab, Ammon (2:8–11)

3. Cush (2:12)

4. Assyria (2:13–15)

III. Jerusalem’s Future (3:1–20)

A. Judgment Soon (3:1–8)

B. Peace at Last (3:9–20)

Haggai

Haggai is the first of three postexilic prophets who ministered in Judah to the tiny community established after the Jews were permitted to return to their homeland. Haggai, whose name means “festal,” or “festival,” appears briefly in Judah to accomplish a specific mission. His carefully dated sermons focus our attention on a four–month period in 520 b.c., when Haggai called God’s people to complete rebuilding of God’s temple, begun 18 years before (see The Postexilic Prophets).

Haggai’s message has nothing in common with the prophets who cried out in Israel before the Assyrians crushed the Northern Kingdom in 722 b.c. and before the Babylonians invaded and destroyed Judah. He says nothing of idolatry, nothing of injustice or violence. Instead Haggai simply urges the people of Judah to put God first and to demonstrate their commitment by finishing construction of the temple.

There is another important difference. The words of the former prophets were largely ignored by God’s people and led to national disaster and captivity. But Haggai’s words were heard, and the whole community rallied to the task. A new, though much smaller temple rose on the site of Solomon’s magnificent building. God was to be put first, and His worship was to be celebrated again in a house dedicated to His name.

Date and Authorship. Haggai is mentioned by Ezra (5:1; 6:14) and Zechariah (8:9). But little is known of him as a person. The date of Haggai’s ministry is easily established, for the day each sermon was given is precisely identified. With adjustments made for the lunar calendar used in Old Testament times, scholars suggest the sermons can be dated 21 September, 17 October, and 18 December of 520 b.c. Given the book’s single theme and brief extent, it is best to use the four sermons themselves as a structure for the outline of Haggai.

OUTLINE OF HAGGAI

21 September 520 b.c.

I. Challenge to Rebuild (1:1–15)

A. Haggai’s Call (1:1–11)

B. The People’s Response (1:12–15)

17 October 520 b.c.

II. An Encouraging Word (2:1–9)

18 December 520 b.c.

III. Blessing and Defilement (2:10–19)

IV. A Word to “Zerubbabel” (2:20–23)

Richards, L. O. (1991). The Bible readers companion (electronic ed.). Wheaton: Victor Books.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

(Originally posted 9/26/10)

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