This is part of an on-going series on the Minor Prophets; a bible study I wrote two years ago. For more information on this study, including permission to use it for your own group, please read the introduction.
There are five sections in Zephaniah:
- The first chapter is God’s judgment of Israel
- The first 3 verses of Chapter 2 are a call to seek God
- The rest of chapter 2 is God’s judgment against other nations
- Another section of judgment on Israel (Zephaniah 3:1-8)
- The last section (Zephaniah 3:9-20) is a picture of restoration for a remnant of Israel.
KEY VERSE: “those who turn back from following the LORD and neither seek the LORD nor inquire of him” (verse 6)
In Zephaniah the rich and royal are singled out for special condemnation. Merchants are mentioned specifically. People are growing rich from God’s blessings, but then forgetting where the blessings come from. They are becoming worldly, adopting the idolatrous practices of other nations and forgetting the One True God. By making him just one god in their personal pantheons, they are totally missing the point of God’s uniqueness.
Perhaps it happened something like this. If you’re going to engage in international trade and commerce, it’s important to respect the beliefs/customs of the nations you visit and do business in. Every nation has its own gods and it’s important to respect that. For healthy trade relations, it might be necessary every now and then to participate in some religious festival with your business partners. Actually, it wouldn’t hurt to cover your bases and make offerings to the local gods, so your endeavours there will thrive.
The Israelites were missing something crucial in their understanding of the nature of Yahweh: He isn’t the god of Israel – he is the ONE Creator of everything. If they really understood that God was the ONLY God, the One True God, absolutely omnipotent, Lord over EVERY nation, they wouldn’t turn to worship other gods.
It isn’t just idol worship that has God upset. His people have:
– Not sought God (apathy)
– Turned away from God
– Turned to other things
– Become complacent (questioned whether God does anything)
Not actively seeking.
Actively turning away.
Actively turning to something else INSTEAD of God.
Figuring it doesn’t matter anyway.
Ouch. I don’t know about you, but I see myself right there. I do that exact thing at times. Sometimes it’s a pretty short journey from apathy (or laziness, as it sometimes is with me) to doubt, wondering whether any of it really matters.
Prevention is better than cure – if I keep looking at God I don’t go anywhere, and there’s no need to go back. To keep focussed on God, to remain desperate, active in relationship with him, moving forward rather than backsliding, I need to SEEK. If I am constantly seeking God, pursuing him, my attention is turned toward him. I am looking at him.
- Describe a time you noticed the world around you affecting your faith negatively.
- When do you find yourself most apathetic about your spiritual life?
- When do you need encouragement to keep seeking God?
- What are some practical ways you can seek God this week?
KEY VERSE: “Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land… Seek righteousness, seek humility.” (verse 3)
Zephaniah encourages his audience to come together and seek. If we are to make seeking God a constant, lifelong activity, it is VERY important to “gather together”. It can be hard to grow in righteousness, humility, and the presence of God, especially when you feel isolated and alone. It’s easy to feel like you’re the ONLY ONE seeking God, seeking to serve him. The biblical solution is to PURSUE any opportunity to find these things. RUN AFTER chances to meet with other seekers. We need community to uplift and encourage us – and not just any community. We need to have people and places in our lives where we are encouraged to go DEEPER. Seekers of God need to gather together.
- Who/what encourages you when you are trying to live a God-seeking life?
- What are some ways you can get more of this kind of encouragement in your life?