Secondly now in verses 7-9 we see the message to the princes, to the rulers, to civil authorities. We move from the religious customs to the social customs of the day. He begins in verse 7, “Be silent in the presence of the Lord God; For the day of the Lord is at hand, for the Lord has prepared a sacrifice; He has invited His guests.”
After Zephaniah has summarized the failures of the religious leaders, he declares that they people need to be silent in the presence of God. He doesn’t mean that we need to quit talking. He is referring specifically to the offering of excuses. Looking at the decay and corruption and sin in the land, before he even gets to the government, he anticipates excuses. But, but but….the people always seem to be able to find a way to justify their sin, no matter how grievous or heinous. But, before they can say anything in reply, Zephaniah says, “Zip it. You have no excuse.”
Notice also, the prophet has not yet told the people that they need to repent. The tone here is that the judgment has already been decided. The sins are so great from so many years of neglect and rebellion, that judgment is coming. The Day of the Lord is at hand – it is near, it is sure, it is coming. God has prepared the sacrifice and invited guests. We know from Jeremiah that the sacrifice is the people of God being handed over to their enemies to suffer judgment. The guests who have been invited are the Babylonians. God has prepared that evil nation to bring His wrath on Judah, and then later of course Babylon is also warned and judged. But the table has been set so to speak, the people have no excuse, and so they need to prepare for judgment.
Now he goes on in verse 8-9, “And it shall be, in the day of the Lord’s sacrifice, that I will punish the princes and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with foreign apparel. 9 In the same day I will punish all those who leap over the threshold, who fill their masters’ houses with violence and deceit.”
God is holding the religious and civil leaders responsible for the sins of the nation. That is a frightening thought when you look at the sins of our nation.
Those who had the responsibility to proclaim the truth of the Word of God, and those ordained by Him to serve as governmental leaders, the King and princes, the royal family here in David’s line. A quick note, the priests in their ministry represented the people before God, and King Josiah was to represent God before the people by upholding the covenant that the nation had made with the Lord. But now the priests and princes have failed. No one is standing up for the truth of God’s Word in leadership.
He says here that those who are going to be judged are those “clothed with foreign apparel.” This speaks to their taking on the identity, customs, beliefs, and practices of the Gentile nations around them. They are worldly – they look like the pagan nations around them.
What is the danger in loving and pursuing the world, not the world, as in lost men and women, but the world as in the societal system that built on repressing the knowledge of God? What is the danger of worldliness? After all, if you talk and act and look like the world won’t that help you attract them to Christ? Ummm. No.
John tells us in 1 John 2:15-17, “15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
Romans 12:1-2 finds Paul saying something similar, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
We have multiple warnings about worldliness. We are not of the world, though we are in it. We belong to another realm, to another Kingdom. We are a separate ethnicity, remember from Philippians? We are not citizens here. And from 1 Peter 2:9-10, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”
Why should we be different from the world? Because we ARE different from the world. We are a new creation, a new man created in holiness and righteousness, citizens of a new kingdom, the Kingdom of God. Don’t be lured away into unfaithfulness and idolatry by the things of the world that appeal to our fallen flesh.
Those who try to look like those who are not God’s people are going to be treated by God as if they were not His people! They will be judged. James 4:3-4 tells us in regards to this, “3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
Zephaniah continues, “In the same day I will punish all those who leap over the threshold, who fill their masters’ houses with violence and deceit.” To leap over the threshold is an obscure phrase. It also appears in 1 Samuel 5 in the account where the Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant. They set it up in the Temple of Dagon, one of their false gods, and overnight Dagon had fallen over in front of the Ark. And just as all false gods must be propped up by men, they set the idol back up, but when they came back the next morning Dagon had fallen over and his hands and head had broken off at the threshold of the door to the temple. After that point, in the worship of Dagon, they believed that this had demonstrated that Dagon was not as powerful as the God of Israel, and so they would then refuse to step on the threshold when entering the temple of Dagon. Any time they came to worship at the altar of Dagon, they would jump over the threshold.
We see then that this is a reference to those who are entering into the places of idol worship, they were going to the high places set up for worshipping these false gods. And remember, these are the rulers, the King’s family, the governmental authorities, who have no problem going to worship idols. Zephaniah says they will be judged because they fill their masters’ houses with violence and deceit – the ways that they worshipped the idols specifically involved violence and deception. And the threat here, the promise here, is punishment, judgment, all in one day.