This week in the fourth message in our series from Zephaniah, the series titled “The Day of the Lord” and this message “The Reproaches of the Wicked”, in this message we will see in Zephaniah 2 a list of judgments that are going to come from the Lord against five nations. We saw last week in chapter 1 the judgment announced against Judah that was going to be fulfilled in their near future through the exile into Babylon. Now we will see judgment against other nations around Judah. Judgment was going to begin with the people of God but was not going to be limited to the people of God!
God calls out these nations that surround Judah in an order that goes West to East and then South to North. Judah is in the cross hairs here and these nations are also being targeted by God. One hundred years prior to this God had sent another prophet to the people, that was Amos. God gave Amos a message for 6 nations around Jerusalem and the people of God. Four that we will look at this morning were also included in Amos’ list.
We will learn when we look at Zephaniah 2 and Amos 1 together that Zephaniah uses some of the very same language from Amos as the Word of God remained consistent over the 100 years between these two men of God. When God says something is going to happen, you can trust Him, it will happen.
So Zephaniah has preached to Josiah and the people of Judah and he concludes some of his earlier remarks to them in chapter 2 verses 1-3. He says to Judah, “Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, 2 Before the decree is issued, Or the day passes like chaff, Before the Lord’s fierce anger comes upon you, Before the day of the Lord’s anger comes upon you! 3 Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth, Who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger.”
In the midst of the discussion about the great and terrible Day of the Lord, the judgment of God upon sinners is certain, it is sure, it is coming. He tells Judah then to gather themselves together. This is a specific phrase, it is a formal call to a Sacred Assembly. This is a call to gather together for the purpose of examining what is going on in the nation and to see where they have strayed from following the Word of God as a people. As they face consequences and judgment, they need to stop and take inventory – to see where they need to repent and re-commit and readjust their lives. The minor prophet Joel proclaimed in Joel 1:14. “Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly; Gather the elders And all the inhabitants of the land Into the house of the Lord your God, And cry out to the Lord.” And here in Zephaniah we see that the people are called undesirable – they have polluted themselves the word means – they are corrupt and the bill is about to come due. The bill, the wages of sin. Death.
There is going to be a call to judgment. It is not an invitation, it is a command to appear before the Judge of all creation. The time is getting closer – and looking back at Amos we see it is 100 years closer now than it was, and as we mentioned last week, the judgment would come in about 25 to 30 years from when Zephaniah proclaimed these things. It is coming! The people are called to gather together and evaluate themselves as individuals and as a nation. Time is running out.
A Sacred Assembly was a call to examination and repentance. It was a solemn duty to seek the Lord and seek mercy in the light of the coming judgment for their sin. And the call is to come now before it is too late. Come and deal with it before the Day passes, the day of the outpouring of God’s great anger and wrath toward sin.
This word for gather yourself together is the word for gathering stubble, in order to bundle it up and use it to help start a fire. And the call here is also similar to a call in Malachi 4:1 where we read, “For behold, the day is coming, Burning like an oven, And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” Says the Lord of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch.”
Zephaniah says that the people need to gather themselves together to face the issues that need to be faced now before they are gathered together like stubble for the fire. He is telling them to face the facts – to think rightly about their sin. The result of right thinking about sin should be repentance, right? It is seeing that sin is as awful as God says it is and it is rejecting sin, turning away from it, having a change of heart and mind in regards to sin.
A basket of deplorables indeed, a nation of undesirables, the people have corrupted themselves through sin, through idolatry, through complacency, and time is running out. The danger is real. The danger is close by. The day of this judgment will be here before they know it and Zephaniah is warning them to get ready!