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sweeping up clutter July 25 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): 2Kings 22:1-2; 2Chronicles 34:1-7; Zephaniah

Sweeping Away | Day of the LORD

Sweeping - why do we do it? We sweep because there is clutter or dirt on our floors or walkways that needs to be cleared. We also do it for appearance and safety. Sweeping away filth and debris is what God is going to do in a time of judgment called the Day of the LORD. Because there is much confusion about the Day of the LORD, this Bible study will answer many questions about it and then apply it to our current situations.

What is the Day of the LORD, when does it start, and what happens in it? The Day of the LORD is mentioned frequently in the Old Testament and some in the New Testament of our Bibles. Zephaniah is a short prophetical book that gives exclusive attention to the topic of the Day of the LORD, and it was given during the reign of King Josiah of Judah.

The Day of the LORD is first a day of judgment. Seeing the evil idolatry and practices of Judah perpetrated by his grandfather, King Manasseh, and his father, Amon, Josiah takes action. When he is twenty years old he begins to purge idolatry from the land of Judah and the remnant of Israel. He travels throughout the land destroying and burning the idols and killing the priests of the false gods. During this time, Zephaniah and Jeremiah write. These prophets aid his efforts, warning the people of coming judgment that will sweep them away if they do not remove their idolatry. Zephaniah describes the Day of the LORD both in near fulfillment and distant fulfillment as a day of judgment (a double prophetical reference is common among many prophecies of the Old Testament).

The great day of the LORD is near-- near and coming quickly…. That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness, a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the corner towers [soldiers were stationed in lookout towers].

I will bring distress on the people and they will walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD. Their blood will be poured out like dust and their entrails like filth. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORD's wrath. In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth, (Zephaniah 1:14-18, NIV).

How would we respond to impending judgment? Would we try to flee? Would we try to shift the blame on others? Would we deceive ourselves into believing it will not happen to us? The last response is that of the residents of Jerusalem (Zephaniah 1:12), but young King Josiah responds differently. He encourages spiritual reformation.

Who will be judged in the Day of the LORD? God proclaims that all people and animals will be swept away (in near partial fulfillment, this probably refers to the Babylonians conquest of all the nations in and around Israel; and in distant complete fulfillment, this probably refers to the end times of the earth, Zephaniah 1:1,18). In the times of Noah all people and animals were swept away by the flood, but in the future they will be swept away by fire, (Zephaniah 1:18; 2Peter 3:10-14).

When and with whom does this judgment start? The judgment starts with the nation of Israel (both the northern and southern kingdoms). Israel, the northern kingdom, has been judged and swept away into captivity by Assyria. Now Judah, her sister nation to the south, will be judged in a similar manner. In less than 100 years she will also be swept away by Babylon because of her idolatry and extreme wickedness. Judah’s royalty and its leaders will be swept away. Jerusalem’s business market will be swept away. Judah’s wealth and prosperity will be swept away. Judgment will begin with the house of God (His people), and then other nations will also be swept away.

Is there anything that can save people from the day of God’s wrath? Yes. Zephaniah tells Judah,

Gather together, gather together, O shameful nation, before the appointed time arrives and that day sweeps on like chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD comes upon you, before the day of the LORD's wrath comes upon you.

Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD's anger, (Zephaniah 2:1-3, NIV).

While there are no guarantees that righteous Jews will be spared in the Day of the LORD’s wrath, the best chance for them to survive is to immediately repent. In the few years before Jerusalem is burned, God graciously spares many, including Daniel and his friends (Daniel 1:1-6). Many others are spared from total destruction (2 Kings 24:11-16) on the day the city is conquered, but they are captured and suffer for seventy years in exile in Babylon.

Do we want to escape God’s wrath? The answer is the same for us today as it was for Judah: see the danger, turn from our sins and turn to God for salvation. We can be saved from God’s eternal wrath by believing in His son, Jesus, whom God sent to save us (John 3:36). And, if we truly seek the LORD and live righteously and humbly as Daniel, perhaps when God judges our nation, we, too, may be spared. The LORD can be our shelter in the time of storms.

Is the Day of the LORD only a day of wrath? No. In near fulfillment, after the exile, all willing Israelites are allowed to return to their land, and there is a time of peace. In the future fulfillment, God’s Son, as a mighty warrior, will come to rescue Israel and defeat her enemies to keep them from annihilating her (Zephaniah 3:17; Revelation 19:11-15). The time of God’s wrath against Israel will end. She will be saved physically and spiritually. Peace, joy, and the removal of all shame and guilt will come for Israel and all the people which survive the future time of the Great Tribulation (Zephaniah 3:14-15,20; Revelation 14:1-5; 21:1-4).

Lessons to Live By

  • Are you troubled by the prospect of God’s wrath coming upon you? Turn to God from your sins and receive His forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...).
  • If you have trusted in Jesus, you have escaped eternal wrath and damnation. Do not, however, let yourself become complacent. Live for Him in a genuine way, and you may escape the wrath that will come upon ungodly nations.
  • If you are a genuine follower of Jesus Christ, you do not have to feel guilty about past sins and rebellion against God. When you confess them to God in genuine contrition, He offers you complete forgiveness. He will always be with you. He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with His love and He will rejoice in you, perhaps even with singing (Luke 15:7,10,32; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30).

Today’s Bible Memory Verse

Zephaniah 2:3 (NIV) “Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD's anger.”

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