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 sidewalks 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, we will answer many questions about it and then apply it to our current situations.

What is the Day of the LORD?

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 this topic, 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 coming judgment? Would we try to flee, shift the blame on others, or 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, a world-wide flood swept away all people and animals, but in the future, fire will sweep away everything (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 Assyria swept her away into captivity. In less than 100 years, Babylon, who recently defeated Assyria (see yesterday's lesson from the book of Nahum), will sweep the nation of Judah away because of her idolatry and extreme wickedness. Babylon will also sweep away Judah’s royalty and leaders. This powerful nation will also sweep away Jerusalem’s business market, wealth, and prosperity. Judgment will begin with the house of God (His people), and then Babylon will sweep other nations 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 any to survive is to immediately repent and turn to the LORD. 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 on the day the city is conquered (2 Kings 24:11-16), 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 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 the near fulfillment of this prophecy, after the exile, all willing Israelites are allowed to return to their land. This is a time of enforced 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 any of us troubled by the prospect of God’s wrath coming upon us? If we turn to God from our sins, we can receive His forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...).
  • If we have trusted in Jesus, we have escaped eternal wrath and damnation. We should not, however, let ourselves become complacent. If we live for Him in a genuine way, we may escape the wrath coming upon ungodly nations.
  • If we are genuine followers of Jesus Christ, we do not have to feel guilty about past sins and rebellion against God. When we confess them to God in genuine remorse, He offers us complete forgiveness. He will always be with us. He will take great delight in us. He will quiet us with His love and will rejoice in us, perhaps even with singing (Luke 15:7,10,32; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30).

Focus 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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A Look Ahead: We begin the prophecies of Jeremiah, who ministered from the days of King Josiah, all the way through King Zedekiah, and Judah's capture and exile from their homeland. Our Next Lesson provides Help for Backsliders.

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