Prophesying Restoration

Zephaniah 3:14-20

SS Lesson for 05/03/2020

 

Devotional Scripture: Ps 50:1-19

Lesson Background and Key Verse

Background from the NIV Standard Lesson Commentary

In 2012, the New York Times reported on what it called “probably the worst art restoration project of all time.” A small church in Spain had a famous painting of Jesus that was deteriorating due to age and moisture. Painted directly on the stone wall by nineteenth-century artist Elías García Martínez, the picture portrayed Jesus wearing a purple robe and a crown of thorns. One day, church officials found the work of art changed beyond all recognition, and authorities suspected vandalism. The modified painting, which quickly became famous on the internet as “Monkey Jesus,” had none of the grace or artistry of the original. While investigating the crime, authorities were shocked to discover that the perpetrator was no young vandal, but rather Cecilia Giménez, an 80-something-year-old member of the church. Cecilia, distressed at the deteriorating state of the painting, had taken it upon herself to restore it. Sadly, her skills were nowhere near up to the task. When a priceless work of art needs to be restored, it's foolish to trust the job to anyone but the best. Like the painting, Israel needed true restoration. Was anyone willing and able to take on the job?

 

Zephaniah was a prophet in the southern kingdom of Judah in the seventh century BC. His lineage suggests that he may have been of royal blood (see Zephaniah 1:1). This family background would have given him deep insight into the state of the nation and impact his understanding of God as king of Israel. Zephaniah understood the importance of leadership and what its absence could do to a nation. Zephaniah likely wrote in the late 620s BC before King Josiah's spiritual reforms. The prophet is primarily concerned with Judah's continued rebellion against God (see 2 Kings 22:1-23:28). The first two chapters of the book of Zephaniah describe a coming Day of the Lord, in which Judah is to face judgment for idolatry. This judgment is to come in the form of both the natural consequences of that nation's choices and as a tool of God for purifying His people. God's process of purification would remove the rebellious in order to ensure the survival of those remaining faithful—“the remnant of Israel” (Zephaniah 3:13; see also 2:7, 9; compare Isaiah 10:20-22). The prophet's warnings to Judah carried weight given the fact of the deportation of the northern kingdom (Israel) by Assyria in 722 BC. That reality and its associated horror underlined the fact that Zephaniah's warning was not an idle threat. Zephaniah's prophecy of God's judgment came true in 586 BC. That was the year the Judeans were cast into Babylonian exile (2 Kings 25:1-21). The prophesied restoration would not begin until 538 BC, when Jewish captives were allowed to return to Judah (Ezra 1:1-4). The ancient writers' fondness for using parallelism (structural doublets) is important to keep in mind when reading Old Testament passages composed as poetry. We should, however, stress anew the significance of this technique: when the second phrase in lines of poetry echoes the first phrase, only one thing or action is in view, not two. One happy result of this fact is that when part of a verse is difficult to understand, its companion phrase may be used to interpret the more difficult portion. Zephaniah's prophecy presents us with a sharp change of theme beginning in Zephaniah 3:9, as restoration of a remnant takes center stage. The Lord promises that the “afflicted and poor shall trust in the name of the Lord” (3:12), untroubled by those who are proud and haughty. The remnant can freely celebrate captivity's end.

 

Key Verse: Zeph 3:19

Behold, at that time I will deal with all who afflict you; I will save the lame, And gather those who were driven out; I will appoint them for praise and fame In every land where they were put to shame.

 

Commentary from the Bible Knowledge Commentary

3:1-2. The prophet made a general statement about Jerusalem’s wickedness: she had sunk to the level of the heathen nations (cf. Hab. 1:2-4). Though Jerusalem is not named in Zephaniah 3:1, verse 2 shows that it was meant. Woe was a pronouncement of an indictment, an indictment that was here threefold: a city of oppressors (cf. Nineveh, which Nahum called “the city of blood,” Nahum 3:1), rebellious and defiled. This general threefold indictment was then elaborated in Zephaniah 3:2-5: they oppressed their own people (v. 3), were rebellious against God (v. 2), and were defiled religiously (v. 4). The Jerusalemites failed to heed the correction provided by the Law and the Prophets. Such rebellion was a failure to trust in the Lord and to be near Him in fellowship and worship (cf. 1:6).

3:3-4. The prophet then indicted both the civil leaders (cf. 1:8) and the religious leaders (cf. 1:4-5). The officials were compared to voracious, hungry lions; the rulers (judges) were insatiable wolves who completely devoured an evening prey by morning (cf. Ezek. 22:27; Micah 3:1-3). Judah’s leaders robbed the citizenry in order to appease their own lust for power and plenty (cf. Micah 3:9-10). Jerusalem’s religious leaders were equally debauched! The prophets were self-styled, arrogant religionists who, with the treachery of the priests, twisted and perverted the Law of God in order to fill their bulging purses (cf. Ezek. 22:28; Micah 3:5, 11). The priests (cf. Zeph. 1:4) profaned the sanctuary probably by their idolatry and astrology (1:4-5) and by offering blemished animal sacrifices. Since they violated the Law by their disobedience (cf. Ezek. 22:26), no wonder their people were not teachable (Zeph. 3:2).

3:5. The Lord—in contrast with the people in general (v. 2), their civil leaders (v. 3), and their religious leaders (v. 4)—is righteous... does no wrong, exercises justice, and never fails. Certainly, then, He would uphold the oppressed and punish the wicked! The nation evidenced the depth of its debauchery by its callous conscience: the unrighteous know no shame (cf. 2:1). The word “unrighteous” (ʿawwāl) is related to the word “wrong” (ʿawlâh) in the first part of 3:5. It means “to distort, to turn aside, to be wicked.”

3:6-7. The Lord’s words recorded in verses 6-13 point up Judah’s dire situation. The Lord rehearsed His past actions against other nations (v. 6), and then cited both the reasons for and the actuality of a near-future judgment (v. 7). God had acted in conformity with His righteousness by judging nations for their wickedness, leaving them demolished... deserted, and destroyed. A classic example for Judah would be the 10 Northern tribes dispersed by Sargon II of Assyria in 722 b.c. God pleaded with His people to follow in His ways, accepting His correction (cf. v. 2) in order to avoid being cut off (cf. 1:3-4) and having to face His punishments (cf. 1:9-13; 2:1-3). The word but in the last sentence of 3:7 has a sad implication. Instead of responding to the Lord’s unceasing mercies, Judah consciously and purposely repudiated Him and was even eager to continue in her corrupt ways. Complacency (1:12) and rebellion (3:1) led to an enthusiasm for corruption! (v. 7) What a cameo of human history!

3:8. The prophet concluded the “judgments” portion of his prophecy by reverting to the universal theme with which he introduced the section. He began with a summary statement of universal judgment (1:2-3); then he delineated God’s judgment on Judah and Jerusalem (1:4-2:3) and on other nations (2:4-15). Then for emphasis he repeated the judgment on Jerusalem (3:1-7). Now he ended this long section with another general summary of universal judgment. In the Lord’s impending universal judgment on the nations, His cup of wrath was about to be poured out; at that time His grace would take second place to His anger! At the end of the yet-future Tribulation, God will cause the nations’ armies to assemble toward Jerusalem, and in the Battle of Armageddon (cf. Zech. 14:2; Rev. 16:14, 16) He will pour out on them His wrath (zaʿam, from “foam”), all His fierce anger (cf. Zeph. 2:2), and the fire of His jealous anger (lit., “jealousy”). The word “then” in verse 9 signifies a major pivot in the prophet’s message both in tone and in content; he shifted from frightful predictions of destruction to prophecies of blessing and peace. After destroying the nations’ armies, God will restore the nations to His favor. Instead of horrifying threats, here are comforting promises of love, mercy, and restoration. These promises look forward to the Millennium when Christ will rule as King on the earth.

3:9. Zephaniah predicted that the nations will be renewed both morally (v. 9) and spiritually (v. 10). The purifying of the lips of the peoples does not mean they will speak a new language (as the kjv seems to imply by its trans. “a pure language”). Instead it means the renewal of once-defiled speech. One’s lips represent what he says (the words spoken by his lips), which in turn reflect his inner life (cf. Isa. 6:5-7). The nations, formerly perverted by the blasphemy of serving idols, will be cleansed by God for true worship. As a result the nations, turning to reverential trust in God, will call on the name of the Lord and will evidence their dependence on Him by their united service (shoulder to shoulder).

3:10. As an example of the unanimity of their spiritual service the prophet mentioned those beyond the rivers of Cush (the upper Nile region—southern Egypt, Sudan, and northern Ethiopia; cf. 2:12), the most distant land to his knowledge. In their converted state the nations, represented by Cush, will bring... offerings to the Lord in Jerusalem (cf. Isa. 66:18, 20). This will be a marvelous reversal of the Gentiles’ policies during Zephaniah’s day! This stream of worshipers going to Jerusalem will include Israel—My scattered people. Zephaniah then elaborated on this fact (Zeph. 3:11-20). When God restores the nations to Himself, He will also turn from wrath to bless His chosen nation Israel. This grand prophetic theme is both the high point of prophetic promise for the nation and the climax of Zephaniah’s message. Israel’s regathering to Jerusalem was promised by God in words given to Moses (Deut. 30:1-10). Though God must punish sin, He is full of mercies and is always true to His promises. Though national judgment is assured, God will not forsake His people. He is the covenant-keeping Sovereign! This closing section of Zephaniah’s message is comforting to Israel because of the reassurance of God’s faithfulness to His promises.

3:11-13. At the beginning of the Millennium (that day) Israel will be cleansed and restored. She will have no shame before God because of her sins (wrongs renders a Heb. word that means “terrible deeds”) for God will have removed from the city all those guilty of pride or haughtiness. This will occur in the judgment of Israel (Ezek. 20:34-38; Matt. 25:1-13). Evildoers, full of shame, will be judged, and God’s holy hill (Jerusalem; cf. Pss. 2:6; 3:4; 15:1; 24:3; 78:54; Dan. 9:16, 20; Joel 2:1; 3:17; Obad. 16) will be inhabited only by a pure people—the meek and humble (cf. Zeph. 2:3)—those trusting in the... Lord. All iniquity—wrong (ʿawlâh, lit., “injustice”; cf. 3:5, God “does no wrong”), lies, and deceit—will be purged away, and in that cleansed condition they will find peace and security. The closing line of verse 13 brings to mind the promises of the shepherd psalm, Psalm 23. Israel, so long defiled, turbulent, and ravished, will at last be at rest among the nations and without fear (cf. Zeph. 3:15-16).

3:14. The tone of this verse is clearly that of exultation and joy: Sing... shout aloud.... Be glad and rejoice. Israel will be joyful in that millennial day because she will have been redeemed by God. Though the immediate prospect for the nation was one of sorrow and torment (vv. 1, 5-7), a day will come when the remnant’s fears will give way to shouts of praise.

3:15. Shouts of joy will arise because Israel’s Redeemer, the Messiah King, will be in her midst (cf. Isa. 9:7; Zech. 14:9). The long-promised Deliverer will protect them. Wrath from God’s hand (Zeph. 3:8) and oppression by her enemy (cf. v. 19) will be gone, and the Lord, the King of Israel, will be with her (cf. v. 17), and she will have no fear (cf. v. 13).

3:16-17. Verse 16 amplifies the theme of calm from fear in the last line of verse 15. They (apparently converted Gentiles) will encourage Israel not to be fearful or in despair. Hands that hang limp picture despair through alarm and anxiety (cf. Jer. 47:3). Instead, Israel will lift her hands, symbolic of triumph, because of the Lord’s presence (He will be with you; cf. Zeph. 3:15) and power (He is mighty to save). In addition to being with His redeemed remnant and delivering them, He will... delight in them. The nation will again be the object of God’s great love, not His wrath. The Millennium will indeed be a time of peace for His troubled people; Israel will rejoice (v. 14). But more than that, God will rejoice! (v. 17) In fact He will be singing with delight and joy because His Chosen People will be in the land under His blessing. Seven times in these concluding verses, the Lord said, “I will.” He wanted to place a strong hope before the believing remnant in Zephaniah’s day, since His judgment was imminent and His restoration mercies remote. The prophet, in spite of dark days, wanted the repentant to grasp firmly God’s promises for comfort and strength.

3:18. Many Jews, scattered from their homeland, had sorrows because they were unable to take part in the appointed feasts. But the Lord will remove those sorrows when He regathers His people to Jerusalem where they will enjoy His blessings. No longer will their feasts be a burden, something they hate to do, and a reproach, a cause for God’s displeasure because of their sinful ways.

3:19. As Zephaniah had already stated (2:4-15; 3:8-15), God will remove Israel’s foreign oppressors (cf. Gen. 12:3, “whoever curses you I will curse”), gather His people scattered in other lands, and give them a favorable reputation (praise and honor; cf. Deut. 26:19; Zeph. 3:20) in all places where they are held in disrepute (cf. v. 11).

3:20. This verse summarizes Israel’s yet-future blessings: regathering in the Promised Land (home), a favorable reputation (honor and praise; cf. v. 19) among all the nations, and a restoring of her fortunes (or a bringing back of her captives; cf. 2:7). This will all happen before her very eyes. In the Millennium, Israel will possess her land as God promised (Gen. 12:1-7; 13:14-17; 15:7-21; 17:7-8), and the Messiah, Israel’s King, will establish His kingdom and will reign (2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89:3-4; Isa. 9:6-7; Dan. 7:27; Zeph. 3:15). To emphasize the divine authority of his message as well as the certainty of God’s comfort, Zephaniah ended his book with the words, says the Lord!

 


Major Theme Analysis

(Scriptural Text from the New King James Version; cross-references from the NIV)

Restoration through God Being with Us (Zeph 3:14-15)

 

14 Sing, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!

15 The Lord has taken away your judgments, He has cast out your enemy. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; You shall see disaster no more.

 

God being with us should result in rejoicing (14)

Rejoicing over God's righteousness (Ps 32:11)

11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!

Rejoicing over God being our strength (Hab 3:17-19)

17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.

Rejoicing in the Lord (Phil 4:4-5)

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

Rejoicing with trembling and fear (Ps 2:11)

11 Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.

Rejoicing over God's trustworthiness (Ps 33:21)

21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.

Rejoicing before God (Ps 68:4-6)

4 Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds —  his name is the Lord —  and rejoice before him. 5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. 6 God sets the lonely in families,  he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

 

God being with us through His deliverance (15)

Deliverance from deadly peril (2 Cor 1:10)

10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us,

Deliverance from troubles (Ps 34:19)

19 A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all;

Deliverance from trials (2 Peter 2:9)

9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.

Deliverance from temptations (1 Cor 10:13)

13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Deliverance from evil attacks (2 Tim 4:18)

18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Restoration through God Delighting in Us (Zeph 3:16-17)

 

16 In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: "Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak.

17 The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing."

 

Delighting by overcoming fear (16)

Fear is overcome because Jesus overcame the world (John 16:33)

33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Fear is overcome because there is a reward for overcoming (Rev 2:7)

7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Fear is overcome because of being born of God (1 John 5:4-5)

4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

Fear is overcome because in Jesus, Christians are more than conquerors (Rom 8:37)

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Fear is overcome because Christians do not have a spirit of fear, but of sonship (Rom 8:15)

15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."

Fear is overcome because godly love drives out fear (1 John 4:18)

18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

 

Delighting by loving (17)

A love that we cannot be separated from (Rom 8:38-39)

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

A love that surpasses knowledge (Eph 3:17-19)

17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

A love that sent Jesus into the world (1 John 4:9)

9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

A love that prompted Jesus to give Himself for us (Eph 5:2)

2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

A love that God gave us first (1 John 4:10)

10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

A love from God that allowed us to be called His child (1 John 3:1)

3 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

A love that prompted God to give His only Son (John 3:16)

16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

 

Restoration through God Gathering Us (Zeph 3:16-17)

 

18 "I will gather those who sorrow over the appointed assembly, Who are among you, To whom its reproach is a burden.

19 Behold, at that time I will deal with all who afflict you; I will save the lame, And gather those who were driven out; I will appoint them for praise and fame In every land where they were put to shame.

20 At that time I will bring you back, Even at the time I gather you; For I will give you fame and praise Among all the peoples of the earth, When I return your captives before your eyes," Says the Lord.

 

Gathering those who sorrow (18)

Sorrow that will be wiped away (Rev 21:4)

4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

Sorrow that we will be rescued from (Rom 7:24-25)

24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Sorrow that will be replaced by joy (Isa 35:10)

10 and the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Sorrow that will be turned into praise (Isa 61:3)

3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion —  to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

Sorrow that will not be felt again (Isa 65:19)

19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.

 

Gathering those who have been oppressed (18)

Gathering of the oppressed into God’s refuge (Ps 9:9)

9 The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

Gathering of the oppressed into God’s righteousness (Ps 103:6)

6 The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

Gathering of the oppressed into God’s justice (Ps 146:7)

7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free,

Gathering of the oppressed and the rebuking of the oppressors (Isa 1:17)

17 learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.  Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

Gathering of the oppressed into God’s protection (Ps 12:5)

5 "Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise," says the Lord. "I will protect them from those who malign them."

 

Gathering to return His people to Him (20)

God returns those who are with Him (Matt 12:30)

30 "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.

God returns through His angels (Matt 24:31)

31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

God returns like a winnowing fork (Luke 3:16-18)

16 John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.

God returns multiple flock (John 10:16)

16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

 

Conclusion and Other Thoughts

Commentary Thoughts from Thomas Constable

III. THE DAY OF YAHWEH"S BLESSING (3:9-20)

Having finished the revelation dealing with God’s judgment of the world in a coming day ( Zephaniah 1:2 to Zephaniah 3:8), Zephaniah now announced that He would bring great blessing to all humankind after that judgment ( Zephaniah 3:9-20). As in the section of the book on judgment, he revealed God’s plans for the Gentile nations briefly first and then spoke extensively about His plans for Israel.

"Why did the prophets consistently close their books with messages of hope? For at least three reasons. To begin with, hope is a great motivation for obedience, and the prophets wanted to encourage God’s people to submit to God’s will and do what He commanded. God’s covenant blessings come to His people only when they obey His covenant conditions.

"A second reason is the prophets" emphasis on the faithfulness of God. The Lord will keep His promises and one day establish the kingdom; and since God is faithful to keep His promises, we ought to be faithful obeying His Word. ...

"Finally, the closing message of hope was an encouragement to the faithful remnant in the land, who were true to God and suffered because of their devotion to Him. It’s difficult to belong to that "company of the committed" who stand true to the Lord and His Word no matter what others may do or say. Knowing that God would one day defeat their enemies and reign in righteousness would encourage the believers [sic] remnant to persist in their faithful walk with the Lord." [Note: Wiersbe, p429.]

Verse 10

The descendants of the Lord’s dispersed ones, the Jews, would bring him offerings of worship from the farthest corners of the earth. The rivers of Ethiopia, probably the Nile and its tributaries, were at the edge of the known world in the prophet’s day (cf. Zephaniah 2:12). The implication is that the Jews will come to Jerusalem, the city the Lord chose as the place where He would dwell among His people (cf. Deuteronomy 30:1-10; Isaiah 66:18; Isaiah 66:20).

1. Israel’s purification (3:10-13)

B. The transformation of Israel (3:10-20)

Zephaniah had received from the Lord much more revelation about what He would do for Israel following the period of worldwide punishment. This section is also chiastic in its thought structure.

A Israel’s purification Zephaniah 3:10-13

B Israel’s and Yahweh’s rejoicing Zephaniah 3:14-17

A" Israel’s regathering Zephaniah 3:18-20

Verse 11

In that day, the day of blessing to follow the Day of Judgment, Zephaniah’s hearers, the Jews, would not feel any more shame for all their previous rebellion against the Lord. They would not because He would remove all the pride from their hearts (cf. Ezekiel 20:34-38; Matthew 25:1-13). They would never again lift up themselves in haughtiness against Yahweh on His holy mountain Jerusalem ( Psalm 2:6; Daniel 9:16; Joel 2:1; Obadiah 1:16; et al.). A feeling of shame comes from an awareness of guilt, but they would not be guilty any longer because they would be humble rather than proud.

Verse 12

The Israelites of that day will be humble and lowly in heart (cf. Zephaniah 2:3), and they will seek the Lord as their refuge rather than turning from Him to idols and self-exaltation. Seeking the Lord is an indication of humility whereas forsaking Him, even by not praying, demonstrates a spirit of independence from God (cf. Zephaniah 1:6).

Verse 13

In contrast to their conduct since the Exodus, the Jews would do nothing wrong, tell no lies, and practice no deceit (cf. Zephaniah 3:1-4). They will resemble a flock of sheep at peace grazing and lying down with nothing to disturb them (cf. Psalm 23; Micah 4:4).

"When the Creator is worshipped and served as he ought to be, paradise is regained." [Note: Baker, p117.]

Verse 14

In view of these wonderful prospects, Zephaniah called the people of Jerusalem and all the Israelites to shout for joy with all their hearts.

"Although the command is aimed at the future Jerusalem, no doubt the message would not be lost on the godly worshipers of Zephaniah’s own day." [Note: Patterson, p377.]

The phrase "daughter of" is a way of referring to the citizens of Zion (Jerusalem) as the children of the city. Children born in any city are the children of that city in a metaphorical sense as well as the children of their physical parents in a literal sense. Elsewhere, "daughters of Jerusalem" sometimes refers to the villages surrounding Jerusalem, those little communities that Jerusalem spawned.

2. Israel’s and Yahweh’s rejoicing (3:14-17)

Zephaniah arranged this psalm of joy over salvation as another chiasm.

"A Zion singing (Zephaniah 3:14 a)

B Israel’s shouts (Zephaniah 3:14 b)

C Jerusalem’s joy (Zephaniah 3:14 c)

D Yahweh’s deliverance (Zephaniah 3:15 a, b)

E Presence of Yahweh the king (Zephaniah 3:15 c)

F No more fear (Zephaniah 3:15 d)

G Jerusalem’s future message (Zephaniah 3:16 a)

F" No more fear (Zephaniah 3:16 b, c)

E" Presence of Yahweh the God (Zephaniah 3:17 a)

D" The mighty deliverer (Zephaniah 3:17 b)

C" God’s joy (Zephaniah 3:17 c)

B" Yahweh’s silence (Zephaniah 3:17 d)

A" Yahweh’s singing (Zephaniah 3:17 e)" [Note: Baker, p87.]

Verse 15

The reason for rejoicing is that Yahweh will have removed His judgment and Israel’s enemies from her (cf. Zephaniah 3:8; Zephaniah 3:19). Yahweh, Israel’s true and omnipotent king, will be in the midst of His people (in the person of Messiah, Jesus Christ, during the Millennium; Zephaniah 3:17; cf. Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 44:6; Zechariah 14:9). Consequently they will fear disaster no more (Zephaniah 3:13).

Verse 16-17

"The battle cry on the Day of Judgment (Zephaniah 1:14) will be replaced by the poignant hush of the reuniting of two lovers." [Note: Baker, p119.]

In that day of blessing the people of Jerusalem will have plenty of reasons not to fear. One reason is that Yahweh their God will be in their midst (Zephaniah 3:15). He will be a victorious warrior having defeated all His enemies and all opposition worldwide (Zephaniah 1:2-3; Zephaniah 3:8). Like a bridegroom He will take joy in His people Israel, and they will rest quietly in the security of His love for them as His bride. Yahweh will even shout with joy over His beloved Israel!

"Most often the Lord’s love is expressed by the Hebrew word hesed. This is the love that issues in commitment, the "ever-unfailing" fidelity of love, love that lives in the will as much as in the heart. Here, however, the word is "ahaba, the passionate love of Jacob for Rachel ( Genesis 29:20) and of Michal for David ( 1 Samuel 18:28), the fond love of Jacob for Joseph ( Genesis 37:3), Uzziah’s devotion to gardening ( 2 Chronicles 26:10), Jonathan’s deep friendship with David ( 1 Samuel 18:3), the devotee’s delight in the Lord’s law ( Psalm 119:97). This too is the Lord’s love for his people ( Hosea 3:1), a love that delights him ( Zephaniah 3:17 c), makes him contemplate his beloved with wordless adoration ( Zephaniah 3:17 d), a love that cannot be contained but bursts into elated singing ( Zephaniah 3:17 e)." [Note: Motyer, p958.]

"We can find hope in times of difficulty if we focus on God’s power, God’s deliverance, and God’s love. He is our King (Zephaniah 3:15), our Savior (Zephaniah 3:16-17 a), and our Beloved (Zephaniah 3:17 b)." [Note: Dyer, p812.]

Verse 18

In the past, Jews who lived far from Jerusalem were very sad because they could not travel to Jerusalem to observe Israel’s annual feasts. They suffered a certain criticism from their fellow Jews for living far away from Jerusalem. But in this time of blessing (the Millennium) the Lord will enable them to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the feasts. The feasts of Israel during the Millennium will be somewhat different from those that the Old Covenant specified, but there will be annual feasts in Jerusalem in the Millennium (cf. Ezekiel 45:9 to Ezekiel 46:24).

"Why would the Lord restore religious practices that have now been fulfilled? Possibly as a means of teaching Israel the meaning of the doctrine of salvation through Jesus Christ." [Note: Wiersbe, p432.]

3. Israel’s regathering (3:18-20)

Verse 19-20

Having dealt with the Jews" oppressors (cf. Zephaniah 3:8-15; Zephaniah 2:4-15; Genesis 12:3), the Lord will deliver even the weak and dispersed of His people and give them a worldwide reputation for goodness (cf. Deuteronomy 26:19). He will regather them in their land and give them a good reputation when He restores their fortunes (cf. Zephaniah 3:15; Genesis 12:1-7; Genesis 13:14-17; Genesis 15:7-21; Genesis 17:7-8; 2 Samuel 7:16; Psalm 89:3-4; Isaiah 9:6-7; Daniel 7:27).

Zephaniah concluded his book by affirming that such was Yahweh’s declaration. He would indeed restore His people.

"The whole message of Zephaniah is finally united in one grand inclusio, in that it begins and ends with Yahweh, Israel’s just but caring covenant God, whose word ( Zephaniah 1:1) is spoken ( Zephaniah 3:20)." [Note: Baker, p88.]

An inclusio is a repetition of key elements, either words or motifs, at the beginning and end of a literary unit.

Eight times in Zephaniah 3:18-20, in the NASB, the Lord said, "I will," "I am going to," or "When I." The future restoration and blessing of Israel in the world will be something that Yahweh Himself will accomplish "in that day" (i.e, the day of the LORD). No one but He could ever accomplish it, and no one but He would.

                        (Adapted from URL:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/zephaniah-3.html)

 

Concluding Thoughts from the NIV Standard Lesson Commentary

The final words of the book of Zephaniah remind us that restoration requires the power and willingness of God. He and He alone is the one who has the power to make restored relationship with Him possible. That's why Zephaniah's promise of restoration for the Old Testament remnant is relevant to us yet today: it foreshadows our restored relationship to God through Christ. Christians have been delivered from the captivity of sin; yet we still live in a world that is mired in that captivity. Therefore the fullness of our deliverance is yet to come. We trust God to keep His promise in that regard because He has, among other things, “also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 1:22). Although God's kingdom is not yet here in its fullest sense, His continuing work of restoration is guaranteed by the presence of His Spirit. Let us therefore celebrate these grand realities! As we do, we can affirm with Paul “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38, 39).

 

Concluding Thoughts from the Echoes Commentary

Rebuilding the Ruins - The Book of Zephaniah presents two themes: judgment and deliverance. The first part deals with the consequences of the people worshiping other gods, the violence in the society, large-scale dishonest dealings, leaders abusing their power, and everyone ignoring the warnings of God's prophet. Despite the disobedience, God promised to bring them back from exile. He would preserve a remnant, forgive their sin, and restore their loss. Renewal, repair, rebuilding—this is what God does. Zephaniah described a restored nation and a renewed Jerusalem affirmed by God. The picture is of Israel rejoicing. Why? The Lord lifted the chastisement afflicted upon them by their enemies. It's like the hug after the spanking. For a season, it seemed as if the Lord had deserted His family. However, now He reminded them of His presence.

 

God's Compassionate Singing - The Father invited His children to relax in the lap of His compassion. He also introduced a new way to perceive Him—He was singing over His offspring. He was so delighted with their repentance He burst forth musically describing His indescribable love.

 

Hallelujah - God removed the sorrow, the burden. This not only describes the remnant's return to Jerusalem but also foreshadows the end of the age as well. God has fought off Israel's enemies, and they enter into a time of exuberant praise. It is an incredible time. During the Babylonian captivity, the Jewish people were unable to celebrate their feast days. However, once back in Jerusalem, the feasts and sacrifices were restored, and the celebrations began. Zephaniah's message started with tragedy and misfortune. But God turned things around when the congregation obeyed and chose to draw close to the Lord. They realized true joy and happiness is in God, not those things outside of Him that break His heart. God's joy is being in the midst of restoring His children to Himself, bringing the prodigals—any prodigals—home. That is what He still loves to do.