TODAY’S READING: ZEPHANIAH
“Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests.” – Zephaniah 1:7
If the book of Zephaniah is about anything, then it is about a day. Well, not just a day, but the most important day.
The day of the Lord.
The day Jesus was crucified.
The Hebrew word for day, yom, occurs 21 times in Zephaniah. By count, other books use the word yom much more than Zephaniah because those books are much larger (e.g. Deuteronomy, which uses yom more than any other book). But, when we consider the size of the book and the number of times yom is used, Zephaniah uses yom with the second highest frequency in the Old Testament.
As we read in Zephaniah 1:7, the Lord has prepared a sacrifice for the day of the Lord.
What sacrifice did the Lord prepare?
Hebrews 10:5-7 says, “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.”‘”
Jesus is the sacrifice the Lord prepared. The sacrifice was made the day Jesus was crucified. Every time that Zephaniah speaks of a day, that day, the day of the Lord, he is speaking about Jesus’ crucifixion.
Note that the sacrifice that the Lord has prepared is a singular sacrifice. It is one sacrifice. This one sacrifice was sufficient for all time.
Hebrews 10:11-14 says, “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”
For thousands of years, men had offered daily sacrifices in attempt to atone for their sin. But, these offerings could never take away sins. But, Jesus offered a single sacrifice for all sin for all people.
For Zephaniah tells us that the day of the Lord is about not just the Jews and not just about the Gentiles but about all men everywhere on the earth.
Zephaniah 1:2-3 says, “‘I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will sweep away man and beast; I will sweep away the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, and the rubble with the wicked. I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth,’ declares the Lord.”
But, Paul interprets the effect of the day of the Lord, the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, for us. Philippians 2:8-11 says, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
It is every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that Jesus is Lord as the result of the sacrifice on that day that results in the cutting off of mankind.
What is the cutting off of mankind?
Well, it is not the killing and the destruction of all mankind by God. If it was then there would mankind would cease to exist. And, we know that is not God’s desire or plan.
However, this cutting off does affect all mankind. None are spared this cutting off. So, we see that this cutting off has to do with the removal of something and not the destruction of something.
Therefore, the cutting off of mankind is the circumcision of mankind. For, it is only by the circumcision of the heart, the circumcision of faith, that every knee and every tongue could bow and confess that Jesus is Lord. For one can only confess Jesus is Lord by the Spirit.
Romans 2:28-29 says, “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.”
Colossians 2:11, 13 says, “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ…And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.”
It’s the flesh that is cut off for all mankind. God does this because he has forgiven all our trespasses.
It is our trespasses, our sins, our rebellion that brought about that day, the day of the Lord, Jesus’ crucifixion. But, note what Zephaniah says is the result of that day. Keep in mind that on that day, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Zephaniah 3:11-13 says, “On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain. But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord, those who are left in Israel; they shall do no injustice and speak no lies, nor shall there be found in their mouth a deceitful tongue. For they shall graze and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.”
God forgives our rebellious deeds. He will leave a people that takes refuge in the name, in the character and nature, of the Lord. These people will do no injustice and speak no lies. This is the character of Jesus. For Isaiah 53:9 says, “And they made his grace with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.”
The end result is that we will not be afraid anymore. Because of that day, God “has cleared away your enemies” and “you shall never again fear evil.” (Zephaniah 3:15)
God says, “Fear not.” (Zephaniah 3:16)
Because “The Lord God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
What a day is that day, the day of the Lord, the day of the single sacrifice that God prepared before the foundation of the world, the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, the most important in the history of the world.