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sweeping up clutter July 25 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: 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 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 small 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 took action. When he was twenty years old he began to purge idolatry from the land of Judah and the remnant of Israel. He went throughout the land destroying and burning the idols and killing the priests of the false gods. During this time, the prophets Zephaniah and Jeremiah probably aided his efforts, warning the people of coming judgment that would sweep them away if they did not sweep away 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 wouldn’t happen to us? The last response was that of the residents of Jerusalem (Zephaniah 1:12), but their current young King Josiah responded differently. He encouraged spiritual reformation.

Who will be judged in the Day of the LORD? God said that all people and animals will be swept away (in part, this probably referred to the Babylonians conquest of all the nations in and around Israel; and in full, 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, had been judged and swept away into captivity by Assyria. Now Judah, her sister nation to the south, would be judged in a similar manner. Less than 100 years later she would be swept away by Babylon because of her idolatry and extreme wickedness. Judah’s royalty and its leaders would be swept away. Jerusalem’s business market would be swept away. Judah’s wealth and prosperity would be swept away. Judgment would begin with the house of God (his people), and then other nations would also be swept away.

Was there anything that could have saved 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 were no guarantees that righteous Jews would be spared in the Day of the LORD’s wrath, the best chance for them to survive was to immediately repent. In the few years before Jerusalem was burned, God graciously spared many, including Daniel and his friends (Daniel 1:1-6). Many others were spared from total destruction (2 Kings 24:11-16) on the day the city was conquered, but they suffered 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 and repent. 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 may too be spared. God can be our shelter in the time of storms.

Is the Day of the LORD only a day of wrath? No. After the exile, all willing Israelites would be allowed to return to their land, and there would be a time of peace. In the future, 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 that 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? May this message of warning lead you to 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 to 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 “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,” (NIV)

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