Introduction: Do you feel nervous? Does life make you anxious? Do
you try to calm yourself by saying, “I can handle this?” Our lesson
this week is about people who got into a whole bunch of trouble. The
trouble began because they depended upon their own power and
authority. They relied on their gates, walls, wealth, and intellect
to keep them safe. They sacrificed others to protect themselves. God
has a better way for us. Let’s plunge into our study of Zephaniah
and find out more!

  1. Sweeping

    1. Read Zephaniah 1:1-3. This does not sound like good news!
      Now read Genesis 8:21-22. How do you reconcile these
      apparently conflicting statements?

      1. Notice in Genesis 8:21 God says, “as I have done”
        and in Genesis 8:22 “as long as the earth endures.”
        Could “as I have done” narrow the promise to mean
        only that God would not destroy the earth with
        another flood. It would not be a comment on other
        means of destruction? (Compare Isaiah 54:9)

        1. Should we understand “as long as the earth
          endures” as a prediction that God will again
          destroy the earth in the end?

      2. Notice in that Zephaniah 1:3 it talks about the
        wicked having “heaps of rubble.” Does this mean the
        wicked will survive? Does it mean the wicked will
        be left behind?

      3. What event do you think is being described in these
        verses? (I think it is the Second Coming of Jesus.)

    2. Read Zephaniah 1:4-5. Does this sound like the end of
      days or a problem in Zephaniah’s day? (This sounds
      current to Zephaniah: Baal in Jerusalem. Recall that in
      Matthew 24 Jesus simultaneously discussed the destruction
      of Jerusalem and the Second Coming, so discussing the end
      of days and current catastrophes together is not unique
      to this passage.)

      1. Is there a Baal warning here for us today? (Yes. I
        don’t know anyone who bows down to an idol. None of
        my neighbors do that. But, I struggle with
        depending on the things “I have made” rather than on
        God. We can trust nothing but God.)

      2. Notice that these people are in accord with (swear
        by) Molech. Read 2 Kings 23:10. Is that a current
        problem? (Yes. People abort their children to
        improve their own life. People no longer seem
        willing to sacrifice their own lifestyle to send
        their children to Christian schools. Swearing by
        Molech is preferring yourself over your children in
        a way that harms your children.)

    3. Read Zephaniah 1:14-15. I remember when I first started
      teaching in law school. I was very excited to see my new
      office. A former judge had previously been in that
      office, and I was looking forward to meeting him. I
      thought he would embrace me as his successor, but it
      turned out that he did not like leaving his office, and
      he saw me as the reason he had to leave. Have you had a
      situation in which you and someone else have a completely
      different view of a situation?

      1. Do you look at the Second Coming as a day of
        darkness and gloom? (No! Praise God! He is coming
        to take me (us) home with Him.)

    4. Read Zephaniah 1:16-17. What kind of people are
      distressed by the Second Coming? (Sinners.)

    5. Read Zephaniah 1:18 and consider it with the last two
      verses. We are all sinners. What stands out about these
      sinners? (These are sinners who depend on their wealth,
      their fortified walls, and their high towers. Those
      sinners are unforgiven sinners. Forgiven sinners depend
      upon the Lord.)

  2. Shelter

    1. Read Zephaniah 2:1-3. We just read about blood, guts,
      fire, battle, and distress. Is that inevitable? (No!
      Destruction in the end is inevitable, but being a part of
      it is not.)

      1. What does God call upon us to do? (Seek God.)

      2. What is God looking for in us? (Humility,
        righteousness, obedience.)

        1. Does this sound like righteousness by works?
          (Look at the big picture here. Those targeted
          for destruction depend on what they have made:
          towers, walls of defense, and money. Those who
          are saved depend on God. That is why they are
          humble and obedient.)

    2. Read Romans 3:22-26. Have we all sinned? (Yes.)

      1. How do we acquire righteousness? (Through faith in
        Jesus. These are the dependant people, not the
        independent people.)

    3. Read Zephaniah 2:15. Of what does the phrase, “I am, and
      there is none besides me” remind you?

    4. Read Isaiah 45:5-6 and Isaiah 47:10. Who is speaking in
      Isaiah 45? (This is the Lord saying “I am” and “there is
      none besides Me.”)

      1. Who is speaking in Isaiah 47? (The wicked who think
        they are like gods.)

    5. Are you seeing a theme here? The righteous depend upon
      God. The wicked depend upon themselves. When sin arises
      in your life, on whom do you depend? When troubles arise
      in your life, to whom or what do you turn?

  3. The End of Fear

    1. Read Zephaniah 3:11-12. What attitude does God despise?
      What attitude characterizes His people? (This is the flip
      side of what we just discussed. God is against the proud
      and haughty. He will remove them and leave the meek and

      1. In so many ways I know I am proud. Is it mere pride
        that is the problem? Look again at Zephaniah 3:12.
        (The problem seem to be pride that arises from self-dependance. The central question is whether we
        depend upon God or depend upon self. Those who
        remain are those who depend upon God.)

    2. Read Zephaniah 3:13. Are you nervous? Are you afraid?

      1. Read Revelation 21:8. What is the first sin that is
        mentioned? (The “cowardly.” It seems very odd that
        being a coward seems worse than being a murder!)

      2. What does Zephaniah 3:13 suggest is God’s goal for
        us? (There is a very strong link between humbly
        depending upon God and having no fear. God’s goal
        for our life is to live without fear. Being a coward
        shows a lack of trust in God.)

    3. Read Zephaniah 3:14-15. Remember that the sins of the
      people got them in trouble. God sent very wicked people
      to punish the mildly wicked. Must we continue to suffer
      for our sins? (No. God wants to take away our punishment.
      He will take away our fear.)

    4. Read Zephaniah 3:16. How frightened are you if you cannot
      raise your hands in defense? (You are not only fearful,
      you have given up.)

    5. Read Zephaniah 3:17. Is God greater than our problems?
      (He is “mighty” to save!)

      1. When you forgive someone, are you grudging about it?
        Are you reluctant to forgive?

      2. What is God’s attitude about forgiveness? (He
        delights in our dependance. He wants to put His arms
        around us and “quiet [our fears] with His love.” He
        breaks out in singing when you rely upon Him because
        He is celebrating!)

        1. Can you imagine what it is like to have God
          break into singing because of you?

    6. Read Zephaniah 3:19-20. Recall the problem with pride?
      What does God say He will give us? (Praise and honor.)

      1. How do you explain this? Doesn’t praise and honor
        create pride? (Our “honor” comes not from what we
        do, but from what God does. When we get this
        confused, and start crediting ourselves, we get into

    7. Friend, why not make your life easier? If you give up
      pride and vanity about your own works, and humbly depend
      upon God, He will take away your fear. He will give you
      peace. He will start singing about you!

  4. Next week: First Things First! (Haggai).