Zephaniah 1 … Consider the Fire of His Jealousy

Neither their silver nor their gold
Will be able to deliver them
On the day of the Lord’s wrath;
And all the earth will be devoured
In the fire of His jealousy,
For He will make a complete end,
Indeed a terrifying one,
Of all the inhabitants of the earth,

We find ourselves back in prophetic announcements of God’s coming judgment against Judah.

“So I will stretch out My hand against Judah
And against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
And I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place,
And the names of the idolatrous priests along with the priests,”

After our time in 1 John, I attempted to steady myself for delving once again into prophecies of His judgment. And I was immediately reminded that God does not change. He is the Word of Life, the Propitiation for Our Sins, Perfect Love, and the True God and Eternal Life. And we are not leaving the God we saw in 1 John behind. But in reality, that is exactly what the people of Judah did. So before we dig in, a little background will help us establish our bearings.

From NIV Study Bible:

The prophet Zephaniah was evidently a person of considerable social standing in Judah and was probably related to the royal line. The prophecy opens with a statement of the author’s ancestry (1:1), which in itself is an unusual feature of the Hebrew prophetic tradition. Zephaniah was a fourth-generation descendant of Hezekiah, a notable king of Judah from 715 to 686 b.c. Apart from this statement, nothing more is said about his background. Whereas the prophet Micah dealt carefully and sympathetically with the problems of the common people of Judah, Zephaniah’s utterances show a much greater familiarity with court circles and current political issues. Zephaniah was probably familiar with the writings of such prominent eighth-century prophets as Isaiah and Amos, whose utterances he reflects, and he may also have been aware of the ministry of the young Jeremiah.

According to 1:1, Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of King Josiah (640–609 b.c.), making him a contemporary of Jeremiah, Nahum and perhaps Habakkuk. His prophecy is probably to be dated relatively early in Josiah’s reign, before that king’s attempt at reform (and while conditions brought about by the reigns of Manasseh and Amon still prevailed) and before the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal’s death in 627 (while Assyria was still powerful, though threatened).

The intent of the author was to announce to Judah God’s approaching judgment…Ultimately, however, the destruction prophesied by Zephaniah came at the hands of the Babylonians after they had overpowered Assyria and brought that ancient power to its end.

Zephaniah’s main theme is the coming of the day of the Lord (see notes on Isa 2:11,17,20; Joel 1:15; 2:2; Am 5:18; 8:9), when God will severely punish the nations, including apostate Judah. Zephaniah portrays the stark horror of that ordeal with the same graphic imagery found elsewhere in the prophets. But he also makes it clear that God will yet be merciful toward his people; like many other prophets, he ends his pronouncements of doom on the positive note of Judah’s restoration by Yahweh, ”King of Israel” (3:15).

The good news is that this book ends on a positive note, for His remnant; but that in no wise eradicates the Truth that the day is coming when He will bring the Fire of His Jealousy.

I tried to concoct a scene in my mind of me coming home and telling my husband that I think it would be a good idea to include some other men in our marriage. Should I expect him to go along with this? I dare say that no one would deny him the right to be furious. So why then do we deny that same right to Holy God?

People can get so offended when they hear of God’s anger. It just doesn’t line up with the loving god of their own minds. But I venture to say these same offended ones would not be so understanding if they were asked to accept their spouse choosing to engage in adultery.

Yes, God is Love; but that does not eliminate His other attributes. He Is Holy and He is Just, and all that He does is in keeping with all that He Is.

And today we read of His fury as He speaks of His great judgment that will sweep across the earth, almost like the Great Flood in the days of Noah, but this time it is depicted not by water, but by Fire.

The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them… 17 Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish,” (Genesis 6:7, 17).

“I will completely remove all things
From the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
“I will remove man and beast;
I will remove the birds of the sky
And the fish of the sea,
And the ruins along with the wicked;
And I will cut off man from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord…
18 Neither their silver nor their gold
Will be able to deliver them
On the day of the Lord’s wrath;
And all the earth will be devoured
In the fire of His jealousy,
For He will make a complete end,
Indeed a terrifying one,
Of all the inhabitants of the earth,”
(1:2-3, 18).

Consider the Fire of His Jealousy

Jealousy: 7068. קִנְאָה qinʾāh: A feminine noun meaning zeal, jealousy. This word comes from the verb qānāʾ (7065), meaning to be jealous or zealous, and describes an intense fervor, passion, and emotion that is greater than a person’s wrath and anger (Prov. 27:4)… Most often, however, this word describes God’s zeal, which will accomplish His purpose (2 Kgs. 19:31; Isa. 9:7[6]; 37:32); and will be the instrument of His wrath in judgment (Ps. 79:5; Ezek. 36:5, 6; Zeph. 3:8), Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.

This noun, Jealousy, and the adjective, Jealous, both stem from the Hebrew verb, “to be jealous or zealous,” and is critical to our understanding of God’s Jealousy.

 Jealous: 7067. קַנָּא qannāʾ: An adjective meaning jealous. This word comes from the verb qānāʾ (7065), meaning to be jealous or zealous. In every instance of this word, it is used to describe the character of the Lord. He is a jealous God who will not tolerate the worship of other gods (Ex. 20:5; Deut. 5:9). This word is always used to describe God’s attitude toward the worship of false gods, which arouses His jealousy and anger in judgment against the idol worshipers (Deut. 4:24; 6:15). So closely is this characteristic associated with God that His name is Jealous (Ex. 34:14), Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.

It is not the least bit unreasonable to think of God as being Jealous; He claims that Himself.

Next year, I will celebrate thirty-nine years of marriage. There are only two people in our covenant relationship, and neither of us would welcome a third party into the deal. I’m thankful we are not plagued with suspicious jealousy over one another, but we both jealously guard our union passionately. That is a major contributing factor to the longevity of our marriage. And we certainly would not stand idly by and tolerate infidelity in our marriage; I dare say no one would.

And as we see today, God is done. He has repeatedly warned His people, offered them numerous opportunities to repent, but now, His passionate desire for faithfulness from His people would become His passionate demonstration of fury against those who claim Him as their God, and yet bow down to other gods.

 “And those who bow down on the housetops to the host of heaven,
And those who bow down and swear to the Lord and yet swear by Milcom [god of the Ammonites]
, ” (1:5).

And as He spoke through Zephaniah, the Fire of His Jealousy would break out and burn up the wickedness of the land.

Fire: 784. אֵשׁ ʾēš: A common feminine noun meaning fire. The word is used in various ways: It refers to any fire that breaks out and burns up something, whether people, things, or animals (Ex. 22:6[5])…The Lord’s anger could be depicted as burning like fire (Ps. 89:46[47]… Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.

In all three chapters of Zephaniah, a reference to burning judgement like Fire is made. Fires spread, devouring everything in their paths, and none can deliver from the Fire of His Jealousy.

Neither their silver nor their gold
Will be able to deliver them
On the day of the Lord’s wrath;
And all the earth will be devoured
In the fire of His jealousy,
For He will make a complete end,
Indeed a terrifying one,
Of all the inhabitants of the earth,

Before the decree takes effect—
The day passes like the chaff—
Before the burning anger of the Lord comes upon you,
Before the day of the Lord’s anger comes upon you,
(Zephaniah 2:2).

“Therefore wait for Me,” declares the Lord,
“For the day when I rise up as a witness.
Indeed, My decision is to gather nations,
To assemble kingdoms,
To pour out on them My indignation,
All My burning anger;
For all the earth will be devoured
By the fire of My zeal,”
(Zephaniah 3:8).

And today we end with the reality that He has decreed the Fire of His Jealousy, and it is coming to destroy; and it is coming quickly.

Near is the great day of the Lord,
Near and coming very quickly;
Listen, the day of the Lord!
In it the warrior cries out bitterly.
15 A day of wrath is that day,
A day of trouble and distress,
A day of destruction and desolation,
A day of darkness and gloom,
A day of clouds and thick darkness,
16 A day of trumpet and battle cry
Against the fortified cities
And the high corner towers.
17 I will bring distress on men
So that they will walk like the blind,
Because they have sinned against the Lord;
And their blood will be poured,

How do we respond to the Fire of His Jealousy?

We will hear hope tomorrow, for as it was in the days of Noah, there will be a remnant who find His favor.

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord, (Genesis 6:8).

But today, we are left to contemplate the Fire of His Jealousy. And that is not a bad place to be left; actually, it’s good place to remind us that He is a Jealous God, and remind us of the advice from John’s last words in his first letter that we considered yesterday.

Little children, guard yourselves from idols, (1 John 5:21).

God’s greatest commandment is that we Love Him with all that we are.

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might,” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment,” (Matthew 22:35-38).

Have you ever wondered why God commands us to love Him? Does God need our love? Of course not; He is the Creator of all life and He Himself needs nothing.

“The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things,” (Acts 17:24-25).

Loving God protects us, for when we love Him we will keep His commands and walk in His victorious Will for our lives.

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith, (1 John 5:3-4).

But how had the people of Judah fallen so far out of love with God? From our time in the Old Testament, one key element in their unfaithfulness emerges time and time again. God’s people forgot. They forgot all God had done for them. Psalm 106, that begins as a praise for God’s lovingkindness and His mighty deeds in rescuing Israel and leading them out of Egypt and through the wilderness, reminds us of why the majority did not enter the Promised Land. They forgot.

They forgot God their Savior,
Who had done great things in Egypt,
(Psalm 106:21).

Oh, may we never forget what great things He has done for us. Let us commit to diligently guard our soul from idols, as we choose to daily remember all His blessings.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits; (Psalm 103:1-2).

And may we daily choose to remember the Lord, Whose Name is Jealous, that we would worship only Him.

“for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God,” (Exodus 34:14).

Let us jealously guard our union with God by remembering the Fire of His Jealousy, that we would love Him so passionately as to offer Him all that we are as a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to Holy God.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship, (Romans 12:1).

Let’s Grow Together!

Leave a Reply