Hidden in the Day of Jehovah’s Anger
“Seek Jehovah, . . . Seek righteousness, seek meekness. Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.”—Zeph. 2:3.
1. Of what interest today are Zephaniah’s name and prophecy?
‘HIDDEN of Jehovah’—that is the thought behind the name of God’s prophet Zephaniah, which name means “Jehovah has concealed.” Is it your desire to be hidden of Jehovah? It should be, for the world of today is plunging ever deeper into distress and hopelessness. Not for long will the righteous God, Jehovah, permit such conditions to remain. His day of Armageddon is at hand. All of us should be deeply interested in Zephaniah’s prophecy, for it has much to say about that day of decision. It shows how we may find the place of refuge, so as to be ‘hidden of Jehovah.’
2. Why is the prophecy anything but minor in its impact?
2 Zephaniah prophesied during the early part of the reign of King Josiah of Judah, which began in 659 B.C.E., and, hence, about 50 years before Jehovah’s desolating of Judah and Jerusalem. Due to the brevity of his prophecy, Zephaniah is often referred to as one of the “Minor Prophets,” but the impact of his prophecy is anything but minor. It carried, in Zephaniah’s day, a divine message that could not be ignored. Likewise, it looks down to our 20th century with a dynamic warning that must be heeded by all persons who hope to find security during the impending day of the burning anger of Jehovah. It is part of Jehovah’s powerful “prophetic word” that the apostle Peter likens to “a lamp shining in a dark place.”—2 Pet. 1:19; see also Romans 15:4.
3. (a) How did Zephaniah’s prophesying bring immediate benefit? (b) Why could this not be lasting?
3 Zephaniah, it seems, was the great-great-grandson of faithful King Hezekiah. As a prophet with royal connections, he would have to be courageous indeed to proclaim Jehovah’s burning judgments against the princes of Judah. (Zeph. 1:1, 8) His prophesying apparently had healthful results in the days of youthful King Josiah, who purged the land of false religion and came to be known for “acts of loving-kindness, according to what is written in the law of Jehovah.” (2 Chron. 34:3, 14, 19, 33; 35:26) As a result, there was a temporary stay of Jehovah’s execution of judgment. However, Josiah’s righteous course did not remove the wickedness that had engulfed his people, nor did it atone for the sins of his grandfather Manasseh, who had “filled Jerusalem with innocent blood.” (2 Ki. 24:3, 4) Jehovah’s day of reckoning was at hand!
“THE UTTERANCE OF JEHOVAH”
4. (a) With what decisive utterance does the prophecy begin? (b) What does it identify as the root of Judah’s troubles, and how?
4 Through Zephaniah, Jehovah made it plain that he would bring wickedness to a complete end. The prophecy opens with the words:
“‘I shall without fail finish everything off the surface of the ground,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.”
It was to be an extermination, a rooting out of all things detestable in Jehovah’s eyes. This “utterance” went straight to the point in showing what was back of Judah’s troubles—false religion! For Jehovah went on to say:
“I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and I will cut off from this place the remaining ones of the Baal, the name of the foreign-god priests along with the priests, and those who are bowing down upon the roofs to the army of the heavens, and those who are bowing down, making sworn oaths to Jehovah and making sworn oaths by Malcam; and those who are drawing back from following Jehovah and who have not sought Jehovah and have not inquired of him.”—Zeph. 1:2-6.
5. (a) Why did Baalism have no rightful place among God’s people? (b) What detestable practices did it include?
5 What wickedness! Those Judeans had abandoned the pure worship of Jehovah to follow the Baalism of surrounding nations. Baalism—with its human sacrifices, its ritual prostitution, its worship of dumb idols and its formalistic prayers for material prosperity—had no rightful place among Jehovah’s worshipers. (Num. 25:1-5; Jer. 7:30, 31; 11:17; 19:3-5) False religion had led them into all kinds of wrong practices. Judah’s priests had violated the First Commandment by fellowshiping with “foreign-god priests.” (Ex. 20:2, 3) Following the bad example of King Manasseh, they worshiped “the army of the heavens” and looked to spirit mediums for guidance. (2 Chron. 33:1-6) In line with the false premise that ‘there is good in all religion,’ they were equating the idol-god Malcam with Jehovah. Because of drawing away from the living God, they had developed “a wicked heart lacking faith.”—Heb. 3:12.
6. What striking correspondencies do we find between practices in Judah and in Christendom today?
6 Is it any different in Christendom today? The nations of Christendom still carry a tremendous bloodguilt, because of the millions of lives sacrificed on the altar of war during this century. Christendom’s clergy on both sides supported those wars, and their bloodguilt remains. (Compare Jeremiah 2:34, 35.) Just as the Judeans indulged in all manner of sexual immorality, so we find the peoples of Christendom today involved in premarital sex, promiscuity, wife-swapping, divorce, homosexuality and the like, while many of the clergy look the other way or even condone such practices. How contrary to the Bible standard!—1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Heb. 13:4.
7. (a) Today, what parallels do we find to the spiritism and interfaith practiced by the apostate Judeans? (b) In this regard, what timely counsel is found in God’s Word?
7 Astrology, fortune-telling, spiritism—these also find a place among professed Christians. Under the pretext that ‘all religions lead to the same goal,’ there is wide practice of interfaith in Christendom today. Superstitions of false religion are mixed in with the Bible. Thus, in place of obeying Jesus’ command to observe once each year the Memorial of his death, Christendom highlights Easter, named after the goddess of sensual love, Ashtoreth (Astarte, Greek), incorporating fertility rites and symbols, such as rabbits and Easter eggs. Any who have been involved in such practices would do well to follow the good advice of 1 Samuel 7:3: “If it is with all your heart you are returning to Jehovah, put away the foreign gods from your midst and also the Ashtoreth images, and direct your heart unswervingly to Jehovah and serve him alone, and he will deliver you.” Yes, respect for Jehovah, his Word and his requirements is essential for us if we desire to be among those invited to share in his day of vindication. It is as Zephaniah himself observes:
“Keep silence before the Sovereign Lord Jehovah; for the day of Jehovah is near, for Jehovah has prepared a sacrifice; he has sanctified his invited ones.”—Zeph. 1:7.
8. Against what dangerous thinking does “the word of Jehovah” warn?
8 In Zephaniah’s day, Jehovah’s examination of his professed worshipers was thorough. Thus “the word of Jehovah” goes on to say:
“It must occur at that time that I shall carefully search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will give attention to the men who are congealing upon their dregs and who are saying in their heart, ‘Jehovah will not do good, and he will not do bad.’” (Zeph. 1:1, 12)
Such self-centered ones were content with the status quo. They did not want anyone to stir up the dregs in their wine vats. They were like faithless Christendom today, and also some who have fallen away from worshiping Jehovah, saying, ‘Where is the proof that these really are the “last days”?’ Such thinking proved disastrous in Zephaniah’s day, and it can be even more disastrous in our day, as we face up to the end of the entire world system of things.—2 Pet. 3:3, 4, 10.
9. As in the days of Judah, why is it so important now to cultivate a spiritual rather than a materialistic outlook?
9 Concerning such faithless, materialistic persons, Jehovah goes on to say:
“Their wealth must come to be for pillage and their houses for a desolate waste. And they will build houses, but they will not have occupancy; and they will plant vineyards, but they will not drink the wine of them.” (Zeph. 1:13)
Worldly possessions avail nothing in a day of divine judgment! Rather than seek such material things today, how much more practical it is to cultivate a Scriptural outlook on life, and for young people to equip themselves for full-time service to Jehovah! Happy always are those who choose “treasures in heaven” instead of ‘storing up treasures upon the earth’!—Matt. 6:19-21; Eccl. 12:1; 1 Tim. 6:6-8.
‘THE GREAT DAY IS NEAR’
10, 11. How, and why, does Jehovah ‘hurry up’ his great day?
10 Next, the Sovereign Lord himself assures us:
11 Let no one think that God’s judging of this wicked world is far away in the future. Today, destruction of all human life on earth is threatening, but that is something that Jehovah will not permit! It is the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, and not politically minded men, who will bring an end to this madness of the nuclear age. He will ‘hurry up’ his day of Armageddon. Any “mighty man” who tries to thwart that execution of judgment is doomed to cry bitterly, for Jehovah himself declares:
“That day is a day of fury, a day of distress and of anguish, a day of storm and of desolation, a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick gloom, a day of horn and of alarm signal, against the fortified cities and against the high corner towers.”—Zeph. 1:15, 16.
12. Why can we be happy that there will be a selective destruction on that day?
12 The fortifications of this militarized world, even if they could defy nuclear missiles, will be useless against the weaponry of Jehovah’s heavenly arsenal. Moreover, it will be a selective destruction, in line with David’s prophetic words: “Jehovah is guarding all those loving him, but all the wicked ones he will annihilate.” (Ps. 145:20) It will be a terrible day of judgment, indeed, for those who have not kept respectful silence before Jehovah. For through Zephaniah he next declares:
“I will cause distress to mankind, and they will certainly walk like blind men; because it is against Jehovah that they have sinned. And their blood will actually be poured out like dust, and their bowels like the dung.”—Zeph. 1:17.
13. What investments will avail nothing in the day of fury?
13 What will a large bank account, even in a “neutral” land, or hoarded gold, or large property investment, or subterranean hideouts avail in that day? Nothing! The Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself makes that clear, saying:
“Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them in the day of Jehovah’s fury; but by the fire of his zeal the whole earth will be devoured, because he will make an extermination, indeed a terrible one, of all the inhabitants of the earth.” (Zeph. 1:18)
In this final day of decision, ‘all the earth’ is included in God’s final execution of judgment. But there is a way of escape! What is that?
“GATHER YOURSELVES TOGETHER”
14. What is the evidence of failure to heed the appeal of Zephaniah 2:1 (a) by Judah? (b) by Christendom?
14 As if in final appeal to his own people, God’s prophet himself now urges would-be survivors, saying:
“Gather yourselves together, yes, do the gathering, O nation not paling in shame.” (Zeph. 2:1)
But did Judah as a nation respond favorably to that appeal? Jehovah’s fiery execution of that nation in 607 B.C.E. shows that they did not. They continued in their shameful course. But there were individuals—Judeans and others, including Jeremiah, Ebed-melech and the house of Jonadab—who survived because of heeding the word of Jehovah. (Jer. 39:11, 12, 16-18; 35:18, 19) The situation is similar today. Shamelessly, Christendom has opposed the Kingdom message that Jehovah’s Witnesses have preached throughout its realm. It has rejected God’s kingdom by Christ Jesus as the only hope of the nations, substituting therefor a man-made makeshift, known today as the United Nations. Any gathering that Christendom does is only to destruction at Armageddon.—Ps. 2:2, 3; Rev. 16:13-16.
15. What other gathering has been proceeding in modern times?
15 However, another gathering has been proceeding in the “final part of the days,” where we now are. First, there has been a gathering, principally out of Christendom, of true anointed Christians. This has been followed by a gathering “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues,” of an innumerable “great crowd,” for survival through the impending tribulation. (Rev. 7:1-4, 9, 14; Isa. 2:2, 3) Who make up this “great crowd”? They are meek individuals who are willing to humble themselves in heeding the counsel of God’s prophet.
16, 17. What countdown is now proceeding, and hence, what call must be answered for survival?
16 Relentlessly, the countdown to Armageddon is ticking away. Timely, then, is the warning of God’s prophet to these meek individuals:
“Before the statute gives birth to anything, before the day has passed by just like chaff, before there comes upon you people the burning anger of Jehovah, before there comes upon you the day of Jehovah’s anger,”
you must act!—Zeph. 2:2.
17 It is the statute and decree of Jehovah that Christendom must perish, just as faithless Jerusalem met up with extermination in 607 B.C.E., and for like reasons. (Ezek. 22:3-5) She is bloodguilty, and her clergy have abandoned the law of Jehovah. Her religion is part of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, concerning which the apostle John wrote: “By your spiritistic practice all the nations were misled. Yes, in her was found the blood of prophets and of holy ones and of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.” It is no wonder that the call has gone out to those desiring to please God: “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues”!—Rev. 18:4, 23, 24.
18. What further action must meek ones take?
18 However, is it sufficient to become separate from the world and its false religion? Zephaniah shows that meek ones must take further, positive action.
19. What is involved in ‘seeking Jehovah’?
19 First in order, says God’s prophet:
“Seek Jehovah, all you meek ones of the earth, who have practiced His own judicial decision.” (Zeph. 2:3a)
They must seek to know Jehovah, along with his marvelous qualities and purposes, even as his Son, Jesus Christ, has explained him. Their humbly doing this brings great reward, as Jesus himself said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 1:18; 17:3) Their seeking Jehovah will lead to their loving him with their ‘whole heart, soul, mind and strength,’ and to their following Jesus’ example in performing the “sacred service” that Jehovah requires of them.—Mark 12:29, 30; 1 Pet. 2:21; Matt. 4:17; Rev. 7:15.
20. What kind of righteousness should we seek, and with what confidence?
20 Next, says Zephaniah:
“Seek righteousness.” (Zeph. 2:3b)
No, not Pharisaical self-righteousness! It does no one any good to “have a zeal for God” if this is not in accord with accurate knowledge of his Word. We need to ‘know the righteousness of God in order to subject ourselves to that righteousness.’ We need to conform our lives to God’s standards—not man’s—and to put on the Christian personality that is “created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Rom. 10:2, 3; Eph. 4:22-24) This true righteousness and loyalty require that we do not let the loose thinking or ways of the world seep into our lives. As Jesus advised we need to “keep on, then, seeking first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness,” confident that, as we serve him, he will provide what is necessary to sustain our lives and protect us through the day of Jehovah’s anger.—Matt. 6:31-33.
21. (a) How does the prophecy emphasize the quality of meekness? (b) In this regard, what should we watch carefully?
21 Thirdly, Jehovah’s prophet says:
“Seek meekness.” (Zeph. 2:3c)
Already Zephaniah has described those who will heed his prophecy as the “meek ones of the earth.” So now he places double emphasis on this quality. How essential it is that we continue to “seek meekness,” as we are surrounded by the proud, demanding, opinionative, “me-first” attitude of the world! There is always the danger that some of this attitude may rub off on us. We need to be on guard, always willing to accept discipline from Jehovah and his organization, and to conform ourselves to his will. We should never think that ours is a case of “once saved, always saved,” for the reward of salvation is for those who ‘continue in the truth.’—Prov. 22:4; John 8:31, 32; 3 John 3, 4.
22. (a) Why does Zephaniah say “probably”? (b) What will be the final result to those ‘hidden of Jehovah’?
22 To the “meek ones of the earth,” Zephaniah now says:
“Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.” (Zeph. 2:3d)
Why “probably”? It is because final salvation depends on the course of the individual, just as Jesus indicated, saying: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” Endure, then, all meek ones, in humbly doing God’s will for this day, which includes preaching this good news of God’s established kingdom in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations. (Matt. 24:13, 14) So doing, you may be among those ‘hidden of Jehovah’ in the day of his anger. The psalmist David writes of such ones: “The meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—Ps. 37:11.
[Box on page 23]
“IT MAY BE ONLY A MATTER OF TIME”
In his retirement speech, former president of the United States Jimmy Carter acknowledged concerning nuclear armaments: “The danger is becoming greater. As the arsenals of the superpowers grow in size and sophistication and as other governments—perhaps even, in the future, dozens of governments—acquire these weapons, it may be only a matter of time before madness, desperation, greed or miscalculation lets loose the terrible force.” And already there is plenty of madness in the world! An editorial in the New York “Times” of January 31, 1981, warned that there is “A Year, at Most, for Arms Control” by the superpowers, or else they will lose “all foreseeable chances of limiting nuclear arms.”