Lessons From the Scriptures: Zephaniah 1:1–3:20
Seek Jehovah and Serve Him Wholeheartedly
SOME 50 years before the Babylonians devastated apostate Judah, Jehovah declared through his prophet Zephaniah: “I shall without fail finish everything off the surface of the ground.” (1:1, 2) But God also showed his people the way to safety. (2:3; 3:9) In this regard, the book of Zephaniah contains valuable lessons for all who now face “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.”—Revelation 16:14.
Jehovah’s Day Is Near
With Jehovah’s day so near, any who have drawn away from God should quickly return to him. Among the ones God will “finish off” are “those who are drawing back from following Jehovah.” They have turned away and no longer concern themselves with God’s will. What a dangerous situation! It should be corrected immediately.—Zephaniah 1:3-11.
Material wealth cannot provide security in Jehovah’s day. Some who claim to serve Jehovah busy themselves in material pursuits, snuggling into a comfortable position. But what self-delusion! Their material things will offer no security in “that day.”—Zephaniah 1:12-18.
To be concealed in Jehovah’s day, more than superficial knowledge of the Scriptures is needed. “Meek ones” who have “practiced His own judicial decision” are admonished to ‘seek Jehovah, seek righteousness, seek meekness.’ Only those who have “endured to the end” will be saved.—Zephaniah 2:1-3; Matthew 24:13.
Nations that oppress Jehovah’s people today will suffer destruction. They will have the same experience as Moab, Ammon, Assyria, and other nations around Judah. Destruction also awaits Babylon the Great. (Revelation 18:4-8) How this encourages us to press on in declaring God’s judgment!—Zephaniah 2:4-15.
A Restored People
Jehovah is now preparing his people for survival. Have you abandoned Babylonish ideas and begun to speak the “pure language” of precious Bible truth? Have you ‘called on Jehovah’s name’ by dedicating yourself to him? Are you ‘bringing a gift,’ that is, “the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name”? For survival, you must serve “shoulder to shoulder” with Jehovah’s dedicated people.—Zephaniah 3:1-10; Romans 10:13-15; Hebrews 13:15.
For salvation, we must seek Jehovah and hold high his holy name. Haughtiness, unrighteousness, and lies have no place among his people. (Ephesians 4:25-32) Only “humble and lowly” ones will be saved when he sanctifies his name.—Zephaniah 3:11-20.
Lessons From the Scriptures: Haggai 1:1–2:23
THE book of Haggai takes us to 520 B.C.E., 17 years after a Jewish remnant returned to Jerusalem to rebuild Jehovah’s temple. (Haggai 1:1) That was a time for everyone to set his heart on God’s work. Yet, Jehovah found it necessary to send the prophet Haggai to remind His people of their obligation. Are there lessons in this for us?
Put Jehovah’s Work First
Never put material interests ahead of spiritual duties. Jews who returned to their homeland had reason for concern over economic uncertainties, hostile neighbors, and so forth. But these were not the causes of their negligence, in view of their luxurious living conditions. Only after being roused by Haggai did they begin to work on the temple. Likewise today, we need to ‘set our hearts upon our ways’ and be sure that we support God’s work to the fullest extent possible.—Haggai 1:2-15.
Jehovah blesses the efforts of those who do his work wholeheartedly. God would bless the work of Zerubbabel and other Jews in completing the temple, and its glory would surpass that of the former house. With “a great crowd” responding to the Kingdom message today, “the desirable things of all the nations” are coming to Jehovah’s spiritual temple, and he is ‘filling his house with glory.’—Haggai 2:1-9; Revelation 7:9.
Wholehearted Service Required
Our worship is of value only if we are clean, our motives are pure, and we are serving Jehovah with a complete heart. Neglecting God’s house made the Jews unclean, but he would bless them as soon as temple work began. So, if we are to enjoy Jehovah’s blessing, we must correct anything needing attention and set our heart on his work. (Compare Numbers 19:11-13.) As we wait for God to rock the heavens and the earth, overthrowing kingdoms, let us follow the antitypical Zerubbabel, Jesus Christ, and share wholeheartedly in Jehovah’s work.—Haggai 2:10-23.
[Box on page 30]
BIBLE TEXTS EXAMINED
○ Zephaniah 1:5—Malcam, possibly the same as Milcom, Molech, or Moloch, was the principal false god of the Ammonites. (1 Kings 11:5, 7) The worship of Molech included disgusting child sacrifice and was condemned by the Law.—Leviticus 20:2-5; Acts 7:42, 43.
○ Zephaniah 2:14—As foretold, desolated Nineveh’s toppled pillars and their capitals became places for birds and beasts. Birds and likely the wind ‘sang’ in deserted windows. Doorways and even palace interiors were devastated.
○ Zephaniah 3:9—A common human language does not guarantee unity, as is shown by the wars fought between people of the same tongue. The “pure language” is Scriptural truth, “the pattern of healthful words.” (2 Timothy 1:13) It transcends pride, glorifies God, and unifies all who speak it.
○ Haggai 1:6—Since the Jews were neglecting Jehovah’s temple, they did not have his blessing. Hence, they sowed much but brought in few crops and lacked enough food and drink to satisfy their needs. Their clothing was of insufficient quantity or quality to keep them warm, and wage earners seemed to be putting funds into a money bag full of holes. Unlike those Jews, let us never neglect divine interests.—Proverbs 10:22; Nehemiah 10:39.
○ Haggai 2:9—Whereas “the former” temple, built by Solomon, stood for 420 years, the “later house” was used for 584 years (515 B.C.E.-70 C.E.). So the second temple lasted longer. More worshipers flocked to it, as at Pentecost 33 C.E., when Jews and proselytes gathered to it from beyond Judea. Moreover, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, taught in the “later house.” These factors gave it greater religious glory.