Seek Jehovah Before the Day of His Anger
“Seek Jehovah . . . Seek righteousness, seek meekness. Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.”—ZEPHANIAH 2:3.
1. What was the spiritual condition of Judah when Zephaniah began his prophetic work?
ZEPHANIAH began his prophetic work at a critical time in Judah’s history. The spiritual condition of the nation was at a low ebb. Instead of putting their trust in Jehovah, the people were looking to pagan priests and astrologers for guidance. Baal worship, with its fertility rites, was rampant in the land. The civil leaders—the princes, the nobles, and the judges—were oppressing the very ones they were supposed to protect. (Zephaniah 1:9; 3:3) No wonder Jehovah decided to ‘stretch out his hand’ against Judah and Jerusalem in order to destroy them!—Zephaniah 1:4.
2. What hope was there for God’s faithful servants in Judah?
2 As bad as the situation was, however, there was a glimmer of hope. Amon’s son Josiah was now on the throne. Although he was a mere boy, Josiah genuinely loved Jehovah. If the new king restored pure worship in Judah, how heartening that would be for the few who were faithfully serving God! Others might be moved to join them and also be preserved in the day of Jehovah’s anger.
Requirements for Preservation
3, 4. What three requirements must be met in order for an individual to be spared in “the day of Jehovah’s anger”?
3 Could some individuals really be spared in the day of Jehovah’s anger? Yes, provided that they met the three conditions outlined at Zephaniah 2:2, 3. As we read these verses, let us take special note of these requirements. Zephaniah wrote: “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, seek Jehovah, all you meek ones of the earth, who have practiced His own judicial decision. Seek righteousness, seek meekness. Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.”
4 For preservation, then, a person had to (1) seek Jehovah, (2) seek righteousness, and (3) seek meekness. These requirements should be of great interest to us today. Why? Because just as Judah and Jerusalem faced a day of reckoning in the seventh century B.C.E., the nations of Christendom—in fact, all wicked ones—are heading for a showdown with Jehovah God at the coming “great tribulation.” (Matthew 24:21) Any who desire to be concealed at that time must take decisive action now. How? By seeking Jehovah, seeking righteousness, and seeking meekness before it is too late!
5. What is involved in ‘seeking Jehovah’ today?
5 You might say: ‘I am a dedicated, baptized servant of God, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Have I not already met those requirements?’ Actually, more is involved than dedicating ourselves to Jehovah. Israel was a dedicated nation, but in Zephaniah’s day the people of Judah were not living up to that dedication. As a result, the nation was eventually cast off. ‘Seeking Jehovah’ today involves developing and maintaining a warm personal relationship with him in association with his earthly organization. It means getting to know how God views matters and being attentive to his feelings. We seek Jehovah when we carefully study his Word, meditate upon it, and apply its counsel in life. As we also seek Jehovah’s guidance in fervent prayer and follow the leading of his holy spirit, our relationship with him deepens and we are impelled to serve him ‘with all our heart, soul, and vital force.’—Deuteronomy 6:5; Galatians 5:22-25; Philippians 4:6, 7; Revelation 4:11.
6. How do we “seek righteousness,” and why is this possible even in this world?
6 The second requirement mentioned at Zephaniah 2:3 is to “seek righteousness.” Most of us made important changes so that we could qualify for Christian baptism, but we must continue to uphold God’s righteous standards throughout our life. Some who started out well in this respect have allowed themselves to be sullied by the world. It is not easy to seek righteousness, for we are surrounded by people who view sexual immorality, lying, and other sins as normal. Yet, a strong desire to please Jehovah can overpower any tendency to seek the world’s approval by trying to blend in with it. Judah lost God’s favor because of mimicking her ungodly neighboring nations. Instead of imitating the world, then, let us be “imitators of God,” cultivating “the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.”—Ephesians 4:24; 5:1.
7. How do we “seek meekness”?
7 The third point made at Zephaniah 2:3 is that if we want to be hidden in the day of Jehovah’s anger, we must “seek meekness.” Each day, we rub shoulders with men, women, and young people who are anything but meek. To them, being mild-tempered is a flaw. Submissiveness is considered a serious weakness. They are demanding, selfish, and opinionated, believing that their personal “rights” and preferences must be accommodated at all costs. How sad it would be if some of those attitudes were to rub off on us! This is the time to “seek meekness.” How? By being submissive to God, humbly accepting his discipline and conforming to his will.
Why “Probably” Concealed?
8. What is indicated by the use of the word “probably” at Zephaniah 2:3?
8 Notice that Zephaniah 2:3 says: “Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.” Why is the word “probably” used when addressing the “meek ones of the earth”? Well, those meek ones had taken positive steps, but there was no room for self-confidence. They had not come to the end of their life course in faithfulness. It was conceivable that some of them might fall into sin. The same is true of us. Jesus said: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13) Yes, salvation in the day of Jehovah’s anger depends upon our continuing to do what is right in his eyes. Is that your firm resolve?
9. What upright steps were taken by young King Josiah?
9 Apparently in response to Zephaniah’s words, King Josiah was moved to “seek Jehovah.” The Scriptures say: “In the eighth year of his reigning, while [Josiah] was still a boy [about 16 years old], he started to search for [or, “to seek,” New International Version] the God of David his forefather.” (2 Chronicles 34:3) Josiah also kept on ‘seeking righteousness,’ for we read: “In the twelfth year [when Josiah was about 20 years old] he started to cleanse Judah and Jerusalem from the high places and the sacred poles and the graven images and the molten statues. Further, they pulled down before him the altars of the Baals.” (2 Chronicles 34:3, 4) Josiah ‘sought meekness’ too, humbly acting to please Jehovah by cleansing the land of idolatry and other false religious practices. How other meek ones must have rejoiced over those developments!
10. What happened in Judah in 607 B.C.E., but who were spared?
10 Many Jews turned back to Jehovah during Josiah’s reign. After the king’s death, however, most returned to their old ways—to practices totally unacceptable to God. As Jehovah had decreed, the Babylonians overran Judah and destroyed her capital city, Jerusalem, in 607 B.C.E. Yet, all was not lost. The prophet Jeremiah, the Ethiopian Ebed-melech, the descendants of Jonadab, and others faithful to God were concealed in that day of Jehovah’s anger.—Jeremiah 35:18, 19; 39:11, 12, 15-18.
God’s Enemies—Take Note!
11. Why is it a challenge to remain faithful to God today, but what would enemies of Jehovah’s people do well to consider?
11 While we await the day of Jehovah’s anger upon this wicked system, we “meet with various trials.” (James 1:2) In a number of lands claiming to value freedom of worship, manipulative clergymen have used their influence with the secular authorities in order to bring vicious persecution upon God’s people. Unscrupulous men slander Jehovah’s Witnesses, branding them “a dangerous cult.” God is aware of their actions—and these will not go unpunished. His foes would do well to consider what happened to such ancient enemies of his people as the Philistines. Says the prophecy: “As regards Gaza, an abandoned city is what she will become; and Ashkelon is to be a desolate waste. As regards Ashdod, at high noon they will drive her out; and as regards Ekron, she will be uprooted.” The Philistine cities of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron would be devastated.—Zephaniah 2:4-7.
12. What happened to Philistia, Moab, and Ammon?
12 The prophecy continues: “I have heard the reproach by Moab and the abusive words of the sons of Ammon, with which they have reproached my people and kept putting on great airs against their territory.” (Zephaniah 2:8) True, Egypt and Ethiopia suffered at the hands of Babylonian invaders. But what was God’s judgment against Moab and Ammon, nations that descended from Abraham’s nephew Lot? Jehovah foretold: “Moab herself will become just like Sodom, and the sons of Ammon like Gomorrah.” Unlike their ancestresses—Lot’s two daughters, who survived the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—proud Moab and Ammon would not be concealed from God’s judgments. (Zephaniah 2:9-12; Genesis 19:16, 23-26, 36-38) Today, where is Philistia and where are its cities? What about once proud Moab and Ammon? Search though you may, you cannot find them.
13. What archaeological discovery was made in Nineveh?
13 In Zephaniah’s day, the Assyrian Empire was at the apex of its power. Describing one section of a royal palace that he had uncovered in the Assyrian capital of Nineveh, archaeologist Austen Layard wrote: “The ceilings . . . were divided into square compartments, painted with flowers, or with the figures of animals. Some were inlaid with ivory, each compartment being surrounded by elegant borders and mouldings. The beams, as well as the sides of the chambers, may have been gilded, or even plated, with gold and silver; and the rarest woods, in which the cedar was conspicuous, were used for the woodwork.” As foretold in Zephaniah’s prophecy, though, Assyria was to be destroyed and its capital city, Nineveh, would become “a desolate waste.”—Zephaniah 2:13.
14. How was Zephaniah’s prophecy fulfilled upon Nineveh?
14 Only 15 years after Zephaniah spoke that prophecy, mighty Nineveh was destroyed, its royal palace being reduced to rubble. Yes, that proud city was brought down to the dust. The extent of the devastation was vividly foretold in these words: “Both pelican and porcupine will spend the night right among her [fallen] pillar capitals. A voice will keep singing in the window. There will be devastation at the threshold.” (Zephaniah 2:14, 15) Nineveh’s stately buildings would be fit only as a dwelling place for porcupines and pelicans. Gone from the city streets would be the sounds of commerce, the cries of warriors, the chants of priests. In those once bustling thoroughfares, there would be heard only a voice singing eerily in the window, perhaps the plaintive song of a bird or the howl of the wind. In like manner, may all of God’s enemies come to their end!
15. What can be learned from what happened to Philistia, Moab, Ammon, and Assyria?
15 What can we learn from what happened to Philistia, Moab, Ammon, and Assyria? This: As Jehovah’s servants, we have nothing to fear from our enemies. God sees what is done by those who oppose his people. Jehovah took action against his enemies in the past, and his judgments will be brought upon the entire inhabited earth today. Yet, there will be survivors—‘a great crowd out of all nations.’ (Revelation 7:9) You may be among them—but only if you continue to seek Jehovah, seek righteousness, and seek meekness.
Woe to Insolent Wrongdoers!
16. What did Zephaniah’s prophecy say about Judah’s princes and religious leaders, and why do these words fit Christendom?
16 Zephaniah’s prophecy again focuses on Judah and Jerusalem. Says Zephaniah 3:1, 2: “Woe to her that is rebelling and polluting herself, the oppressive city! She did not listen to a voice; she did not accept discipline. In Jehovah she did not trust. To her God she did not draw near.” How tragic that Jehovah’s efforts to discipline his people went unheeded! Deplorable, indeed, was the ruthlessness of the princes, nobles, and judges. Zephaniah decried the shamelessness of the religious leaders, saying: “Her prophets were insolent, were men of treachery. Her priests themselves profaned what was holy; they did violence to the law.” (Zephaniah 3:3, 4) How well those words fit the situation of Christendom’s prophets and priests today! Insolently, they have removed the divine name from their Bible translations and have taught doctrines that misrepresent the One they claim to worship.
17. Whether people listen or not, why keep on declaring the good news?
17 Jehovah considerately warned his ancient people regarding the action he was about to take. He sent his servants the prophets—Zephaniah and Jeremiah, among others—to urge the people to repent. Yes, “Jehovah . . . would do no unrighteousness. Morning by morning he kept giving his own judicial decision. At daylight it did not prove lacking.” What was the response? “But the unrighteous one was knowing no shame,” said Zephaniah. (Zephaniah 3:5) A similar warning is being sounded at this time. If you are a publisher of the good news, you are having a share in this warning work. Keep on declaring the good news without letup! Whether the people listen or not, your ministry is a success from God’s standpoint as long as you are carrying it out faithfully; you have no need for shame as you do God’s work with zeal.
18. How will Zephaniah 3:6 be fulfilled?
18 The execution of God’s judgment will not be confined to the desolation of Christendom. Jehovah expands his denunciation to include all the nations: “I cut off nations; their corner towers were desolated. I devastated their streets, so that there was no one passing through. Their cities were laid waste.” (Zephaniah 3:6) So trustworthy are these words that Jehovah speaks of the destruction as if it has already occurred. What happened to the cities of Philistia, Moab, and Ammon? And what of the Assyrian capital, Nineveh? Their destruction serves as a warning example to the nations today. God is not to be mocked.
Keep On Seeking Jehovah
19. What thought-provoking questions might we ask?
19 In Zephaniah’s day, God’s anger was unleashed upon those wickedly “making all their dealings ruinous.” (Zephaniah 3:7) The same thing will happen in our time. Do you see the evidence that the day of Jehovah’s anger is near? Are you continuing to “seek Jehovah” by reading his Word regularly—daily? Do you “seek righteousness” by living a morally clean life in harmony with God’s standards? And are you ‘seeking meekness’ by displaying a meek, submissive attitude toward God and his arrangements for salvation?
20. What questions will we consider in the final article of this series on Zephaniah’s prophecy?
20 If we faithfully keep on seeking Jehovah, righteousness, and meekness, we can expect to enjoy rich blessings right now—yes, even in these faith-testing “last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5; Proverbs 10:22) But we may well ask, ‘In what ways are we being blessed as Jehovah’s present-day servants, and what future blessings does Zephaniah’s prophecy set before those who will be concealed in the rapidly approaching day of Jehovah’s anger?’
How Would You Respond?
• How do people “seek Jehovah”?
• What is involved in ‘seeking righteousness’?
• How can we “seek meekness”?
• Why should we keep on seeking Jehovah, righteousness, and meekness?
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Are you seeking Jehovah through Bible study and fervent prayer?
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Because they continue to seek Jehovah, a great crowd will survive the day of his anger