“Keep Yourselves in Expectation”
16. (a) For whom was the approach of Jehovah’s day a source of joy, and why? (b) What rousing call went forth to this faithful remnant?
16 While spiritual lethargy, skepticism, idolatry, corruption, and materialism prevailed among the leaders and many of the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem, apparently some faithful Jews listened to Zephaniah’s warning prophecies. They were saddened by the abominable practices of Judah’s princes, judges, and priests. Zephaniah’s pronouncements were a source of comfort to these loyal ones. Far from being a cause for anguish, the approach of Jehovah’s day was a source of joy for them, because it would bring a halt to such detestable practices. This faithful remnant heeded Jehovah’s rousing call: “‘Therefore keep yourselves in expectation of me,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘till the day of my rising up to the booty, for my judicial decision is to gather nations, for me to collect together kingdoms, in order to pour out upon them my denunciation, all my burning anger.’”—Zephaniah 3:8.
17. When and how did Zephaniah’s messages of judgment begin to be fulfilled upon the nations?
17 Those who heeded that warning were not taken by surprise. Many lived to see the fulfillment of Zephaniah’s prophecy. In 632 B.C.E., Nineveh was taken and destroyed by a coalition of Babylonians, Medes, and hordes from the north, probably Scythians. Historian Will Durant relates: “An army of Babylonians under Nabopolassar united with an army of Medes under Cyaxares and a horde of Scythians from the Caucasus, and with amazing ease and swiftness captured the citadels of the north. . . . At one blow Assyria disappeared from history.” This was exactly what Zephaniah had prophesied.—Zephaniah 2:13-15.
18. (a) How was divine judgment executed on Jerusalem, and why? (b) How was Zephaniah’s prophecy concerning Moab and Ammon fulfilled?
18 Many Jews who kept themselves in expectation of Jehovah also lived to see his judgments executed upon Judah and Jerusalem. Concerning Jerusalem, Zephaniah had prophesied: “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.” (Zephaniah 3:1, 2) Because of her unfaithfulness, Jerusalem was twice besieged by the Babylonians and finally taken and destroyed in 607 B.C.E. (2 Chronicles 36:5, 6, 11-21) As for Moab and Ammon, according to Jewish historian Josephus, in the fifth year after the fall of Jerusalem, the Babylonians waged war on them and conquered them. They subsequently ceased to exist, as prophesied.
19, 20. (a) How did Jehovah reward those who kept themselves in expectation of him? (b) Why do these events concern us, and what will be considered in the following article?
19 The fulfillment of these and other details of Zephaniah’s prophecy was a faith-strengthening experience for Jews and non-Jews who kept themselves in expectation of Jehovah. Among those who survived the destruction that befell Judah and Jerusalem were Jeremiah, the Ethiopian Ebed-melech, and the house of Jehonadab, the Rechabite. (Jeremiah 35:18, 19; 39:11, 12, 16-18) The faithful Jews in exile and their offspring, who continued to wait on Jehovah, became a part of the happy remnant who were delivered from Babylon in 537 B.C.E. and returned to Judah to reestablish pure worship.—Ezra 2:1; Zephaniah 3:14, 15, 20.
2. What similarities exist between conditions in Zephaniah’s day and the situation within Christendom today?
2 Today, Jehovah’s judicial decision is to gather the nations for destruction on a far wider scale than in Zephaniah’s day. (Zephaniah 3:8) Those nations that claim to be Christian are particularly reprehensible in God’s sight. Just as Jerusalem paid a terrible price for its unfaithfulness to Jehovah, so Christendom must answer to God for its profligate ways. The divine judgments pronounced against Judah and Jerusalem in Zephaniah’s day apply with even greater force to the churches and sects of Christendom. They also have sullied pure worship by their God-dishonoring doctrines, many of pagan origin. They have sacrificed millions of their healthy sons on the modern altar of war. Furthermore, the inhabitants of antitypical Jerusalem mix so-called Christianity with astrology, spiritistic practices, and degrading sexual immorality, reminiscent of Baal worship.—Zephaniah 1:4, 5.