The word of the LORD which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.
The metaphor of the text appears to be drawn from that of a man who, having cause for suspicion, searches over every part of his house, and goes down to the very foundation; and because some places are very dark there, he takes with him candles—and, making the light pass carefully over every spot, he scrutinizes for that which he endeavours to discover.
I. It seems evident that the Holy Spirit is mainly intended by the candle of the Lord; not only because God speaks of the Spirit under this image (Job 29:2-4), but more particularly because the Church is compared to the candlestick. Christ, who is present in the Church by the Holy Ghost, is that Light which the candlestick, however precious, is worthless if it do not hold. The Holy Ghost is the grand Revealer by which God lays open all the secret places of a man's heart, and from whom all other means whatever gain their efficacy.
II. Subject, however, to this great light, and altogether dependent upon it, there comes next the ministry of God's Word in preaching. That the blessed effect of God's Word to probe the conscience and uncover a man belongs, in an eminent degree, to the public minister of the Word, is certain from 1. Cor. xiv., where St. Paul says: "But if all prophesy [i.e. 'preach'], and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all"—not all men, but by every word that is spoken; "he is judged of all," every word condemns him, and observe the consequence—"and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest."
III. "The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord." This undoubtedly means a man's conscience when the Lord has enlightened that conscience by His Spirit, and thereby fitted it to act that great part of laying bare the hidden, inner life.
IV. Observe, when God rises up to search where the light falls the angriest. It is not on the profane; it is not on the vicious; it is not on the world,—they have their condemnation; but the first inquiry of our heart-searching God is this: "Who are they that have quenched their grace?"
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 1874, p. 47.
I. If we examine a little closely we shall be forced to admit, that there is a direct tendency in prosperity to the fostering and strengthening the corruptions of our nature. The more, for example, a man obtains of wealth or of power, the more, ordinarily, will he desire; so that attachment to earthly things grows with their acquirement; and if it is not impossible, it is very rare and difficult to have the affections fixed on things above whilst the hands are uninterruptedly busied with sweeping together perishable riches. The bent of our dispositions being towards the earth, if nothing ever happen to turn them from earth, there is little ground for expecting that they will centre themselves on heaven.
II. Consider the beneficial results of change and calamity. Change admonishes us of the transitory nature of terrestrial good. Exactly in proportion as calamity is deferred, confidence is strengthened; and if evil be slow in coming, men easily persuade themselves that it will never come at all. If, for many years, there have been no eruption of the volcano from whose outbreak the peasantry had fled with every demonstration of terror, the cottages will again be built around the treacherous mountain, and the smiling gardens clustered on its sides; but if the cottages were swept away year after year by fresh descents of the fiery flood, we may be sure that the peasantry however attached to the place, would finally abandon it altogether, and seek a home in some more secure, though perhaps less lovely, scene. And certainly every change, and yet more a succession of changes, speaks to an individual in the same words as would thus tell on a disturbed, disquieted peasantry: "Arise ye, and depart hence, for this is hot your rest."
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2,138.
References: Zephaniah 1:12.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 171; J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 1st series, p. 6. Zephaniah 1:17.—Ibid., 2nd series, p. 12. Zephaniah 2:3.—J. S. Candlish, Homiletic Magazine, vol. vi., p. 371; Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Ecclesiastes to Malachi, p. 357. Zephaniah 3:2.—Ibid., Sermons, vol. xxvii., No. 1,580; Ibid., My Sermon Notes: Ecclesiastes to Malachi, p. 360; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 172. Zephaniah 3:8-10.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xi., p. 213. Zephaniah 3:9.—J. S. Candlish, Homiletic Magazine, vol. vi., p. 375: J. Keble, Sermons from Ascension Day to Trinity, p. 302. Zephaniah 3:11, Zephaniah 3:12.—Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. x., p. 248. Zephaniah 3:12.—J. H. Evans, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. x., p. 365; S. Cox, Preacher's Lantern, vol. ii., pp. 393, 457, 529, 592, 655, 719. Zephaniah 3:13.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 173. Zephaniah 3:17.—Ibid., p. 173; J. S. Candlish, Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii., p. 45.
I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the LORD.
I will consume man and beast; I will consume the fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea, and the stumblingblocks with the wicked; and I will cut off man from off the land, saith the LORD.
I will also stretch out mine hand upon Judah, and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the name of the Chemarims with the priests;
And them that worship the host of heaven upon the housetops; and them that worship and that swear by the LORD, and that swear by Malcham;
And them that are turned back from the LORD; and those that have not sought the LORD, nor inquired for him.
Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord GOD: for the day of the LORD is at hand: for the LORD hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests.
And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD'S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king's children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.
In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters' houses with violence and deceit.
And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD, that there shall be the noise of a cry from the fish gate, and an howling from the second, and a great crashing from the hills.
Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh, for all the merchant people are cut down; all they that bear silver are cut off.
And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil.
Therefore their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation: they shall also build houses, but not inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, but not drink the wine thereof.
The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.
That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness,
A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers.
And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung.
Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD'S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.