Outline of Zephaniah
1. Superscription (Zephaniah 1:1)
The book begins in classic prophetic style: the word of the Lord comes to Zephaniah.
2. Destruction-Total Destruction! (Zephaniah 1:2-18)
No limit is placed on the judgment to come. There are named guilty parties, but all addressees are to be silent. No exit from the destruction is offered. CreationCreation, in biblical terms, is the universe as we know or perceive it. Genesis says that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. In the book of Revelation (which speaks of end times) the author declares that God created all things and… More itself is reversed.
3. Perhaps (Zephaniah 2:1-3)
The day of the Lord’s wrath is coming. That cannot be stopped. Seeking the Lord is, as always, the proper thing to do, but it does not guarantee deliverance. The destruction is so extensive that anything more than a “perhaps” would be an evasion of the severity of the announced judgment.
4. Against the Nations (Zephaniah 2:4-15)
The nations that belittle the destruction that occurs on the Day of the LordThe Day of the Lord, in prophetic writing, is the day of judgment when God will intervene directly in world affairs. As described in Zephaniah, for instance, God will sweep everything away. In Matthew’s gospel God is described as gathering the elect on the day… More, taunt the judged Judeans, and boast of their own strength will also face the judgment of God. The oracles against the nations function to spell out one more dimension of the comprehensive, even global, judgment announced in the first chapter and offer the first glimpses of the restoration of the judged people of God.
5. Judgment and the Formation of a Remnant (Zephaniah 3:1-13)
Additional statements of judgment are announced and also recast as part of the purification of people. The judgment casts away the shame of rebellion and makes way for the establishment of a faithful people who constantly seek refuge in the Lord.
6. From Redemption to DoxologyDoxology is an expression of praise. Psalms of praise, such as Psalms 149 and 150, are doxological in nature; Paul concludes his letter to the Romans with a doxology. Christians sing a doxology whenever they praise the Triune God: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow….” More (Zephaniah 3:14-20)
God enters into the midst of the restored people to remove their judgments, jettison their fear, lead their rejoicing, and finalize their restoration.