Today’s selected reading is found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Zephaniah, and more specifically, begins with the first verse of the first chapter and continues through to the fifteenth verse of the third chapter. The prophetic book of Zephaniah begins and opens with a description of the time period in which the prophet proclaimed the word of the Lord—namely, during the days and reign of Josiah, king of Judah. “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” (Zephaniah 1:1). The more I consider the description of the days and times in which the various prophets prophesied—specifically those who prophesied during the reign of a single king as did Zephaniah—the more I can’t help but wonder how long they actually proclaimed the word of the Lord. The opening verse of this chapter describes how Zephaniah prophesied the word of the Lord during the reign of Josiah king of Judah, yet I can’t help but wonder at what point he began his prophetic ministry. Did Zephaniah begin prophesying during the days of revival and awakening, or did he prophesy during days of calamity and judgment? If you read the opening verses of both the prophetic book of Jeremiah, as well as the prophetic book of Zephaniah, you will encounter the reality that they both prophesied during the reign of Josiah king of Judah. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if the Lord did not and had not raised up two distinct prophetic voices during the reign of Josiah, and did so during days of revival and awakening. I wonder if the prophets Zephaniah and Jeremiah weren’t raised up to accompany and work side by side with the work of revival and awakening which took place during the reign of Josiah. In other words, within the days of Josiah—not only was there the work of cleansing and purging, awakening and revival, but there was also the presence of the prophetic word and ministry of the Lord. In order to truly understand this, it is necessary and vital to read and consider what took place during the days of Josiah king of Judah. In the twenty-second chapter of the Old Testament book of Second Kings we encounter the days of Josiah who reigned over Judah as king from Jerusalem. Beginning with the first verse of the chapter we read the account of Josiah—an account that began when he was only eight years old. “Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath. And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left. And it came to pass in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, that the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, the scribe, to the house of the Lrod, saying, Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may sum the silver which is brought into the house of the Lord, which the keepers of the door have gathered of the people: and let them deliver it into the hand of the doers of the work, that have the oversight of the house of the Lord, unto carpenters, and builders, and masons, and to buy timber and hewn stone to repair the house. Howbeit there was no reckoning made with them of the money that was delivered into their hand, because they dealt faithfully” (2 Kings 22:1-7).
As you continue reading this particular chapter within the book of Second Kings you will discover even further the heart and spirit that was found within Josiah. Beginning with the eighth verse you will essentially find the next phase in the reign of this young king—a king who began his reign at the age of eight, and who sought to repair the temple of the Lord when he was twenty-six. “And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the Law in the house of the Lord. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again, and said, Thy servants have gathered the money thatwas found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of them that do the work, that have the oversight of the house of the Lord. And Shaphan the scribe shewed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priests hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king. And it came to pass when the king heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes. And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king’s saying, Go ye, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto that which is written concerning us. So HIlkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college;) and they communted with her. And she said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read: because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched. But to the king of Judah which sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, As touching the words which thou hast heard; because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the Lord, when thou hearedst what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee saith the Lord. Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place. And they brought the king word again” (2 Kings 22:8-20).
It’s interesting to note that Josiah began to reign as king over Judah from Jerusalem when he was only eight years old, and Scripture records how he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord. What so strikes me concerning the account of Josiah, is not simply that he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but the way Scripture describes his actions during and throughout his reign. We discover that Josiah did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, yet the very next thing we learn about him was that in the eighteenth year of his reign he sought to repair the house of the Lord. In other words, Josiah was twenty-six years old when he had it in his heart to repair the house of the Lord—perhaps because he had seen how utterly unkempt the house of the Lord had become. While it is true we do in fact read how Josiah did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, it’s worth noting how that translated into public action. What I mean by this, is that it is possible to do that which is right in the sight of the Lord individually and personally, and yet that reality never translates, nor does it every manifest in any other arenas within one’s life. There are men and women who may very well do what is right in the sight of the Lord, yet it never translates to any action(s) being taken within their generation. Such individuals are focused solely on their own individual and personal relationship with the Lord, yet they never take the time to allow that reality to be manifested within their homes, within their families, within their communities, within their places of work, within their churches, or even within their nation. It is possible to do that which is right in the sight of the Lord, and yet never allow that to translate into concrete acts and actions that make a difference within their generation. There is a tremendous part of me that can’t help but believe that Josiah wasn’t content with merely doing what was right in the sight of the Lord alone or even for the sake of doing it. What’s more, is that when Scripture describes a king as doing that which was right in the sight of the Lord—was it in reference to their own personal lives, or was it in direct connection with how they reigned over the kingdom and governed within the land. In all reality—when speaking of the kings of Israel and Judah—you are faced with one of two distinct realities. When you read about the kings of the northern kingdom of Israel, as well as those within the southern kingdom of Judah, you will discover that either the king who sat upon the throne did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, or the king did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord. Josiah was referred to as doing that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and I can’t help but think that what stood as the definition of his doing right in the sight of the Lord was the actions we read in the account of his life.
Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign as king over Judah, and within the first twenty years of his reign, he sought to repair the Temple of the Lord. Undoubtedly, the Temple of the Lord had been in complete disarray and disrepair, and Josiah was undoubtedly grieved and sorrowed over the condition of the house. What’s actually quite astounding is that it was this desire to repair the house of the Lord that served as the catalyst for the rest of the events that took place within Josiah’s life, which would go on to include the discovery of the law of the Lord within the house of the Lord. I still find it incredibly telling that it was in the process of repairing the Temple that the law was discovered. IN REPARATION COMES DISCOVERY! I have written before concerning this reality, and how it’s almost as if the Lord of hosts Himself preserved the law within the place of sacrifice and offering. I find it absolutely intriguing that it was only in the process of repairing the Temple of the Lord that the Law of the Lord is and can be rediscovered. REPAIRING THE TEMPLE AND REDISCOVERING THE LAW! I would dare say that there is a tremendous need within this generation to repair the Temple of the Lord within this generation—both the individual temples of men and women, as well as the corporate Temple of the Holy Spirit that is present within and upon the earth. The question I am finding myself asking is what the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord thinks concerning the Temple upon the earth that was made without human hands. Josiah sought to repair the temple of the Lord within Jerusalem, and it was in the process of repairing the Temple that the law of the Lord was rediscovered. WHEN THE LAW IS DISCOVERED IN THE PLACE OF REPAIR! WHEN THE LAW OF THE LORD IS DISCOVERED IN THE PLACE OF REPAIR! Is it quite possible that there are men and women who not only desperately need to begin the process of repairing the Temple within their hearts and lives, but also, in the process, the law of the Lord which has largely been absent from within can and will be rediscovered.
REPAIRING THE TEMPLE! REDISCOVERING THE LAW! CLEANSING THE LAND! In all honesty, I would suggest that when we not only set out to repair the Temple, but in the process rediscover the law of the Lord, revival and awakening are possible. Perhaps one of the most interesting realities surrounding this particular passage is that despite the fact that Josiah would not see the calamity and disaster decreed for the land and inhabitants of Judah during his day, he would have to spend the remaining days of his reign knowing that the judgment and disaster would take place during the days of his sons. What’s more, is that despite the fact that Josiah did what was right in the sight of the Lord, he would spend the rest of his days as king over Judah knowing that the generation that would come after him would find themselves in the very crosshairs of the divine judgment . Josiah was promised a reprieve and respite from the judgment and calamity decreed for the land, but he would live knowing that his sons would not escape it. There was in fact another king who would experience the very same reality within his life—namely, Hezekiah king of Judah. If you read the twentieth chapter of the same Old Testament book of Second Kings you will find the encounter that took place between Hezekiah the king and Isaiah the prophet after Hezekiah had showed unto the Babylonian emissary the vast treasures and wealth within the kingdom. Consider if you will what is recorded beginning with the sixteenth verse of the twentieth chapter—“And Isaiah said unto Hezekiah, Hear the word of the Lord. Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. Then said Hezekiah unto Isaiah, Good is the word of the Lord which thou hat spoken. And he said, Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days?” (2 Kings 20:16-19).
What marks the words concerning Hezekiah, as well as the words concerning Josiah, is that both kings were given a very specific declaration concerning future generations. Both Hezekiah and Josiah would not witness or experience the judgment and calamity that was decreed for Judah and Jerusalem, yet they each would have a completely different response. Hezekiah was warned of judgment that would come upon and befall the generations after him, while at the same time being promised that he himself would not witness such judgment and calamity. Josiah was warned of judgment that would come upon the generation of his sons, and that that judgment could and would not be averted. WHEN JUDGMENT COMES UPON YOUR SONS! WHEN JUDGMENT COMES UPON YOUR DAUGHTERS! I find it incredibly challenging that when both kings received word and warning from the Lord of hosts, they both came face to face with the reality that it would be their sons—not themselves—who would witness and experience the judgment and calamity that would befall the land. The question I can’t help but ask myself is what do you do, and how do you respond when you know that your own eyes won’t see the judgment of the Lord, but those who will come after you can and will see that judgment? What do you do spending the remaining days of your life knowing that you yourself have avoided witnessing and experiencing the calamity and destruction of the Lord upon the earth, yet your sons and your daughters will find themselves caught up in the midst of it? I can’t help but see a powerful prophetic picture and warning that is contained within this reality—one that directly applies to the generation in which we ourselves are living. Both Hezekiah and Josiah were warned of impending judgment, calamity and disaster that would come upon the earth, yet they themselves would not witness or experience it. Both kings had a completely different response to the warning and word they had been given knowing full well they may very well have “dodged a bullet” so to speak. The prophetic word and warning that is contained within this reality concerns the rapture of the saints of God in the days which are ahead, and the terrible tribulation and judgment that can and will befall those who remain upon the earth. I can’t help but think that there are countless men and women who are living their lives completely grateful they may very well escape the judgment, calamity and devastation that will come upon the earth, yet they pay absolutely no mind or attention to the judgment that can and will come upon all those who will remain upon the earth. In other words, they are perfectly content to escape the tribulation and the wrath of God, but they have absolutely no compassion toward those who are going to walk through and endure the coming tribulation. How many of us use Jesus Christ as our own “get out of hell” and “participate in the rapture” free card, and yet we care absolutely nothing about those who are going to remain within and upon the earth. Oh, we might live our lives concerning about ourselves alone, and yet we choose to live for our own selfish ambitions, desires and motives. Did you know that you can be selfish within your heart—even concerning and toward the rapture? Did you know that you can display a lack of compassion, concern, mercy and grace toward others in light of the coming rapture? You will make absolutely certain that you yourself are able to experience the rapture, yet you pay absolutely no mind to the countless men and women who can and won’t experience that reality. We dare not be naïve to think that there won’t be a number of men and women around us who will not take part in the rapture, and yet we pay absolutely no attention to it.
HOW MANY OF MY CHILDREN WILL GET CAUGHT UP IN MY RAPTURE, YET THEY LEFT GENERATIONS BEHIND? HOW MANY OF MY CHILDREN WILL EXPERIENCE MEETING MY SON IN THE CLOUDS, YET THEY CARED NOTHING ABOUT, NOR WERE CONCERNED WITH THOSE AROUND THEM EXPERIENCING IT WITH THEM? I can’t help but hear a deep groaning and sighing from the throne room in heaven as the triune Godhead weep over those who care only about escaping the tribulation and getting caught up in the rapture themselves that they pay absolutely no attention to those who can and will experience it themselves. What’s more, is that I can’t help but wonder how many men and women use Jesus Christ as their own personal “get out of hell” free card, yet they care nothing about those around them who can and will experience the fires of hell themselves. YOU EXPERIENCED MY RAPTURE, BUT YOUR SONS WENT TO HELL! YOU EXPERIENCED MY RAPTURE, YET YOUR DAUGHTERS WENT TO HELL! YOU EXPERIENCED MY RAPTURE, YET YOUR BROTHERS AND YOUR SISTERS WENT TO HELL! I do not believe there will be any weeping in heaven, for Scripture describes how hell will be a place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, while in heaven every tear will be wiped away. I do not believe there will be any weeping in heaven over those who are spending an eternity in hell, but I can’t help but wonder what can and will go through the heart and mind of the Father, the Son and the Spirit when the Church and the saints are spending eternity in heaven, while countless billions of souls will spend an eternity separated from the presence of God in the fires of hell. I don’t believe there will be any guilty and/or shame in heaven, but what I am challenged with is how many men and women the triune Godhead weep over because while they themselves may very well escape the tribulation, and even escape the eternal fires of hell, they cared absolutely nothing about those left behind who may very well experience such a reality. DO YOU CARE ABOUT THOSE WHO WILL BE LEFT BEHIND? ARE YOU CONCERNED WITH THOSE WHO MIGHT BE LEFT BEHIND? There is not a doubt in my mind that there are a number of men and women among us within the pews and chairs of our churches who only care about escaping the judgment and the tribulation themselves, and care absolutely nothing about those who will be left behind to face and experience it. WHEN SONS ARE LEFT BEHIND TO ENCOUNTER JUDGMENT! WHEN DAUGHTERS ARE LEFT BEHIND TO ENCOUNTER JUDGMENT! Oh how many countless sons and daughters are going to be left behind to face and encounter the judgment of the Lord upon the earth, and maybe even the fires of hell.
WARNING IN THE MIDST OF REVIVAL! WARNING IN THE MIDST OF AWAKENING! What so absolutely and incredibly strikes me about the prophetic message and ministry of Zephaniah is that if you consider the time period and days in which he prophesied, you get the strong sense that he prophesied the word of the Lord in the midst of, and in the middle of revival and awakening. If you read the twenty-third chapter of the book of Second Kings, you will encounter the reformation Josiah brought to both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. I can’t help but get the strong impression that despite the fact that Josiah did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, despite the fact that he humbled himself in the sight of the Lord, despite the fact that he sought to repair the house of the Lord, and despite the fact that he brought reformation to the land, the Lord still raised up a prophetic voice of warning. THE VOICE OF WARNING IN THE MIDST OF REVIVAL! THE VOICE OF WARNING IN THE MIDST OF AWAKENING! What I find to be so intriguing and powerful about the prophetic ministry of Zephaniah is that he prophesied at the same time as Jeremiah did, and both men prophesied during the reign of Josiah king of Judah. In other words, not only did the Lord raise up and have a single prophetic voice warning of judgment and calamity in the midst of reformation and awakening, but the Lord had two distinct prophetic voices. When we think of reformation, and when we think of awakening, we tend to think of it in terms of the absence of judgment, in the absence of calamity, and the like. The truth of the matter is that even though a people, a nation, a church, or any other body of people might be experiencing reformation and awakening, that doesn’t mean that there is not a need for warning and caution. In fact, I would dare state that the Lord raised up Jeremiah and Zephaniah to warn the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem in direct connection with that which was taking place in the earth. I am convinced that in addition to the cleansing of the land, there was also a very profound warning of judgment that was to come in future generations. It was true Josiah brought cleansing to the land, and what is so powerful about that, is that he did so knowing that judgment would be manifested and experienced in the days of his son. Josiah brought cleansing and reformation to the land, and simultaneously and at the same time, the Lord raised up two prophetic voices to warn future generations of that which was to come.
When I read the prophetic book of Zephaniah, I can’t help but see within it a prophetic voice of warning and caution that was raised up side by side with reformation and awakening. I read the words of the prophetic book and I can’t help but get the strong sense that the Lord raised up such prophets to remind the generations of that which still to come. In other words, the Lord raised up such prophetic voices to prevent men and women from growing complacent and comfortable where they were. I wonder if it isn’t possible to grow comfortable and stagnant—even in the place of revival and awakening—as we focus so much on what is taking place, that we lose sight of that which lies ahead. How many of us within the house of the Lord pay absolutely no attention to that which future generations can and may very well face because we so consumed with saving our own selves? I see the prophetic ministries of Zephaniah and Jeremiah as a call to that particular generation to remember that which lies ahead for future generations, and to warn those future generations of what lies ahead for them. That generation of Josiah would experience peace in the face of reformation and cleansing, but the generation of sons and daughters that would be born unto them would find themselves in the very crosshairs of the judgment of the Lord. I believe with everything inside of me that what we see and what we find in the prophetic writing of Zephaniah is a warning to any and all who like Hezekiah are content to escape judgment and calamity during their day without any consideration of future generations that may not escape such realities. We find within this prophetic book a powerful warning to those who would seek to grow comfortable and stagnant in revival and awakening without giving any consideration to that which still lies ahead. It is true there may very well come “the third great awakening,” but that “third great awakening” cannot and will not avert that which the Lord has purposed within and upon the earth in the coming days. Oh that we would hear the warning and word of caution that is found within this passage of Scripture and that we would truly examine our hearts in this generation.