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The Prophet in this chapter is making a very pressing exhortation to repentance, and to the seeking of the Lord. He afterwards speaks of judgments to the nations around.
"Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired; (2) Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORD'S anger come upon you. (3) Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD'S anger."
The Prophet takes occasion, from the awful and impending judgments denounced in the foregoing Chapter, to press upon the people the vast importance of turning to the Lord with full purpose of heart. The expressions are very earnest and interesting. There is one thing to be noticed in the character of the people, which we should regard. They are called, O nation not desired; that is, say some, not desirable, not lovely. And certainly if considered in themselves, and in their covenant relation, there could be nothing lovely or desirable in them. In Jesus' view his Church was always desirable; and hence, when it is given to him by the Father, it is so said. Psalms 21:2 . Some however read the words different, as if they were intended to say, that the nation of God's people were not desired by other nations. And in this sense it is also very true. For as they were a people not reckoned among the nations, so were they hated of all men for Christ's sake. Numbers 23:9 . But there is yet another construction put by some, who apply the words, O nation who hath no desire towards the Lord. In either sense, or in all, the force of the Prophet's exhortation is striking; that before the judgment now at the very door begins, the Lord's grace may be sought, and his mercy found. But what I chiefly wish to press upon the Reader's mind is, what is said in the last of those verses, of seeking the Lord, and seeking righteousness. By which I understand, Christ is most plainly set forth. Let the Reader observe for himself, and then determine. The Prophet directs all the meek of the earth to seek the Lord, and to seek righteousness and meekness. Whereas, if by meekness is meant a meekness they have already, to what purport seek it? Whereas, the cry of the Prophet is to Israel, because of God's judgments coming upon the whole earth for sin; and Israel, as sinful as their neighbors, they are admonished to seek in humbleness of soul the Lord Jesus Christ; that meek one, that righteous one of his people. And observe the foundation of this hope; it may be, saith the Prophet, that ye shall be hid in the day of wrath. Sweet encouragement! The Lord's may be's are better than man's shall be's; founded as they are in God's own gracious and eternal purpose; and secured in the blood and righteousness of Christ!
"For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation: they shall drive out Ashdod at the noon day, and Ekron shall be rooted up. (5) Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites! the word of the LORD is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant. (6) And the sea coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks. (7) And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; they shall feed thereupon: in the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening: for the LORD their God shall visit them, and turn away their captivity."
Here we have the Philistines, and the other ancient foes to Israel, accounted with; and an awful account it is. But what I beg the Reader in this visitation to remark is, that their destruction is for their behavior to the Lord's people, and for the Lord's people possessing their cities; the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah.
"I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon, whereby they have reproached my people, and magnified themselves against their border. (9) Therefore as I live, saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the breeding of nettles, and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of my people shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people shall possess them. (10) This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the LORD of hosts. (11) The LORD will be terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, everyone from his place, even all the isles of the heathen. (12) Ye Ethiopians also, ye shall be slain by my sword. (13) And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria; and will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness. (14) And flocks shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations: both the cormorant and the bittern shall lodge in the upper lintels of it; their voice shall sing in the windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds: for he shall uncover the cedar work. (15) This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me: how is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in! everyone that passeth by her shall hiss, and wag his hand."
I would beg to make the same observation as before, only with this addition, that here the Lord calls Israel his people, and takes offence chiefly on their account at the nations. The Lord repeats it often, yea, twice in one verse, my people; as if he took delight in the, relationship. Reader! it is the principal feature, according to my view, in this Chapter; and therefore I pray you not to overlook it. And observe moreover, that though the Prophet opened his commission in judgment, as in the second verse of the prophecy, declaring that the Lord would consume all things from off the land; yet how soon is mercy declared to Israel, and how often repeated in this Chapter! The Lord is about to make Moab, and the nations, as Sodom and Gomorrah, yet Israel shall be saved in the Lord, with an everlasting salvation. And where shall we look for the cause, or to whom shall we refer for the mercy, but to that Lord, that Holy One, that Meek One, whom Israel is commanded to seek? Isaiah 45:17 .
READER! behold the different aspect this scripture holds forth us, and pause in the view! May we not ask, and ask with trembling, on hearing those awful judgments of God; if the righteous scarcely are saved; if they cannot be saved but in a better righteousness than their own; where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? I have often thought what a mystery it is, that men of no religion can live so secure, and die so quiet, with such trembling judgments over their heads. They have no promise to flee to; no earthly comfort secure to them; and yet live on regardless. The Lord's anger; the alarms of their own consciences; the prospect of death; the alarms of eternity; these are always as specters in their view when troubles come, and haunt them night and day. How is it that they live in such a state? How is it that they die in such a state?
Look on the other hand at God's people; the Lord's may be's support and carry them through all. Afflictions may come; afflictions will come; but Jesus comes with them and in them; and the consciousness of an interest in Him, and redemption in his blood, softens every evil, and takes out the sting of sorrow, yea, death itself. Reader! see to it, that we have this interest in Jesus, and we are then prepared for every event. Though Gaza be forsaken, and Askelon become a desolation, though the earth be moved, and mountains cast into the sea, Christ is our hope, and strength, a very present help in trouble.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Zephaniah 2". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/