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Zephaniah

John Collins10/08/2013

Video available here: http://youtu.be/_Hlf0JWfesU

In William Branham’s effort to “know the author real well, but not know the Book,” as he claimed throughout his ministry, many books of the Bible were omitted from his sermons from 1947 to 1965 – most of which depict the fallen state of Israel, their need for a savior to redeem them from the curse of the Law, and passages that point to Christ who would one day come to save them.  Zephaniah is yet another book that was avoided by William Branham.  Interestingly, it also further explained Malachi 4.

The prophecy of Malachi was written to Israel.  The name “Malachi” means “My Messenger,” and his message was written in a scroll that had no chapters, verses, or line numbers.  The title line of that scroll is found in the first verse: “The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.”

This prophecy was telling Israel to be patient.  Though they were in a fallen state, living under the Curse of the Law for having failed to live righteously through works-righteous faith, God was faithful.  They had suffered captivity in the hands of mighty Babylon, severe famine and pestilence, loss of wealth, possessions, and even life under the Curse of the Law.  To all nations, Israel looked like the scorn of God’s eye, and the nations continually plundered anything God’s children accumulated.  It seemed as though God was supporting her enemies – and He was.  That was all part of the curse.

But Malachi prophesied that this curse would one day be lifted.  And all the nations who had rose against Israel would receive their just reward.  God was going to come to Israel with healing, and fight Israel’s battles against the foes.

The first few verses in Malachi chapter four describe God’s promise to redeem Israel from the curse:

“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.  But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.”

Malachi 4

After describing how Israel would go leaping like calves confined to stalls to trample these wicked nations, God reminds them of the reason this curse was in place:

“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.”

Malachi 4:4

Because of the words “burning like an oven,” many men have risen to establish followings that perceive this verse to be telling us, “hell is coming.”  The verse in Malachi 4 that is foretelling of “Elijah’s” return is pointed to themselves, and they proclaim themselves to be the redeemer for this day and age. 

These men proclaim to be “restorers,” and produce some new idea of what, exactly, they are restoring.  John Alexander Dowie promoted himself as the “Elijah” of Malachi 4, and came with a “return ministry” of “healing,” taking the part of the chapter about “healing in its wings,” and teaching that he was the great “healer” that was to come.  In 1889, Dowie published his first series entitled “Leaves of Healing,” and quickly rose to a world-renown faith healer.

But Israel was under the curse of the Law, and the penalty for failure to uphold the law was death.  Under their agreement with God, the two-part covenant made between the Children of Israel and God through Moses as the mediator, they were to receive over 300 blessings for keeping the Law, and 300 curses for failure to uphold the Law.  Over 21 different violations of the Mosaic Law required death – most of which were counted against Israel time and again.

But those violations were against individuals – not Israel as a whole.  There was one part of the covenant that affected the entire nation of Israel, one part which was violated time and again, and that was to serve the gods of Baal.  Moses describes the penalty for this at the end of Deuteronomy 29 when the Covenant was renewed in Moab:

And the next generation, your children who rise up after you, and the foreigner who comes from a far land, will say, when they see the afflictions of that land and the sicknesses with which the Lord has made it sick—the whole land burned out with brimstone and salt, nothing sown and nothing growing, where no plant can sprout, an overthrow like that of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in his anger and wrath—all the nations will say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land? What caused the heat of this great anger?’ Then people will say, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt, and went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they had not known and whom he had not allotted to them.

Deuteronomy 29:22-26

Notice the end of Malachi 4, speaking of the restoration of Israel.  The decree of utter destruction was failure to keep the Old Covenant:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.  And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

But there are a few very important things to observe with this passage.  Yes, Malachi is prophesying the Word of the Lord regarding the return of Elijah, but his return is to bring restoration before God brings the penalty.  And the restoration of the Children of Israel to their former state is what stops the destruction – hence the words “LEST I come and strike.”  This is not a restoration for the end of the world – It is a restoration of Israel to into Grace after breaking the covenant of Law.

That is the reason that these “restoration ministry” cult leaders who promote themselves as the “return of Elijah” all promote laws and works-righteous faith.  The verse, “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded” must be pointed to their ministry as a new commandment and not a historical record. 

But the most important thing to note is the word “he.”  “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers.” 

The meaning of this sentence is drastically changed, taking the Old English version of this sentence and making it sound like Elijah is the one to come and restore.  And it is not translated incorrectly – “He” will come to restore – but that “He” is “Jesus,” not a man.  Restoration required a Kinsman Redeemer, not a prophet.  The Lamb must come and take our place, paying our penalty for us – something that a prophet could not do.

It’s interesting, because I’m sure the translators never dreamed that the glory would be taken away from the Lamb and pointed towards a man – otherwise, they would have never translated it this way.  The word “he” was not in the original translation.  Literally translated, Malachi 4:6 reads like this:

A curse, the land, and smite, come, so, their fathers, unto, of the children, and the hearts, children, unto, of the fathers, the hearts, will restore.

 

It should be no shock that the book of Zephaniah – the book that William Branham seems to have avoided in his ministry – confirms the prophecy of Malachi.  It goes into great detail regarding the coming destruction, cursing Israel to be obliterated from the face of the earth.  But just as the cry comes forth describing destruction with no way out, a cry of redemption follows.

There is only one single instance of William Branham mentioning the book of Zephaniah, and it was only by mistake.  He turned to the wrong chapter, and then blamed his mistake on his Bible:

Here, let's--let's get a Scripture here, let--let's get Zecharah 4:1, then we can maybe get from Zechariah there what we want. Zechariah 4:1, and I believe then maybe in this we'll be able to--to pull together that what we're wanting. I can't find Zechariah in Zephaniah, can I? All right. All right. My old Bible's about wore out.

60-1204E  THE.PATMOS.VISION

Zephaniah starts by describing the coming judgment on Judah:

“I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord. “I will sweep away man and beast; I will sweep away the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, and the rubble with the wicked.  I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.  “I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal and the name of the idolatrous priests along with the priests, those who bow down on the roofs to the host of the heavens, those who bow down and swear to the Lord and yet swear by Milcom, those who have turned back from following the Lord, who do not seek the Lord or inquire of him.”

Zephaniah 1:2-6

Imagine reading this passage in the way that Branham taught us to read our bibles: “take this verse as a context for our message.”

If we read only this single portion of Zephaniah’s prophecy, it sounds like impending doom.  Sudden death.  This must be the End of Days!

But the Bible was not written in single verses that were intended to be the basis for an entire sermon.  It was not even written in single chapters from which to gleam doctrines.  The books of the Bible were written in scrolls – one single canvas of text, intended to be read completely.

If you continue into the first chapter of Zephaniah, you’ll find reference to Christ:

Be silent before the Lord God!  For the day of the Lord is near; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests.

Zephaniah 1:7

But even that verse alone is not enough to change how this chapter sounds.  If you only read the first few verses, it sounds like the End of Days.  If you only read the first chapter, it sounds like Armegeddon.  The first chapter ends like this:

I will bring distress on mankind, so that they shall walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the Lord; their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung.  Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them on the day of the wrath of the Lord.  In the fire of his jealousy, all the earth shall be consumed; for a full and sudden end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

Zephaniah 1:17-18

This makes you want to tremble in fear!  That was the intention!  God was reminding the Children of Israel that they had abandoned the Old Covenant, and were condemned to death!  God was jealous, and they deserved a sudden and painful death.

Even continuing on to the second chapter, you won’t find reason to rejoice.  God, speaking through Zephaniah, gives a prophecy of destruction for Israel and the nations that brought her into idolatry.  Israel deserved to pay the price, but God felt that the surrounding nations should also pay the penalty.  That thought continues into chapter three.  Listen to verse 8:

“Therefore wait for me,” declares the Lord,  “for the day when I rise up to seize the prey.  For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation, all my burning anger; for in the fire of my jealousy all the earth shall be consumed.

Zephaniah 3:8

Again, if we preach from the book of Zephaniah in the way that these cult pastors preach today, this is a dreadful book of prophecy.  Any single verse that we pull from the scroll sounds like an awful fate!  But like any sermon given over a verse that is taken out of context, we are missing the GOOD STUFF!

This entire scroll is God describing how angry that he is with Israel for abandoning their agreement and breaking the Old Covenant.  God is telling them that according to that binding contract, they deserved to die!  It might as well be Armegeddon – God was going to wipe them off of the face of the earth, along with all the idolatrous nations!

But don’t forget the Kinsman Redeemer!  The GOOD STUFF is coming! 

God had a chosen Bride, and that bride had guests to the wedding supper.  Israel was chosen to bring for the Christ Child, and God was going to restore her to her former state.  But not just Israel!  God was going to grant salvation to the idolatrous Gentiles!  And Israel had no idea this was coming – all they knew was Old Covenant Law.  They had long forgotten the Covenants made with Noah and Abraham – they were suffering punishment for their idolatry!

Listen to how the prophecy of Zephaniah ends, and you’ll see why it is such a disaster for these pastors to teach our children snipping out a single verse or even a single chapter from a book of the Bible.  While any verse they choose in this book would proclaim doomsday destruction, God reminds us at the end that he DID make a covenant with Noah, and that covenant said that he would never again wipe mankind from the face of the earth.

Zephaniah confirms Malachi 4, and tells us WHO is going to restore.  Not “Elijah,” but the LORD is coming into their midst!  And the LORD will restore!

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel!  Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!  The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies.  The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.

On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak.  The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.  I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival, so that you will no longer suffer reproach.  Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors.  And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.  At that time I will bring you in, at the time when I gather you together; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes,” says the Lord.

Zephaniah 3:14-20