August 12, 2018 – Zephaniah 1

Lesson Date: August 12, 2018

Focal Scripture Passage: Zephaniah 1:1-18

AIM: To lead students to recognize that God’s judgment of sin is sure and certain, and to confess any sins in their lives.

 

Before class: Read the Introduction to Zephaniah and the notes on Zephaniah 1 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book. Write “Ways to Escape Punishment” on the marker board or chalkboard. Enlist some volunteers who are comfortable reading aloud to look up the following verses and be prepared to read them to the class when called upon: Number 32:23; 1 Peter 4:17.

 

INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Tell the students that our nation, each of the fifty states, and all local counties and cities have enacted laws that prescribe punishment for certain activities. For example, if I drive 80 miles an hour in a 35 mile an hour zone, a policeman should stop me and give me a ticket for speeding. The punishment for speeding is a monetary fine. Other laws specify that theft, burglary, assault, rape, and murder are crimes that are punishable in various ways.

Ask: “Does everyone who commits a crime get punished?” (no). Direct the class’ attention to the words “Ways to Escape Punishment” written on the board. Ask: “What are some ways people escape punishment for their crimes?” Allow time for responses, which may include some of the following: personal favoritism such as “fixing” a ticket, legal technicalities, insufficient evidence, jury tampering, payoffs, endless appeals, etc.

Ask: “Does God judge every sin the moment it is committed?” (no). Explain that God sometimes delays His judgment to give people time to repent. Other times He turns people over to suffer the natural negative consequences of their sins.

Ask the previously enlisted volunteer to read Numbers 32:23. Erase the board and write “Sure and Certain Judgment.” Tell the class that God’s judgment may seem to be slow in coming, but His judgment of sin is sure and certain.

 

HEART OF THE LESSON (Bible Study):

  1. Review and Introduction to Zephaniah.
    • Remind the students that this summer we have been studying five of the Minor Prophets found near the end of the Old Testament.
    • Direct their attention to the Sin – Judgment – Repentance – Renewal Throughout this quarter we have seen that sin brings God’s judgment, but genuine repentance brings renewal and blessings.
    • Ask: “What was last week’s lesson about?” (Habakkuk’s worship in response to God’s awesome and unstoppable power).
    • Ask if any volunteer would be willing to recite last week’s memory verse (Hab. 3:19).
    • Ask everyone to locate the book of Zephaniah.
    • Read Zephaniah 1:1.
    • Explain that Zephaniah was a descendant of King Hezekiah. He lived in Judah and wrote his prophecy in 630 c., during the reign of his cousin, King Josiah.
  2. God Will Judge Idol Worshipers.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Zephaniah 1:2-3.
    • Ask: “How severe will Judah’s punishment be?” (it will be total – complete destruction).
    • Explain that the word stumblingblocks refers to Judah’s idols. Anything that comes between the Lord and us is a stumbling block.
    • Read Zephaniah 1:4-5.
    • Tell the class that the people of Judah were involved in many forms of idolatry. Explain the following:
      • Baal was the Canaanite fertility god whose so-called “worship” included many vile and immoral practices.
      • The Chemarims were idolatrous priests – so-called “black priests.”
      • Some in Judah went up on their housetops and worshiped the Sun, Moon, and stars.
      • Malcham was an alternate spelling of the false god Molech or Milcom. This false god of the Ammonites was worshiped through astrology, “sacred” prostitution, and even child sacrifice
    • Ask: “Did you notice in verse 5 that God also promised to judge those who swear by the Lord?”
    • Explain that those people insincerely called on the Lord, while at the same time worshiping false gods. They were hypocrites.
    • Ask the following discussion questions:
      • “Most people today don’t bow down to little statues, but what are some things modern people worship?”
      • “What are some ways Christians manifest insincerity – claiming the name of the Lord while their hearts are devoted to other things?”
    • Summarize: God promised to judge and destroy those who worship idols.
  3. God Will Judge Those Who Ignore Him.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Zephaniah 1:6.
    • Remind the students that in these verses God promised to send judgment upon sinners.
    • Ask: “Who did He promise to judge?” (those who have turned back from the Lord and those who never seek Him or ask His guidance).
    • Explain that these people just don’t care about the Lord. They might have learned about God as children, but now they simply ignore Him. They might not consider themselves hostile toward God, but they just don’t care anything about Him.
    • Ask the following discussion questions:
      • “What evidences do you see that many people today ignore God?”
      • “Are Christians ever guilty of this – not seeking the Lord or asking for His guidance? If so, how?”
      • Summarize: God promised to judge and destroy those who ignore Him.
  4. God Will Judge Those Who Seek Wealth Through Deceit.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Zephaniah 1:7.
    • Explain that throughout the Bible the “Day of the Lord” speaks of a time of future devastating judgment.
    • Tell the class in verse 7 the “sacrifice” would be the sinners of Judah and the guests were the Babylonians and Chaldeans whom God summoned to destroy and “devour” them.
    • Read Zephaniah 1:8-11.
    • Ask: “Who did the Lord promise to punish in verse 8?” (the rulers of Judah).
    • Explain that the strange apparel mentioned in verse 8 may have been costly garments purchased from foreign lands, or it may refer to forbidden practices such as wearing clothing designed for the opposite sex (Deut. 22:5).
    • Tell the students verse 9 says God will judge those who run to gain wealth through “violence and deceit.”
    • Explain that verses 10-11 describe places of commerce. The Lord promised to destroy those who seek wealth through deceit.
    • Ask the following discussion questions:
      • “In what ways do people today use deceit – or even violence – to get rich?”
      • “Are Christians ever guilty of this? If so, how? Do Christians ever lie and steal from God by withholding the tithe?”
    • Summarize: God promised to judge and destroy those who seek wealth through lies and deceit.
  5. God Will Judge The Unconcerned.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Zephaniah 1:12.
    • Ask: “What did God say He was going to do?” (search throughout Jerusalem, even in its darkest and most hidden places).
    • Ask: “Who did He say He was looking for?” (those who are doing nothing and don’t think the Lord will do anything, either).
    • Tell the class these people are unconcerned and complacent. They’re happy to sit in front of the TV or on their smart phone all day long without a thought of God. They don’t think God will do anything – either good or bad.
    • Ask the following discussion questions:
      • “What evidences of complacency and lack of concern do you see in our modern world?”
      • “Are Christians ever guilty of this? If so, in what ways?”
    • Summarize: God promised to judge and destroy those who don’t care about Him and didn’t think He will act either for good or bad.
  6. The Day of the Lord Described.
    • Read Zephaniah 1:13-16.
    • Ask: “How is the Day of the Lord described?” Students should name the following:
      • The inhabitants of Judah will lose everything – v. 13.
      • The Day of the Lord was coming quickly; strong men will weep – v. 14.
      • The Day of the Lord is a day of wrath, trouble, distress, waste, desolation, gloom, and doom – v. 15.
      • Battle trumpets and warning trumpets will blast – v. 16.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Zephaniah 1:17-18.
    • Ask: “According to verse 17, why will the Lord send destructive judgment?” (because of man’s sin).
    • Ask: “According to verse 18, what will be able to deliver people from God’s judgment?” (nothing).
    • Summarize: God hates sin and will certainly judge sinners.

 

PERSONAL APPLICATION: Direct everyone’s attention once again to the Sin – Judgment – Repentance – Renewal banner. Ask: “Which of the four words have we seen in this week’s lesson?” (Sin and Judgment). Because of their sin, God promised to judge Judah. God promised that this judgment would be very harsh, deadly, and destructive.

Tell the students that the judgment God promised Judah in Zephaniah 1 came forty years later when the Babylonians conquered Judah, destroyed Jerusalem, killed many of the Jews, and carried the rest away as captives. Direct the students’ attention to the words “Sure and Certain Judgment” written on the board. God’s judgment may have seemed to be slow in coming, but it DID come in His perfect time. Criminals may escape punishment in our flawed human legal system, but God’s judgment of sin is sure and certain.

Ask the previously enlisted volunteer to read 1 Peter 4:17. Tell the students that judgment must begin at the house of God. That means us!

Ask: “How does this lesson apply to you? Do you love something more than you love God? Do you ignore God? Are you seeking financial gain through deceit? Are you unconcerned, thinking God will not act at all?”

Ask the students to bow their head and close their eyes. Tell them to ask the Lord to reveal any sins in their lives. Tell them to silently confess those sins and thank Jesus for paying the price for their sins. Voice a closing prayer.

 

CONCLUSION: Ask everyone to memorize 1 Peter 4:17. Urge them to keep their hearts right with God. Tell them to read their Bibles and pray every day.

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