What is EXPECTED to happen on the ‘DAY of the LORD’? "Be silent in the presence of the Lord God; for the day of the Lord is at hand, for the Lord has prepared a sacrifice; He has invited His guests." (Zeph. 1:7)
Zephaniah was of royal descent (being the great grandson of King Hezekiah) who prophesied during the reign of King Josiah (2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chron. 34-35). Some Bible scholars have determined that though the short book of Zephaniah’s prophecies has only 53 verses in total, however, it contains 18 references to the 'Day of the LORD' (v. 7), which might be the theme of Zephaniah’s prophecy who uses the complete expression the 'Day of the LORD' seven times. God’s judgment is coming on Judah for disobedience to His commandments!
The 'Day of the LORD’ is a special term in the Bible used to refer to a period of time when God directly intervenes in human affairs either in judgment or in blessing. Prophet Zephaniah gives a good description of the‘Day of the LORD’, and a partial fulfillment of this prophecy occurred about 30 years later in the Babylonian invasion of Judah in 586 B.C. and the destruction of Jerusalem. He pictures the victims of this conquest as the princes (nobles), the king’s sons (royalty), and the wealthy who wear imported garments. However, it is clear that the full implications of this prophecy are going to happen in the future.
The 'Day of the LORD’ can refer to any specific time when the Lord of Hosts is victorious against Babylon through the Medes (Is. 13:1–14:27), against Egypt through Babylon (Ezek. 30:2–4), or against Israel through Assyria (Is. 10:5, 6, 20, 24). This day of the Lord’s vengeance against the wicked is also depicted as the time of Israel’s deliverance (Isa. 34:2–35:10), when the Lord decisively defeats all of Israel’s opposition (2:2, 9; 3:8–20; Joel 3:14–16). It is also the day of final judgment (Amos 5:18–20).
Zephaniah announces that the ‘Day of the LORD’ is at hand, and those who are about to experience His judgment should maintain silence. This prophetic call for silence was for solemn preparation for the horror of divine wrath (see Hab. 2:20; Zech. 2:13). God is presented as being involved in a religious ritual offering a sacrifice. The sacrifice that He is going to offer is Judah, and his guests are the Chaldeans who will function as Jehovah’s priests in the slaying of the sacrifice. Thus, God’s judgment would begin in Judah because they had turned from the true God to worship idols. Zephaniah sees the ‘Day of the LORD’ from four perspectives as below:
- A Day of Sacrifice (1:7–8): God offers the idolaters of Judah up in judgment, in which the ‘guests’ invited to this sacrificial meal are the Babylonians, who do the honor of ‘eating’ the sacrifice.
- A Day of Judgment (1:14–2:1; 3:8): As God’s anger bursts forth to judge and remove all wickedness and evil, the world becomes chaotic and the people cry out in terror (1:2–3, 15–18). Entire nations are utterly consumed (1:2–3; 2:4–15), as is Jerusalem (3:1–7).
- A Day of Repentance (2.2-3). A call to repentance calls the hearers to ‘seek the Lord’ and ‘seek righteousness, seek humility’, thereby offering the hope of escaping the terrible ‘Day of the LORD’ (Micah 6.8). In the words of Gary Smith in his book 'The Prophets as Preachers: An Introduction to the Hebrew Prophets': “He offered them a choice: experience the wrath of God on the day of the Lord, or seek God and transform your lives before the day of the Lord. Those who will humble themselves, seek God’s mercy, and pursue righteousness will enjoy the pleasures of the glorious kingdom of God.”
- A Day of Hope (3:9–20): First, God had to surface and purify His people with a judgment of fire. After this, He would restore His people to a position of honor higher than before. When the wrath subsides and the noise of judgment is stilled, the Lord will restore a righteous people to the world.