GATHER…. GATHER TOGETHER… BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!!! - Zephaniah 2

Shabbat Shalom all,

Iḇ’rim/Hebrews 10:23-25 “Let us hold fast the confession of our expectation without yielding, for He who promised is trustworthy. 24 And let us be concerned for one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging, and so much more as you see the Day coming near.

As we see the Day of יהוה approaching – the ‘DAY’ which is being spoken of here, we are to make sure that we are holding fast to our bold confession of Messiah and His coming Kingdom, and not forsake our assembling or gathering together… but be more and more urgent in our encouraging one another to gather as we should, stirring up true obedient love and good works, being concerned for each other as we sojourn here and endure much pressures!

The Greek word used here for assembling together is ἐπισυναγωγή episunagōgē – Strong’s G1997 which means, complete collection, gathering togetherand comes from the verb συνάγω sunagō – Strong’s G4863 meaning, to gather, assemble, be assembled, come together, which is derived from two words: σύν sun – Strong’s G4862 which is a primary preposition meaning, with, together with (expresses association with), accompany, companion’;  and the word ἄγω agō – Strong’s G71 which is a primary verb that means, to lead, bring, carry.

The purpose for me sharing this is simply to emphasise what is being called for in Scripture with regards to the necessity of our being obedient in gathering/assembling as a group or body of believers at the Appointed Times of our Maker. And how we are to be urgent in our encouraging each other as well as others to do so… as we see the Day of יהוה coming near!

In a message tonight called “GATHER… GATHER TOGETHER… BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!!!”, I would like us to look at the urgent words of יהוה as given through the prophet Tsephanyah.

Please turn with me to Tsephanyah/Zephaniah 2 (Read).

A little over two years ago I gave a message called “Hidden from complacency” where we looked at Chapter 1 and a few months after that I gave another message called, “Woe-Woe-Woe - it is the season to be hearing” as we looked at Chapter 3, with the urgency we are to have in standing up and proclaim the Truth, as well as being stripped and rid of all forms of complacency.

Tsephanyah is often a book regarded by many as the ‘hottest book’ in Scripture, as it speaks more about the coming Day of יהוה than any other prophet – in fact the entire book’s message is centred on the coming Day of יהוה with the call to repentance to all who are walking in darkness through their rebellious and lustful living. The more I read through this book the more I come to grips just how alive it is for us today – and so as we look into the mirror of this chapter we have just read I believe that we are able to clearly see the message for us today. צְפַנְיָה Tsephanyah – Strong’s H6846 means ‘Hidden by יהוה’ or ‘Treasured by יהוה’ and comes from the word צָפַן tsaphan – Strong’s H6845 meaning, to hide, treasure up, store, save, and is a great picture of encouragement to us as we see the promise of protection from those hidden in יהוה.

Tehillim/Psalm 27:5 “For in the day of evil He hides me in His booth; in the covering of His Tent He hides me; on a rock He raises me up.

This prophecy was a warning of the coming day of יהוה when His wrath will be poured out, and the only hope that the people of יהוה would have would be to turn back to Him and be hidden in Him, sheltered from His anger, and the clear call given at the beginning of Chapter 2 is to stop all complacency and gather!

Many had become very complacent in their worship unto יהוה, and the clear warning of the coming day of יהוה and what it entails was a sobering wake up call to get back to pure obedience.

I would like to look at a few key words contained in the first few verses that will help us understand this very urgent call to gather, in the light of what is coming.

In verse 1 we see the repetition of the phrase, “gather together” which in itself places a huge emphasis on this being crucial to being obedient and finding refuge in our Most High.

The opening words of this chapter are – הִתְקוֹשְׁשׁוּ וָקוֹשּׁוּ – ‘hat’qoshshu vaqoshu’ as we see the repetition of the root verb קָשַׁשׁ qashash – Strong’s H7197 which means, gather together. The first use of this verb is in the ‘hithpael’ form which expresses a reflexive action of the ‘qal’ form and carries the more accurate meaning of, to gather oneself together and the second use of this verb is written in the ‘qal active’ form  which expresses the simple or causal action of the root in the active voice and is rendered as, to gather together, and therefore can be literally rendered as, Gather yourselves/yourself together to gather together

This is a very clear call for all to ‘get their act together’ in order ‘to gather’. Have you ever heard the expression ‘get yourself together’? Well to get yourself together simply can be understood as getting yourself organised and ready, as well as getting your emotions under control; and in the context of this prophetic call being given here in Tsephanyah – it can also express the call to snap out of complacency and half-hearted worship! This is a call for the coming together of the true worshippers of יהוה, to get organised and be obedient in gathering at His Appointed Times. This verse then carries on and makes it clear who this call is too – ‘O nation without shame’. The Hebrew word used here for ‘shame’ is כָּסַף kasaph – Strong’s H3700 meaning, to long for, yearn for or long after, and when used with the primitive adverb לאֹ lo – Strong’s H3808 meaning, not, no can be understood as meaning, to be shameful, formally, not longed for, i.e., pertaining to acting in a way in open defiance of a standard, and so causing a disgraceful situation, as an extension of lacking a feeling or attitude of desire or yearning for a situation or object.

This was, and still is today, a clear call to repentance – a call to repentance of a people who acted in open defiance of the clear standards and instructions of the Torah of Elohim, which had resulted in a lack of the desire to seek and walk after יהוה. Yehuḏah had fallen into the trap of complacency and sought out their own system of worship that suited their fleshly and pride filled lifestyles, and instead of longing for the Truth in order to guard it and walk in it they had fallen aside to the desires of the flesh – the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life – which is not of Elohim – and in the process they had grown so cold in their longing for יהוה that they did not even feel the shame of disobedience!!!

Sadly we see this very same condition among so many today, who are so caught up in their own lives that they have no regard for יהוה, and become very complacent in their understanding of Scripture. This prophetic book is a ‘hot’ book – it shouts out a very big warning of the Day of יהוה – a day of wrath and distress, trouble, waste and ruin – a day of darkness and gloom – with the resounding call to repentance.

So many today, through the error of false traditions and dogmas of man, have become so cold in their love for Elohim that regard for His commands has been cast aside, and it is done so without any shame at all – simply because ‘love for Elohim’ is no longer being taught as being the ability to fervently guard and obey His commands, but has been substituted for a candy floss faith that assumes that all you have to do is ‘believe’ and you will be fine. Belief alone gets you nowhere, and to put it bluntly ‘belief without works’ will not cause you to be hidden in the Day of the wrath of יהוה, but with rather cause you to be exposed for being lawless!

Gathering as we should in a dark and sinful world is not always made easy – this we know. This word for ‘gather together’ also carries the meaning of ‘gathering straw’ as in:

Shemoth/Exodus 5:7 “You are no longer to give the people straw to make bricks as before. Let them go and gather straw for themselves.

Pharaoh made it harder for Yisra’ĕl in Mitsrayim as he demanded the same amount of work to be done with the added responsibility of gathering their own straw. This is a picture and great lesson for us today, of how hard it is certainly getting in one’s ability to keep up and make ends meet with the pressures of this world getting heavier each day. yet what we can also recognise here in the urgency we must have in gathering is that while it may get harder and harder to gather as we are commanded to, we must get our life organised and press on in obedience, despite the pressures of work, and the pressures that family and friends put on us – in fact if any ‘family or friend’ is calling you or causing you to break the gathering of the body of Messiah on the proclaimed set-apart gatherings of יהוה, then they are not true friends or family!!! In Yeshayahu/Isaiah 64:7 we see the cry of the prophet who declares the sad state of a complacent people:

And there is no one who calls on Your Name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You; for You have hidden Your face from us, and have consumed us because of our crookednesses.

The call here in Tsephanyah is to get urgent in our much needed gathering – gathering as a community – something that so many who claim to be on the ‘Torah walk’ are not eager for, as they assume that they can walk alone! We must recognise here by the words of this prophet that without community and the gathering together at the Appointed Times we are unable to survive. What we are to recognise is that it is through the hardships of daily life, like the hardships that Pharaoh forced upon our ancestors, that our desire for community, as opposed to individuality, will grow. Under the pressure we face, we are to recognise the need to grow closer together, instead of each walking on His own – in order to survive what is about to come!

Verse 2 stresses the urgency to wake up from complacency and gather as we should… before it is too late!!! Hear the call before it is too late!!! Act upon these words while there is still time!!! Refusal to repent from complacency and laziness to obey will result in one being consumed like chaff on the day of judgement!

What we are to recognise here is that simply ‘Keeping of the Torah’ is not enough, and by that I mean that to keep the Torah on one’s own is not enough – we must keep the Torah ‘together’ – for that is where our true motives of the heart will be tested. There are some today who are content with keeping the Torah alone, with no accountability, responsibility or interaction with an assembly or fellowship or family of believers – and this is not true ‘torah keeping’ as the Torah is all about family and growing together as we sharpen each other, and build each other up in the Most set-apart faith. Failure to gather yourself together to gather together may result in you neglecting some much needed building blocks of the body/Dwelling Place of Messiah.

The encouragement given here in this chapter 2 is for the humble to seek יהוה, and hold firm to the Truth, and the clear emphasis is placed on ‘seeking יהוה’ which is done as we seek righteousness and meekness. The meek are those who remain faithful to יהוה, and are led and taught by Him:

Tehillim/Psalm 25:8-9 “Good and straight is יהוה; Therefore He teaches sinners in the way. 9 He guides the meek ones in right-ruling, and He teaches the meek ones His way.

How we ‘prepare’ for the coming DAY of יהוה is by ‘seeking’ Him, His righteousness and meekness.

The Hebrew word for ‘seek’ is בָּקַשׁ  baqash – Strong’s H1245 which means, to seek, aim, search, look, inquire, and it is written in the ‘piel’ form which expresses an intensive or intentional action and could therefore be expressed as, seek earnestly or seek the face, seek to find, demand, desire, ask, and this kind of ‘seeking’ is an intense seeking with a purpose!

Now I just want to make it clear that יהוה is by no means lost in any way – it is us who were lost through sin and lawlessness and so we earnestly seek Him while He is to be found, as we seek to please Him and walk in His Truth.

We are to be seeking His face always:

Tehillim/Psalm 27:8 “To my heart You have said, “Seek My face.” Your face, יהוה, I seek.

Yirmeyahu/Jeremiah 29:12-14 “Then you shall call on Me, and shall come and pray to Me, and I shall listen to you. 13 ‘And you shall seek Me, and shall find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 ‘And I shall be found by you,’ declares יהוה, ‘and I shall turn back your captivity, and shall gather you from all the gentiles and from all the places where I have driven you, declares יהוה. And I shall bring you back to the place from which I have exiled you.’

 

The Hebrew word translated as ‘meekness’ is עֲנָוָה anavah – Strong’s H6038 and means, humility, gentleness and comes from the root word עָנָה anah – Strong’s H6031 and means, ‘to be bowed down, afflicted, humbled’. This carries the understanding of being ‘grounded’ as well as the ability to ‘pay close attention’ and open one’s ears to hear! It carries the concept of denying oneself and submitting to Elohim as you understand and are aware of one’s status before an Almighty Elohim!

The wilderness is a place of being humbled and taught to listen carefully, and this word also carries the meaning ‘afflict’ and understanding how we, on Yom Kippur, are to ‘afflict’ our beings we understand how this can also carry the meaning ‘to be occupied or busy with’. True meekness involves being occupied with the things of יהוה, having died to self and living unto יהושע Messiah! Being occupied or busy with the things of יהושע Messiah, our Kings, involves our continued ‘seeking’ of His righteousness and as it says in:

Deḇarim/Deuteronomy 6:25 “And it is righteousness for us when we guard to do all this command before יהוה our Elohim, as He has commanded us.’

Guarding to do all He has commanded us and being occupied with the business of our Creator and Redeemer is what is called for – for the meek shall inherit the earth – and our gathering is critical in seeking out the true righteousness and meekness. Verse 3 then tells us that ‘if so’ – we be ‘hidden’ in the day of the wrath of יהוה.

The Hebrew word used here for ‘if so’ is אוּלַי ulay – Strong’s H194 and can mean, if so, maybe, perhaps, suppose and what we recognise here is that this shows our urgency in working out our deliverance with fear and trembling – and also tells us that deliverance is given to us by the favour and mercy of יהוה – and is something that we can never take for granted and assume that we have already arrived! יהוה promises to shelter those who trust in Him:

Yo’ĕl/Joel 3:16 “And יהוה shall roar from Tsiyon, and give forth His voice from Yerushalayim. And the heavens and earth shall shake, but יהוה shall be a refuge for His people, and a stronghold for the children of Yisra’ĕl.

Naḥum/Nahum 1:7 “יהוה is good, as a stronghold in the day of distress. And He knows those who take refuge in Him.

This kind of trust that finds shelter in the Most High casts out self-reliance, guile and deception. The call here is to get seeking before it is too late and get gathering as commanded to!

 

I have placed much emphasis on the first 3 verses – as I feel there needs to be emphasis expressed in our urgent need to understand why we gather and how crucial it is to us, in order that we may be found to be hidden by Him in the day of His wrath. The Hebrew word used here for ‘hidden’ is סָתַר sathar – Strong’s H5641 which means, to hide, conceal, cover’.

Tehillim/Psalm 17:8 “Guard me as the apple of Your eye. Hide me under the shadow of Your wings

We are ‘hidden’ or ‘covered’ under the wings of Elohim – and the word wings is כָּנָף kanaph – Strong’s H3671 which means, ‘corners - an edge or extremity; a wing, (of a garment or bed clothing) a flap, (of the earth) uttermost part’, and we must be reminded that we are commanded to put ‘tzitzit’ on the wings of our garments in order to remember to guard His commands, and we recognise there that we find shelter under His commands or rather when we live obediently in subjection to His commands, we find ourselves being covered by His loving-commitment to His Covenants of Promise by which we have been grafted into by the Blood of Messiah!

The rest of this chapter clearly expresses what is coming upon the nations who surround Yisra’ĕl – that is a clear decree of wrath that is coming on all who are against Yisra’ĕl and walk contrary to the Torah of Elohim.

Verse 10 clearly tells us that this punishment is as a result of pride and rebellion.

In verse 4 we see 4 cities of the Philistines being mentioned and from these we can see a play on words that speak to us today, both literally as well as metaphorically. All of these cities are cities that occupy the west coast of modern day Yisra’ĕl.

1 - עַזָּה Azzah –Strong’s H5804 which is modern day ‘Gaza’ means, the strong and here it is promised that it will be ‘abandoned’ which is the Hebrew word עָזַב azaḇ - Strong’s H5800 which means, to leave, forsake, abandoned, deserted

2 - אַשְׁקְלוֹן Ashqelon – Strong’s H831 means, the fire of infamy, I shall be weighedand here it is decreed that its success through its evil reputation will be ‘laid waste’ and become desolate.

3 – אַשְׁדּוֹד Ashdod – Strong’s H795 means, powerful, and they will be driven out at ‘noon-day’ or could be expressed as being driven out ‘by’ noon-day or giving reference to the hottest time of the day when typically the city would take a siesta, which shadow pictures for us how the powerful will be caught by surprise.

4 - עֶקְרוֹן Eqron – Strong’s H6138 means, emigration, torn up by the roots  - they will be ‘uprooted

What we can see here is that while we recognise the physical locations being a hot spot today and will certainly see some great destruction, we also can see how those who have walked contrary to the truth and made themselves strong in following after the flesh and the pride of life, will be uprooted and destroyed.

This chapter then declares judgement against the nations of the south – the Kushites (modern day Ethiopia), as well as against the north as pictured by Ashshur, and to the west as pictured through Ninewěh.

North, south, east and west – all who are enemies of the covenanted people of Elohim, shall be destroyed and laid waste in the day of His wrath!!!

It is with this knowledge of what is coming that we must continue to be obedient in hearing the call to gather ourselves to gather together as we should, and let there be no excuses to not gather as commanded – for excuses are just that – excuses – and no excuses will deliver you or hide you in the day of His wrath – only true loving commitment to hearing, guarding and doing His commands 

Have there been hints of complacency of late in your walk with יהוה? Heed these words and be found to be hidden from all forms of complacency as you diligently hear, guard and do His Word. Perhaps you have let your hunger to seek יהוה fade or have been found trying to separate your weekly walk with your Shabbat walk or have tried to cover all bases – listen to the words given to Tsephanyah by יהוה for us to hear today – may we earnestly seek Him with our all – give Him our all living a totally surrendered and submitted life unto obedient living, walking the straight and narrow path that we have found in Him, and so with joy be always hidden from complacency, aměn!

It is time for us, His remnant Bride, to stand up and be bold and raise the alarm and sound of the shofar, sounding it against the seemingly secure whose false walls of security  will come crashing down.

Have you struggled to ‘gather yourself’ and comes to grips with the reality that you must gather as His Word commands – well hear this call today – and GATHER… GATHER TOGETHER… BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!!!

יהוה bless you and guard you; יהוה make His face shine upon you and show favour to you; יהוה lift up His face upon you and give you shalom!