“Be silent in the presence of the Lord Yahweh.” Zephaniah says the Day of Yahweh is at hand (is near), so Yahweh is also near. Be reverently silent in the presence of the Most High God, creator of the heavens and earth.
“The Day of Yahweh is at hand.” The “day of Yahweh” (“the Day of the LORD” in most English translations), is a general phrase, and the “Day of Yahweh” has many parts, including the Tribulation (see commentary on Dan. 12:1), the Battle of Armageddon, the judgments, and the coming kingdom of Christ on earth. The reader must pay close attention to the context to figure out which part of the Day of Yahweh is being emphasized in any given verse. Often the Day of Yahweh is simply called “the day” or “that day” (cp. Zeph. 1:9, 10; 2:2; 3:8, 11, 16). For example, in most of Zephaniah, “the Day of Yahweh” refers to the Tribulation and Armageddon, which will come with destruction on earth (cp. Zeph. 1:7, 8, 14, 18; 2:2, 3; 3:8). However, in Zephaniah 3:11 and 3:16, “the day” refers to the time after God’s wrath when Christ will reign on earth and things will be godly again.
The Day of Yahweh begins with terrible tribulation on earth (see commentary on Dan. 12:1), then comes the Battle of Armageddon, the Sheep and Goat Judgment (Matt. 25:31-46), the First Resurrection (Rev. 20:1-6) and then Christ’s reign on earth. There was no knowledge of the 1000-year Millennial Kingdom of Christ at Zephaniah’s time, so that was not included in their thinking. According to Zephaniah 1:7, the Day of Yahweh was very close, but it turned out that God delayed it (and has continued to delay it) for His own purposes. It is noteworthy that at no point in Zephaniah’s prophecy is there any mention of any course of action that would cool God’s wrath and stop the Day of Yahweh from coming. The Day of Yahweh was going to come, but an individual could repent and not be an object of God’s wrath. The Day of Yahweh is mentioned ten times in five verses later in the chapter (Zeph. 1:14-18). [For more on the Great Tribulation, see commentary on Dan. 12:2. For more on Christ’s Millennial Kingdom, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].
“Yahweh has prepared a sacrifice.” This is covenant language, and the “sacrifice” is all the wicked people on earth. This is covenant language because under ordinary circumstances God would never do a “sacrifice” because there would be no God that He could offer the sacrifice to, nor any reason for Him to offer a sacrifice. But God had established covenants with Israel and had also promised a New Covenant. Israel had broken the Old Covenant, and humankind had lived in rebellion against their Creator. Now Zephaniah foretold a time when God would show Himself to be Creator and Lord of the universe by destroying His enemies and also fulfilling the curses of the covenant He made with Israel (Deut. 28:20-26).
The context of Zephaniah 1:7 is the Day of Yahweh, and that those people who will be killed during the Great Tribulation and Armageddon are referred to as a “sacrifice” points both backward and forward. It points backward to the fact that the sacrifices made at the inauguration of a covenant were a form of self-maledictory oath (an oath of destruction of oneself if the covenant was broken), and so dire consequences were coming because people had lived in rebellion against God. They had broken the covenant, so they will be sacrificed just as they sacrificed animals when they made the covenant. The “sacrifice” of God also points forward to the fact that a sacrifice is offered to inaugurate a new covenant, and God’s “sacrifice” of all the wicked people makes the way ready for Jesus to set up his Millennial Kingdom on earth and fulfill the New Covenant promises.
Jesus Christ himself was both a sacrifice that fulfilled the self-maledictory oath and the sacrifice that inaugurated the New Covenant from the standpoint of human salvation (cp. commentary on Luke 22:20). But Jesus knew that there was also going to be planet-wide destruction coming as a consequence of sin (the “Great Tribulation”), and he taught about the tribulation at different times in his ministry (cp. Matt. 24, esp. Matt. 24:21. Luke 11:50 also mentions a generation suffering because of sin and bloodshed).
“He has consecrated his guests.” This borders on sarcasm, but there really will be “guests” at the great sacrificial feast of God. The “guests” that God will call to His “sacrifice” and sacrificial banquet, which will be given due to the world-wide destruction coming on the earth, are the animals and birds that will feast on the dead bodies. They will especially gorge themselves on flesh after the Battle of Armageddon (Rev. 19:17-21; Ezek. 39:17). Most of the sacrifices that people offered according to the Law of Moses allowed for the people to eat some of the meat of the sacrifice, and so too, after Armageddon, God’s “guests” will gorge themselves on the meat of God’s “sacrifice.”