We’re going to take a short break from Jeremiah at this point, and take a brief look at Zephaniah, who was a contemporary of Jeremiah. As with the book of Nahum, I won’t spend too much time here, mostly because Zephaniah’s message is very similar to Jeremiah’s and Isaiah’s and most of the other prophets, namely warnings of judgment to come.
If you have any doubt of that, look no further than the first chapter where Zephaniah says,
“I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord. “I will sweep away both men and animals; I will sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. The wicked will have only heaps of rubble when I cut off man from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord. (2-3)
Just as the other prophets, Zephaniah drills Judah over their idolatry (1:4-6), their complacency (1:12), their disobedience (3:1), and injustice from the top-down (3:3-4)
And so Zephaniah warns them of the judgment to come.
The great day of the Lord is near– near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the Lord will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there. That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness, a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the corner towers. I will bring distress on the people and they will walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord. Their blood will be poured out like dust and their entrails like filth. (1:14-17)
Not only that, Zephaniah proclaimed judgment on the nations around Judah (2:4-15). For they too were idolatrous and constantly reproached and threatened the nation God had chosen.
As I read this, it makes me think of Romans 2:5-11, where Paul writes,
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.
Paul could have been speaking in Zephaniah’s time. And Zephaniah followed the pattern of Paul in proclaiming judgment. Judgment for the Jews first, and then judgment for the Gentiles. Why? Because the Jews should’ve known better. God had directly revealed himself to them in ways he didn’t to the other nations.
God will bring judgment upon our times as well. And Zephaniah’s message to the people of Judah is the same message God gives us today.
Gather together, gather together, O shameful nation, before the appointed time arrives and that day sweeps on like chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord comes upon you, before the day of the Lord’s wrath comes upon you. Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger. (2:1－3)
In short, repent. Humble yourself before God. Seek his ways. And if you do, on that Day of the Lord, our judgments will be taken away and the Enemy of our souls cast out for good. Instead, Jesus our king will be in our midst, and disaster and evil will be a thing of the past. (3:15)
And as we rejoice in his salvation, he will rejoice over us. Zephaniah closes by saying,
The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. (3:17)
At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes,” says the Lord. (3:20)
Zephaniah is of course talking about Israel’s restoration in the last days, but the day will come when God will take all of us home. And all will be as it was meant to be in the beginning.
I can’t wait.