Read Zephaniah 3:1-13
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23 NLT)
When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.
Part 96: Zephaniah. In order to talk about Zephaniah, we need to travel back to King Josiah. It was under the great reformer king that Zephaniah was a prophet. Again, we know very little about Zephaniah himself, other than what is revealed of him in the eponymous short book in the Hebrew Testament. Here’s what we know of him for sure. Zephaniah was the son of Cushi, who “was the son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah” (1:1b). If you follow the generations, Zephaniah was the great-grandson of King Hezekiah.
The first part of verse 1 states that Zephaniah was a prophet under the rule of King Josiah. Given the fact that Josiah, himself, is known to be a great reformer, it seems that Zephaniah was his greatest advocate. He, no doubt, spoke up against the critics that would have risen up against the reforms that Josiah was pushing to have put in place.
Zephaniah’s prophecy spoke against idolatry, pride, corruption, and those who “remain complacent in their sins”. His prophecy also pointed fingers at the surrounding nations and/or kingdoms that have defiled Judah with their idols, their religious practices, and their bloodshed against God’s people. Finally, Zephaniah held Jerusalem, the seat of power in the Kingdom of Judah, accountable. He called the city “rebellious and polluted…the city of violence and crime.” He charged the city with haughty arrogance, a city that refuses correction and that refuses to put its trust in God. He proclaims that its leaders are like roaring lions who hunt their victims.
He also brought charges against Jerusalem’s judges, which he said were “like ravenous wolves at evening time, who by dawn have left no trace of their prey.” The prophets, he proclaimed, were arrogant liars who are merely seeking their own gain; the priests defile the Temple by disobeying God’s instructions. It is easy to get hung up on the “wrathful God” language used in Zephaniah and other prophetic texts; however, when one understands the abuses of power and corruption that the prophets are crying out against, one can understand why God would be angry.
Such corruption, arrogance, unfaithfulness and injustice brings about consequences and justice will have its day. Zephaniah does not leave us with a wrathful ending, either. God is just. God is merciful. God is looking for people to return into a right relationship with God. Forgiveness is available to the people who will humble themselves, admit where they have gone wrong, and change. In fact, that is all that God is asking for. The warning, itself, is a plea for people to repent and change.
Each of us have not been as faithful to God as we ought to be. Each one of us falls short of God’s glorious standard. God does not want destruction to fall upon us, but wants us to live life and live it abundantly; however, our arrogance, pride, unfaithfulness bears fruit that is counter to what God wants for us and the consequences are on us, not God. This isn’t just true individually but on us as a national people. Corruption, injustice, oppression, arrogance, deceitfulness and idolatry are everywhere in our nation and we, as a people, are being called to repent and to turn back to God. In Christ, through whom all things are possible, we can begin to reflect the honesty, justice, liberty, humility and right worship of God.gh
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“A man’s conscience, like a warning line on the highway, tells him what he shouldn’t do – but it does not keep him from doing it.” —Frank A. Clark
Lord, help me to humble myself so that I may see where I have strayed. I repent of such times and ask you to, in Christ, lead me back to you. Amen.