I want to take you on a journey back to Jerusalem when Zephaniah spoke the words recorded in Zephaniah 3:1–10. Jerusalem is suppose to be a light post, shining the beauty of the Lord to the nations around them. Just like you use headlights to cut the darkness when you drive at night, so Jerusalem was supposed to bring light in the midst of a dark world. Instead they looked like the nations that surrounded them. Although Jerusalem was full of people who said they followed God, in reality, their hearts rejected him. They wore a mask that resembled the face of a believer, but below the mask was a wicked and rebellious person.
Zephaniah 3:1 tells us the people are oppressors, rebellious, and defiled. Then in verses three to five, we see a clear picture of how deep their corruption has gone. Their officials are wicked, their prophets are treacherous people, and their priests defame the holy things of the Lord. Zephaniah weeps over the fact that even the leaders of God’s people have gone so far astray. These priests and officials were suppose to lead the people in godliness, and yet wickedness stains their lives. The only place they can lead the people is to join them in their rebellion. Think of how teachers in school have great influence on children. If teachers started giving courses on pornography, they would begin to produce disciples of that wickedness. Yet Jerusalem is much worse than this example because the leaders are priests who work at the temple, not teachers in a classroom.
As we get this wretched picture of Jerusalem’s rebellion, we get the opposite picture of God—he is faithful and patient with his people. God is still gracious towards his people. He sends them warning after warning to call them back. He could wipe them out for their rebellion, but he instead warns them of this judgement, because he wants them to turn back to him. He has not stopped pursuing his people. Even after they continue in their rebellion, he sent Zephaniah to give another plea for them to return to him. We see here that God could bring judgement, but he holds back once again to warn and call his people to seek salvation in him. Yes, Zephaniah is about judgement, but at the core it’s a call for the people to return to the Lord. In summary, God calls his people to him, for he will destroy his people, Jerusalem, if they do not turn from their wickedness and trust in the him.
God’s attitude towards sin has not changed since Zephaniah’s day, but neither has his promise that he will protect those who take refuge in him. What Zephaniah hints at, the New Testament makes explicit. Zephaniah foresees a day when the Lord will judge the wicked but restore the righteous to new life. On that day, there will be a new covenant where people from every nation will come and worship the Lord. In this day, Jews and non-Jews will all be people of God. This day came in the coming of Christ. Jesus experienced the full wrath of God on the cross so that he could bring his people the full blessings of restoration.
Senior Seminary Student
- Pray that God would remind us of the reality of coming judgement. We often don’t wake up thinking about this, but each day we are walking by people who only have wrath awaiting them.
- Pray that God would cause our delight in the good news to overflow into sharing the good news.
- Pray that Bethlehem College & Seminary would equip its students well to bear witness to the fullness of the gospel.