Zephaniah asserts that judgment day is coming soon, and he is not referring to the end times here but to a specific time in history yet to come for those first hearing his words. Zephaniah is not the only prophet talking about it either. God is using many “mouthpieces” to get the message out that he is not happy with his people.
It’s good to take a moment of silence in our own day to take an account of what’s going on in our lives. Do our actions glorify God or disappoint him? Do we see chaos, worry, doubt, thrill, busyness, fear, loneliness, great success, embarrassing failures? What is happening in your life right now? Is God part of the picture? If not, invite him in!
The central “indictment” of this book is found in verse 12. “I will search with lanterns in Jerusalem’s darkest corners to punish those who sit complacent in their sins. They think the Lord will do nothing to them, either good or bad.” In other words, these people are in denial. Meanwhile, God is not going to allow them to wallow in their sinfulness. How do you think he feels about our sinfulness?
Zephaniah is writing first and foremost to a group of people who had forgotten about God and done their “own thing.” Do we think God’s ancient commandments have lost their importance? Are the forces at work the result of human effort having forgotten God? How else can we explain what we see in the world crumbling around us?
Is that what’s happening in our world today? Have people stopped believing in God because they don’t think it makes any difference? It’s like people believe God is absent from the world, so “anything goes!” Just like when a parent is looking the other way, kids think they’re immune to trouble.
I can remember a very hard lesson I learned as a child when my brother and I disobeyed my mother directly, but waited until she wasn’t looking. We got caught “red-handed” when the hall mirror shattered into a million pieces (just like she had warned)!
Likewise, the people of Judah were in denial. Their sinfulness could not be hidden from God. He is always watching. But there are consequences, aren’t there? Zephaniah announces God’s judgment. The people of Judah needed to know what was going to happen to them. This prophetic oracle details the events with specificity.
Our reading began with these words: “Stand in silence in the presence of the Sovereign Lord, for the awesome day of the Lord’s judgment is near.” Let’s take time today to stand in silence, reflecting on how we are responding to God’s grace and mercy. Be in awe of our gracious God!
Let’s pray. Lord, my heart breaks when I think of the many people who don’t know you or have chosen to turn their back on you. You are a loving and passionate Father, but you have shown great anger for unacceptable behavior. Lord, I want to please you in all I say and do and encourage others to do the same. In Jesus’ name. Amen.