Minor Prophet? Zephaniah: God’s Call to Holiness and Repentance
Book of Zephaniah
“Who’s read the Book of Zephaniah?” I asked several people this week. No one responded with a definitive ‘yes.’ I think that means a consistent ‘no.’ What’s in Zephaniah? Have to wait until Sunday to hear the full monty… but here is a teaser.
Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of King Josiah of Judah. Josiah was the king who instituted reform – started removing all pagan Canaanite shrines and symbols, he recovered the book of the Law bringing about a reformation of sorts throughout Judah.
Zephaniah calls the people to a ‘persevering trust in God.’ To be one among those who patiently seek God and wait for his coming. He does speak about the coming Day of the Lord – a day of judgement and salvation.
And his purpose is this:
What we hope for tomorrow and what we fear tomorrow changes who we are today.
Zephaniah uses both hope and dread for calling people to trust and find satisfaction in God.
From Zephaniah’s prophecies, the fires of God will burn up the old order of things, including unbelieving humanity. Yet, YHWH will protect those who have humbled themselves and called on his name. And Zephaniah hints at how salvation by way of judgment and a new creation will come: penal substitutionary atonement. He associates God’s fire of judgment with sacrifice. And this sacrifice appeases God’s righteous wrath. The humble are to ‘draw near’ to God by faith in a substitute sacrifice. All of it points to Jesus’ substitutionary atonement. And it reveals God as being both just and the justifier.
A key verse in the Book of Zephaniah is 3:17:
“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Why is it that people of faith grab onto this verse? I think it’s because of the promise, longing for, and the reality of joy. Joy is a deeper emotional reality than happiness. Joy is rooted in the reality of what is ultimate in terms of meaning, purpose, fulfilment, significance. The Joy of the Lord can powerfully shape our thoughts, emotions, actions – providing strength to everything from faith, and hope, and expressions of love.
In the midst of our present realities: global pandemic, violence in the streets, natural disasters, collapsing apartment buildings, national unrest, financial difficulties, broken/strained relationships where can we find strength? Into the chaos of our world, the Word of the Lord comes: “The Joy of the Lord is my strength.” Maybe it’s sorrow you are working through… maybe it’s a loss – relationship, job, friendship… can be physical, emotional… whatever it is… “The Joy of the Lord can be your strength.” It’s a supernatural joy that is found in God.
See you Sunday, special offering this month for Jason Stryd,