Zephaniah Still Speaks To Us Today

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Old Testament recently and have just finished a study in the book of Zephaniah. It’s a lesser-known book in the Old Testament, but it contains an important message for believers today. Zephaniah was one of the twelve “minor prophets”. Not minor because they were less important than Isaiah, Daniel or other “major prophets”, but simply because their prophetic messages are comparatively shorter. Zephaniah lived during the reign of King Josiah in Judah, around 640-609 BC. During this time, the people of Judah had turned away from God and were practicing idolatry and other sinful behaviors.

Zephaniah's message was one of judgment and warning, but also one of hope and restoration. Here is a brief overview of his message to Judah, that’s relevant over two centuries later.
The first chapter of Zephaniah describes the coming judgment of God on Judah and the surrounding nations. The prophet speaks often of “the day of the Lord” when on that day the Lord will "will utterly consume all things from off the land" (Zephaniah 1:2) and punish those who have turned away from Him. This is a sobering message, but it serves as a reminder that God is holy and just, and that sin will not go unpunished.

However, Zephaniah doesn't stop with the message of judgment. In chapter 2, he encourages the people of Judah to seek the Lord and to humble themselves before Him. He speaks of a remnant who will be saved and urges the people to turn from their wicked ways and trust in God. He turns from warning them of the consequences their sin will reap, to offering a message of hope, reminding them that even in the midst of judgment, God is merciful and willing to forgive those who repent and turn back to Him.

The third chapter of Zephaniah is perhaps the most encouraging of all. The prophet speaks of a future time when God will gather His people together and restore them to Himself. He says, "At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you" (Zephaniah 3:20). This is a promise of restoration and renewal. Even when we have turned away from God, He is always ready to welcome us back into His loving arms.

As we read the book of Zephaniah, we may be tempted to think that it doesn't apply to us today. After all, we don't worship idols (or do we?) or practice the same sins that the people of Judah did (I wonder). Friends, the message of Zephaniah is just as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago. We may not worship idols made of wood and stone, but we often put other things ahead of God in our lives. We may not engage in the specific sins that the people of Judah did, but we are still sinners in need of God's grace and mercy. When reading scripture, we can’t think that some of it doesn’t apply to us. Hear these words from the Apostle Paul to Timothy (2 Tim 3:16-17)
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
Understanding these are God’s words changes the way we read all Scripture. Words that leave no doubt that God is holy and just, and that sin will not go unpunished. But it also reassures us that God is merciful and loving, and that He desires to restore us to Himself. As we read the Bible, we should be encouraged to turn away from our sin and seek the Lord with all our hearts. We should humble ourselves before Him, confessing our sins and asking for His forgiveness. And we should trust in His promise of restoration, knowing that He is faithful to His Word and will never leave us or forsake us.

The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

Credit: Ron Kelley

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