Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Sep 7 2019 - Zephaniah 3 – Future blessing

Yesterday's reading, ending with Zephaniah 2:3, concluded with a call for the people of Judah and Jerusalem to repent before the Lord sends judgment upon them. 2:4-3:8 contains words of warning from the living God for all the nations around Judah. 2:4-7 warns of God's coming judgment on the land of Philistia. 2:8-11 contains words of warning for Moab and Ammon. 2:12 a solitary sentence of warning for the people of the upper Nile, "You Cushites, too, will be slain by my sword." 2:13-15 contains similar words of warning for the Assyrians – their proud city of Nineveh will be utterly destroyed and left as a possession for wild animals.

The people of Judah and Jerusalem must have been encouraged as they listened to the Lord's message of judgment for their surrounding enemies; but they were not to be exempt from God's judgment. In 3:1-7 Zephaniah brings the message of God's judgment home to Jerusalem. The city has been marked by oppression and no-one seems to pay any attention to God's word. It's rulers and officials, like roaring lions and prowling wolves, use their power to exploit others and to feed their own insatiable demands. Priests profane the sanctuary of the Lord with their idolatry and hypocrisy. The prophets have bent their message to please their hearers rather than declaring the word of the Lord.

God has visited judgment on the nations round about Jerusalem in the hope that his people would see, take note and repent (v.7). Most notably, the northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed by the Assyrians because of its failure to trust in and obey the Lord their God. But Jerusalem has turned a deaf ear to God's warnings. Time is now running out for them. In verse 8 God sums up his message of judgment:

I have decided to assemble the nations, to gather the kingdoms
and to pour out my wrath on them – all my fierce anger.
The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger.

Judah and Jerusalem will not escape the judgment that God is about to pour out, at the hands of the Babylonians. God's "fierce anger" will consume the whole world.

But, once again, judgment is not the end of the story (3:9-20). Beyond judgment the Lord will visit his people again in salvation. He will gather together for himself a people from the scattered nations. He will call together the oppressed and the lame and give them praise and honour (v.19). He will bring his people home and restore their fortunes (v.20). Zion will again be filled with joyful songs of praise to the Lord (v.14), for "The Lord, the King of Israel" will be there, with his people.

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. (v.17)

The Lord himself will rejoice over his people and he also will sing their praises!

Zephaniah's prophecy points us to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one who endured the wrath of God's judgment in our place. He is now gathering a people for his own possession from every nation under heaven. The meek and the humble are being welcomed into his kingdom. We are those who praise him, the Lord, the King of Israel, who is among us. We are filled with wonder that he too delights in us. We long for the day of his return when Christ's presence among us will be manifest and his glory made visible and when praise shall fill the whole of God's renewed creation.

Father God, we thank you for Jesus, our Saviour, our Hope and our precious Lord. We thank you for his presence with us now by his Spirit and for the joy and peace that are ours as we trust in him. But we thank you even more for the prospect of his coming when all of the promises of your word, sealed to us in Christ, will at last be fully realised. What a wonderful day that will be.

Peter Misselbrook