Shock and Awe
Lord, make me alert in the spirit.
Read ZEPHANIAH 1:14—2:3
14 The great day of the Lord is near—
near and coming quickly.
The cry on the day of the Lord is bitter;
the Mighty Warrior shouts his battle cry.
15 That day will be a day of wrath—
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of trouble and ruin,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and blackness—
16 a day of trumpet and battle cry
against the fortified cities
and against the corner towers.
17 “I will bring such distress on all people
that they will grope about like those who are blind,
because they have sinned against the Lord.
Their blood will be poured out like dust
and their entrails like dung.
18 Neither their silver nor their gold
will be able to save them
on the day of the Lord’s wrath.”
In the fire of his jealousy
the whole earth will be consumed,
for he will make a sudden end
of all who live on the earth.
Judah and Jerusalem Judged Along With the Nations
Judah Summoned to Repent
2 Gather together, gather yourselves together,
you shameful nation,
2 before the decree takes effect
and that day passes like windblown chaff,
before the Lord’s fierce anger
comes upon you,
before the day of the Lord’s wrath
comes upon you.
3 Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land,
you who do what he commands.
Seek righteousness, seek humility;
perhaps you will be sheltered
on the day of the Lord’s anger.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Reflect on God’s patience towards you. Spend some time in praise and thanksgiving for his mercy.
The complacency noted in verse 12 will one day give way to the terror in verse 14. Despite the warnings of the prophets before and after Zephaniah (e.g., Obad. 12; Isa. 13:9; Ezek. 30:3), the day of the Lord will appear suddenly (14), and if it was close then, how much closer is it now?
Delay, even thanks to God’s mercy (2 Pet. 3:9), may lead to carelessness and conceit (2 Pet. 3:3,4).
Are we blasé about God’s judgment? Zephaniah’s description is shocking in the extreme. Can you imagine a more terrible day than this (15)? Read it again slowly. This is the worst of days, like a reversal of creation, when God brought order out of chaos (Gen. 1:2), as if being caught in the worst of war zones (18).
As Amos said close to a century before, this is not a day to long for (Amos 5:18). It will be a day of distress for all people because they (we) “have sinned against the Lord” (17). The powerful picture of groping about “like those who are blind” (17) echoes the warning God had given to Moses long before. If his people break his covenant, he said, “At midday you will grope about like a blind person in the dark” (Deut. 28:29).
Yet, springing from the darkness of his grim prophecy, Zephaniah brings a glimmer of light. There is still a way, still time to get it right (2:2). God’s warnings are not like those of some preachers who—we hope only seemingly—take delight in lurid warnings of judgment. When God warns, it is in order to bring about repentance. There is a window of opportunity for the people to come together to “seek the Lord” in humility and obedience (3). The word translated “seek” means “long for,” so seeking God is not so much about looking for God as longing for him. Amazingly, he still wants their (our) relationship to continue.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). What will that mean for you today?
Lord, when Your judgment finally comes, remember those who have served You.