Commentary by Walter Albritton


July 8, 2007


Zephaniah Teaches Us to Heed God’s Prophetic Warnings


Zephaniah 3:1-13; 2 Chronicles 34:1-3


Key Verse: For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation, all the heat of my anger; for in the fire of my passion all the earth shall be consumed. – Zephaniah 3:8  


Like the prophets before him, Zephaniah warned the people of Judah that if they did not turn from their evil ways, they would face the wrath of God. Amos, Isaiah, and others had sounded the same alarm. They all called for repentance before “the day of the Lord” when the unrepentant would be “consumed” by the “heat” of God’s “anger.”

These are words our ears do not like to hear. We prefer to speak about God’s love, not his anger. Shamefully, some of us have reduced God to the attributes we think he should have, making him a God we can manage or live with. The result is often a God who is something like a compassionate old man who will, in the end, take us all to heaven

That, of course, is not the God of the Bible. Though God did in fact take our sins upon himself on the Cross, showing us his great mercy, he remains throughout the Bible the righteous God to whom all people are accountable. The Bible insists that evil is abhorrent to God and that those who refuse to repent will be punished.

Lest we forget it, we should remember the teaching of our Lord Jesus about the Day of Judgment when the sheep will be separated from the goats (Matthew 25). Jesus made it clear that eternal separation from God awaits those who refuse to repent and seek to live in faithful obedience to God. Our Lord urged his followers to invest their lives and resources in the kingdom of God and wait watchfully for his return.

The Apostle Paul minced no words about the coming day of the Lord. In Romans 2:5 (New Living Bible) Paul sounds a great deal like Zephaniah:


 But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.


We should observe that the consistent theme of the Bible from the beginning to the end is God’s righteous judgment of sin and his great mercy for all who repent and seek to live in faithful obedience to his commands.

Though Zephaniah did not have the understanding of God that we have, on this side of the Cross, he did perceive that God will have mercy on all who repent and call upon his name. God’s abundant mercy is depicted beautifully in this verse (2:3, New Living Bible):


Seek the Lord, all who are humble,
      and follow his commands.
   Seek to do what is right
      and to live humbly.
   Perhaps even yet the Lord will protect you—
      protect you from his anger on that day of destruction.


Another translation of this verse helps us to see God’s willingness to save those who in humility seek to obey God:


If you humbly obey the LORD, then come and worship him. If you do right and are humble, perhaps you will be safe on the day when the LORD turns loose his anger (CEV).


Observe and meditate on the words, “worship him.” The people of Judah in their worst days still worshipped the Lord – but not the Lord only! Zephaniah was alarmed by the widespread worship of many false gods and the assumption of the people that they could worship these pagan gods AND the Lord God. God is “a jealous God” and Zephaniah knew it.

Zephaniah was surely encouraged by the reform efforts of King Josiah as described in 2 Chronicles 34:1-3 (NIV):


   Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. 2 He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn away from doing what was right. During the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, Josiah began to seek the God of his ancestor David. Then in the twelfth year he began to purify Judah and Jerusalem, destroying all the pagan shrines, the Asherah poles, and the carved idols and cast images.


          For Zephaniah this was a worthy beginning, but it was simply not enough. He insisted on warning the people of Judah that God’s terrible punishment was coming even though a remnant of the humble might avoid destruction by turning from evil to righteousness.

          Across the ages the prophets of God continue to speak to us. May God give us the wisdom to heed the warnings of those who urge us to give up our false gods and worship faithfully the one true God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have the opportunity to trust Christ so that our sins are hidden under his blood on the day of judgment. Until that day we shall be wise to follow Zephaniah’s counsel to humbly seek the Lord, do his commands, seek righteousness, and destroy all our false gods at the foot of the Cross.    (Contact Walter at