Zephaniah might be a book that is often overlooked but the prophet brings an important message about pure worship. Read more from the Dancing in the Desert Devotional Bible
Only decades before Jerusalem’s fall and one generation before
Jeremiah, Zephaniah warned of judgment. On the surface, he was an
unlikely source for such severe words. He was a descendant of one good
king (Hezekiah) prophesying during the reign of another (Josiah). Josiah
was early in the process of tearing down unholy altars and revitalizing the
nation’s worship. Things seemed to be moving in the right direction. What could be so bad that God would overthrow his people?
But Judah’s idolatry was too deeply entrenched to be reversed by Josiah’s reforms, though God would promise to withhold judgment until after the
good king’s death (2 Chronicles 34:28). So Zephaniah predicts the worst: “a day of terrible distress and anguish, a day of ruin and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness” (Zephaniah 1:15). At times, his words seem broader than for just Judah and point to a greater, later judgment. But they are painfully urgent for his hearers. These spiritually complacent people are sabotaging their own destiny and are apparently desensitized to God’s voice. Zephaniah’s words are meant to jolt them out of their apathy. They need to know they will begin to experience God’s painful discipline in less than a generation.
Zephaniah’s prophecy doesn’t end in despair, of course. A restoration is coming, and God will delight in his people and rejoice over them with songs
(3:17). Again, Zephaniah’s words seem broader than for his nation alone. God’s restoration will have global consequences—the purification of all people for unified worship. Entire nations will come to worship him (3:9). Israel will be the centerpiece of a much bigger salvation than its people have expected.
That’s the goal of God’s plan. This ongoing battle throughout Scripture
and history is about one primary issue: worship. Idolatry, along with all its
symptoms, derails our ultimate purpose. Pure worship fulfills it. And God
will do everything necessary to bring the hearts of multitudes into alignment with his own.
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