Zephaniah: “I feel like I’ve heard that before.”
Thomas D. Kock
“I feel like I’ve heard that before.” Ever thought that?
A repeated message of wrath
Listen to these verses from Zephaniah. Do you feel like you’ve heard this before?
“ ‘I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth,’ declares the LORD” (1:2).
“At that time I will . . . punish those who are complacent” (1:12, selected).
“I will bring such distress on all people . . . because they have sinned against the LORD” (1:17, selected).
“Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the LORD, she does not draw near to her God” (3:1,2).
Maybe we’re not familiar with those exact words, but the concept is clear: It’s the fearsome reminder that our God is holy and he hates sin. It’s the fearsome reminder that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
Thank God we have heard this before! Sinful human beings need to hear that we deserve God’s anger, that we deserve to be sent to hell. I need to hear it so that I despair of saving myself and look outside of myself, to God. The listeners at Zephaniah’s time were no different; they needed to hear it too.
A repeated message of forgiveness
Thankfully God goes on.
He also says, “The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm” (3:15).
And again, “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” (3:17).
Yes, you’ve heard the message of those verses too. The New Testament fleshes it out fully. Jesus came to this earth; he lived a perfect life in your place; he died a perfect death in your place, paying for your sins and for the sins of the whole world. He rose from the dead, defeating your number one enemy, death. You’ve heard that before.
And thank God you have! Sinful human beings need to hear that God’s anger has been appeased and that sin has been paid for. That message works faith in our hearts, comforts us, and encourages us. I need to hear that! The listeners at Zephaniah’s time were no different; they needed to hear it too.
Often, we sinful human beings crave something new and different. But the “old treasures” (cf. Matthew 13:52) are treasures! As we read the Bible, God reminds us of the same truths over and over again. Yes, God hates sin; yes, unbelievers will be sent to hell. Ouch! But yes, God has won forgiveness for you, and yes, God has opened heaven to you and will take you there someday.
Yes, you’ve heard those things before. Thank God you have! Pray that you hear them over and over again.
Contributing editor Thomas Kock, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, is a member at Atonement, Milwaukee.
This is the ninth article in a 12-part series on minor prophets
Hometown/lineage: Great-great-grandson of Hezekiah.
Date: c. 639-610 B.C. (during reign of Josiah)
Unique feature: The “day of the LORD” theme runs throughout.
Key verse: 3:17a. “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.”
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Author: Thomas Kock
Volume 105, Number 10
Issue: October 2018
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