The Old Testament reading from this week’s Lectionary comes from the prophet Zephaniah. Zephaniah’s prophetic ministry was in the southern kingdom of Judah from approximately 640 - 621 BC. He ministered during the reign of King Josiah, who was the last good and godly king of Judah. Zephaniah was probably a spiritual influence on Josiah, as this good king brought a degree of religious reform and revival in the country. The last years of Zephaniah’s life saw the beginning of the prophetic ministry of the great prophet Jeremiah. Let’s look at what our passage has to say.
God instructs the people of Judah to be quiet before Him because judgment is coming (vs. 7). He won’t listen to their pleas or complaints any longer. God wants sincere repentance, but the people won’t listen or obey, so now He calls for silence in view of His just judgment. Within approximately 40+ years the Kingdom of Judah would fall, and the people would go into captivity. We need to be quiet, as well, and listen to and for God’s voice through His Word. When He speaks in instruction do we listen and obey, or are we like spoiled and disobedient children, who provoke the Lord to call us out, demanding our silence?
In verse 12 and following, we read that the Lord says He is searching Jerusalem with a lamp. What was He looking for? He was searching out the people’s hearts. He would search the people and punish those deserving punishment. In these years prior to the overthrow of the kingdom by the Babylonians the people had grown complacent in their sins, worship of false gods in addition to Yahweh, and wicked lifestyles. Complacency is wrong. We may think that God is inactive, and that He doesn’t see either the good or wrong we do. He does see, and He will hold off His judgment for only so long.
Zephaniah preached that since the people wouldn’t search their own hearts, and were content to live with their sins, God would do a search and bring judgment. Though many people are indifferent to their sins, God is not indifferent to them. We need to be obedient now. We never know how long we have. No one can escape God’s judgment, and there is no place to hide. Though the people took no notice of the prophet’s message, he continued to tell them that the Day of the Lord is near!
God’s final judgment will just as surely happen, as surely as His judgment fell on Judah with the Babylonian captivity happened, just as the prophets foretold. God warns the people through His prophet, that in His coming judgment, all of their money will be useless to help them (vs. 18). That warning is just as applicable today. No amount of money, no amount of political power or influence, no prestigious social standing, either, will help us out when God’s judgment will fall. The only thing that can help us then is the Blood of Jesus. The people in Zephaniah’s day were indifferent to the Lord God, but thankfully He isn’t indifferent to us. He loves us and sent His Son to die for us. Jesus’s Blood purchased our salvation. By trusting in His death on the cross for our sins, trusting in Him alone, we will be spared God’s wrath. Trust in Him, not in money or any other person.