Bible Reading: Zephaniah 3:1-20
“On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain. But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD” (Zephaniah 3:11-12)
Oh, how the old prophets reveal the wonderful grace of God! As we follow Israel’s narrative, we are met with a stubborn and rebellious people. However, the prophet will always proclaim glimpses of God’s wondrous grace amongst righteous and holy judgment, which is rightly deserved.
The book of Zephaniah is about Zephaniah, a prophet, proclaiming once again “the Day of the LORD” to rebellious Judah in the time of King Josiah. At that time, Northern Israel had already been exiled, and yet, despite Josiah being a God-fearing king, many people neither saw what happened to Northern Israel nor listened to their king. They continued worshipping idols and denying God as their true master and Lord.
Hear Zephaniah cry in 3:1-2, “Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city! She listens to no voice; she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the LORD; she does not draw near to her God.” Despite continuous reminders and warnings, again and again, Israel is ignorant of the Word of God. God’s people, again and again, reject their God. See the hardness of humankind’s heart, see the stubbornness and ignorance of our own hearts before God. Again and again, God reminds us of His goodness and His ways; yet again and again, we choose our own.
God is gracious in reminding us, yet we ignore and corrupt. God promises restoration in repentance, yet we eagerly pursue our own destructive ways. Zephaniah 3:7 summarises it well, “I said, ‘Surely you will fear me; you will accept correction. Then your dwelling would not be cut off according to all that I have appointed against you.’ But all the more they were eager to make all their deeds corrupt”.
However, despite hard hearts, our gracious God overcomes. Zephaniah 3:9 proclaims, “For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the LORD and serve him with one accord.”
In His love, God does not leave His rebellious nation. Instead, He resolves to solve the heart issue, the stubborn and hardened heart itself. God promised to the people of Judah at Zephaniah a time when God Himself would overcome man’s haughtiness and present a people humble and lowly. Zephaniah points to the coming King of Israel, Jesus Christ. Christ came “full of glory and truth” (John 1:14) to gather God’s true people by overcoming their hard hearts. As Ezekiel 36:26 puts it, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
This is the love of God shown upon the cross to remove our hard hearts so that we can have hearts that love God. This is the wonder of God’s grace which we will never comprehend in its entirety. What must be our response to this grace?
Seek to grow in it. 2 Peter 3:18 says. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
And, as we grow in tasting more and more of this good grace, submit to it and obey God. From there, we will grow some more, realizing our obedience was the result of even more grace. In the end, exult God and proclaim His goodness to the world as Zephaniah 3:14-15 heralds, “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away the judgements against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.”
Lord, thank You for renewing my hard heart. Thank You for Your love shown on the cross to redeem me. Help me to grow in knowing You and Your grace. Teach me to walk in Your grace, and teach me to enjoy Your grace that I may glorify You. Help me, Lord, I ask in Jesus’ name, amen.