The sovereign Lord seeks all of us to come to repentance. Second Peter 3:9 says: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
As our gracious Lord faithfully speaks to me in prayer through His Living Word, He continues to unfold new pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, leading us to the times and revelation of His glorious Kingdom. We can certainly indentify with the messages which warn us, through His prophets, to turn to Him with repentance. This is because He is a holy and righteous God, gracious and merciful; and is willing to forgive us. However, the Word of God also reveals that He will, in His perfect time, punish the unrepentant for their sins of ungodliness and wickedness; those who are rebellious and prideful, those who refuse to turn from sin and worship Him; and those who turn away from the Lord in disobedience and turn to idol-worship.
Obedience is the test of faithfulness. Jesus answered Judas (not Iscariot) in John 14:23 that “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” The Old Testament prophets announced news of destruction, but they also offered the only means of escape and protection – turning from sin and walking with God. As Micah 6:8 says: “The LORD God has told us what is right and what he demands: ‘See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God.’“ Are we obeying God’s call before it is too late?
In my prayer, the Lord spoke to me through Zephaniah 2:1-15, where God spoke through Zephaniah, a prophet to Judah, pronouncing the specific, and often universal, judgements of God against sin. It is clear, that God is willing to forgive His people. He also promised His faithful remnants, that they will be saved from His wrath, when they make Him, their refuge.
The prophet Zephaniah says in vv2:1-3: “You disgraceful nation, gather around, before it’s too late. The LORD has set a time when his fierce anger will strike like a storm and sweep you away. If you humbly obey the LORD, then come and worship him. If you do right and are humble, perhaps you will be safe on that day when the LORD turns loose his anger.”
Zephaniah calls sinful Judah to a national repentance, calling for an assembly of prayer to avert God’s judgement and prevent national ruin, while there was still time. He calls out to all God fearing people to seek God’s forgiveness before His wrath strikes; urging them to obey God, to walk humbly before God, and do justice before God. Thus, the remnants are distinguished; and although the call is addressed to the whole nation, God remembers the counsels of His grace. The remnants, then, refer in part to those returnees from the Babylonian captivity, and in the broader sense, refer to God’s future church. To some biblical scholars, they also refer to the future return of a Jewish remnant who will physically occupy the end-times national Israel.
Zephaniah prophesied in vv4-7 that “Gaza and Ashkelon will be deserted and left in ruins. Ashdod will be emptied in broad daylight, and Ekron uprooted. To you people of Philistia who live along the coast, the LORD has this to say: “I am now your enemy, and I’ll wipe you out!” Your seacoast will be changed into pastureland and sheep pens. The LORD God hasn’t forgotten those survivors in Judah, and he will help them – his people will take your land to use for pasture. And when evening comes, they will rest in houses at Ashkelon.”
This prophecy describes God’s judgement on Philistia, the four cities located to Judah’s south-west, which had been greatly harassed by the king of Egypt, and were to be completely ruined by Nebuchadnezzar and his victorious Chaldeans. To the inhabitants along the coastal area of Philistia, the Lord declared that He would destroy them completely. It is here, foretold, that the house of Judah, the rightful owners of the land, will then recover their possessions. Our faithful God promised that He would restore the remnants of Judah to their rightful dwelling place, thus keeping His original covenant, to preserve Abraham’s descendants.
Zephaniah 2:8-11 continues: “The LORD All-Powerful, the God of Israel, said: I’ve heard Moab and Ammon insult my people and threaten their nation. And so, I swear by my very life that Moab and Ammon will end up like Sodom and Gomorrah – covered with thornbushes and salt pits forever. Then my people who survive will take their land. This is how Moab and Ammon will at last be repaid for their pride – and for sneering at the nation that belongs to me, the LORD All-Powerful. I will fiercely attack. Then every god on this earth will shrink to nothing, and everyone of every nation will bow down to me, right where they are.”
The Moabites and Ammonites who lived to the east of Judah, worshipped Chemosh and Molech, and often mocked and attacked Judah. God promised that He would judge these nations for their wickedness and for their cruel treatment of His people. God reminded them, that He had heard their taunts and that the wicked would be punished for their pride. The nations of Moab and Ammon trace their roots to Lot’s incest with his daughters, after escaping the destruction of evil Sodom and Gomorrah. Ironically, God had vowed that He would punish Moab and Ammon and that they would be completely destroyed and turned to wasteland. Therefore, all would know that He is God.
There are times when the whole world just seems to mock God and those who have faith in Him. But when we are ridiculed, let us not despair; instead, remember that God hears and will answer. Eventually, in His perfect time, God’s perfect justice will be carried out.
Zephaniah 2:12-15 continues: “People of Ethiopia, the sword of the LORD will slaughter you! The LORD will reach to the north to crush Assyria and overthrow Nineveh. Herds of wild animals will live in its rubble; all kinds of desert owls will perch on its stones and hoot in the windows. Noisy ravens will be heard inside its buildings, stripped bare of cedar. This is the glorious city that felt secure and said, “I am the only one!” Now it’s merely ruins, a home for wild animals. Every passerby simply sneers and makes vulgar signs.”
The Ethiopians were closely allied to Egypt and thus Nebuchadnezzar’s sword became the instrument of God’s judgement when he conquered Egypt during Jehoiakim’s reign. Assyria, the military power of those times, had been the rod of God’s anger against Israel and carried the 10 northern tribes. Babylon, was then used as God’s instrument to destroy Assyria, which eventually became desolate. Prideful Nineveh, Assyria’s large capital city and considered impregnable, and was, just as Zephaniah predicted, wiped out in 612 B.C. by the Babylonians, who became the next world power.
We are all precious in the eyes of the Lord our God who loves us, and does not want to see anyone perish. Our eternal God ventured His all in Jesus Christ, sacrificing his one and only begotten Son to save us and set us free from our sin. He now wants us to venture our all in Him. May we honour God and respond to Him in faith and spontaneity; with love, obedience, perseverance and humility.
Living in the testing times today, we need to remember to pray for our church, our family, friends, community and nation. The Lord’s mercy is abundant. He has deep and abiding compassion on those who fear Him. The promise of God in Psalm 103:13 says: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.”
Let us challenge our faith as we are reminded of the counsel of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14 which says: “Go in through the narrow gate. The gate to destruction is wide, and the road that leads there is easy to follow. A lot of people go through that gate. But the gate to life is very narrow. The road that leads there is so hard to follow that only a few people find it.”
Praise God for His sovereignty and amazing grace! Amen and Amen!