The word of the Lord which came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah. “I will utterly consume everything from the face of the land,” says the Lord; “I will consume man and beast; I will consume the birds of the heavens, the fish of the sea, and the stumbling blocks along with the wicked. I will cut off man from the face of the land,” says the Lord. (Zephaniah 1:1-3)
The Wrath Of God
There is nothing more terrible or powerfully horrific than standing face to face with the wrath of God. What makes the message of the prophets less palatable is the knowledge the anger of the Lord is brought against His own people. Like those who tried to bring Israel back to the Lord and the men that heralded the doom of the Lord if repentance was not seen in the heart, the son of Cushi clearly outlined the punishment of God upon those who would fail to heed the divine warnings. Zephaniah’s preaching is a piercing message announcing the day of the Lord. He warns the nation to repent and bring their hearts back to devotion to the only true and living God. There will be a remnant that will survive the final judgment of the Lord but God’s warning to Judah is very certain and forthcoming. Sin will not be tolerated. The people may think that God is a loving God and He would never punish His children but Zephaniah makes it clear the wrath of God is fierce, consuming and total. A time comes for men to realize the penalty of sin and how much God hates what sin has done to His creation. The wrath of God is a consuming fire that destroys all life. Like in the days of Noah, no one with the breath of life remained outside the ark. Millions of people died because they refused to believe in the grace of God and the wrath of the Lord. The grace of God was seen in Noah preaching to a lost world to repent. When men refused to change their hearts, the wrath of the Lord destroyed every living thing that had the breath of life. Many generations later as Israel crumbled into the despair of idolatry and rebellion, the Lord is warning the final remnants of a once proud nation that unless they change the wrath of God will consume them. It is clear the message of Zephaniah does not leave anyone out.
The wrath of God is a complete picture of destruction and no one will be able to escape. One of the injustices of life is that many people get away with crimes that are never discovered or revealed. This will not be the case when the wrath of God is brought against rebellious men. As Zephaniah opens his prophetic message of judgment, he wants the children of God to understand the Lord will hold them accountable for everything they have done. It is folly to think that what a man does is not known by the One who sees all. As hard as it may be for the human mind to grasp the infinity of God’s knowledge, the reality of judgment is seen in the consuming manner of the judgment of the Lord. All men will stand before the bar of judgment and receive an accounting of their lives. Everything that is done – whether in the light or the darkness – is open to the eyes of the Lord. Judah tried to hide their sins but God saw the Baal worship and those who swore by Molech. He knew the hearts of the people that worshipped the host of the heavens on the housetops turning their backs from following the Lord. From the king, princes and royal court to the common man of Judah, God will hold all men accountable. His wrath is not reserved for only a select group of people but rather any man who refuses to follow His will stands in condemnation before a righteous God.
Reading the prophets is a rehearsal for the righteousness of the Lord today. The Christian cannot understand the grace and love of God without appreciating the message of the prophets and how God tried to change the hearts of Israel but to no avail. Everything that could be done was done by the Lord to dissuade the people of God to turn their hearts back to Him. God’s grace was shown time and time again from the wilderness wanderings through the period of the judges into the kingdoms united and divided. But the longsuffering of the Lord will come to an end and judgment day will arrive. Zephaniah is a messenger of the grace and love of God but he is the proclaimer of the wrath of God. When men refuse to repent and acknowledge the power of God His wrath will come down with a mighty force in total destruction. God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son to save men from their sins. If a man refuses to accept the gift of God in obedience to the will of the Lord, the wrath of God will be imputed upon that rebellious soul. Denying there is a place of eternal torment is like believing the world is flat. A man can believe the world is flat and do so with an earnest and sincere heart but it does not change the fact the world is not flat. Trying to mitigate the language of eternal damnation to say God could never punish anyone in an eternal lake of fire and brimstone does not change the language of Jesus Christ who said a place was real or deny the teachings of scripture inscribed by the Holy Spirit. The wrath of God is real, it is fierce and it will come upon all who refuse to obey His will. Zephaniah proves there is a place of eternal judgment with his language of God’s wrath. The great day of the Lord is yet to come for men today but come it will.