Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, before the decree is issued, or the day passes like chaff, before the Lord’s fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the Lord’s anger comes upon you! Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger. (Zephaniah 2:1-3)
Repent Or Face The Lord’s Anger
The message of Zephaniah begins with an immediate, forceful, and demonstrative declaration of the wrath of God. He begins his book by declaring the Lord will utterly consume all things from off the land because of the people’s idolatrous practices. God’s people had turned back from Him and did not seek the Lord nor inquire of the word of the Lord. Zephaniah fearlessly proclaimed the day of the Lord. If the people were to be saved, they must repent or face the Lord’s anger. God warns Judah, including the scope of divine judgment if the nation fails to change their hearts. Hope is found in the remnant of Israel to be restored.
Judah, under the rule of Josiah, will experience a time of restoration. The young king did that which was right in the Lord’s sight and walked in all the ways of David his father. Along with Jeremiah the prophet, Zephaniah will seek to bring the people’s hearts back to the Lord. Zephaniah’s message is with a clear tone of divine warning that there would be no hope without repentance. The prophet begins his message with the terrors of the judgment of God to demonstrate the holiness of a jealous God who demands obedience from His people. There is an unmistakable tone of doom against those who would refuse to turn away from sin. Judgment would come in certain terms without regard to the person. Sin defiles the heart of man, and the wrath of God cleanses the filth of sin. The message of Zephaniah is loud for all the people to hear and for them to know the coming judgment of the Lord was absolute.
The language of Zephaniah speaks of the Lord’s fierce anger and the day of the Lord’s anger. Repentance demands recognizing the wrath of God. Sin will not go unpunished. When men seek to come before the Lord, they must change their hearts not because they are worthy of anything but to know how terrible sin is to the eyes of the Lord. Fear is a motive behind repentance as well as godly sorrow. To say one is sorry for a deed without remorse or fear cannot bring repentance. Zephaniah pleads with the people to seek the Lord, seek righteousness and seek humility. A man who does not fear God will not seek Him. Righteousness demands knowing the wrath of God. Humility is found when the heart of man meets the will of the Lord.
Forgiveness is joyful because the wrath of God is hidden. No one deserves the mercy of God, yet, through a penitent heart, the Lord will take away His wrath and accept the contrite person who knowing the anger of the Lord, seeks His favor. The words of the Publican who could only pray to the Lord for mercy as a sinner knew the fierceness of God’s wrath and the soothing peace of forgiveness. A man will deceive himself into believing he can seek forgiveness without a heart filled with the fear of God’s wrath. The joy of God’s grace is His willingness to remove sin as far as the east is from the west and take away His anger. What a joy to know of the divine love of God and His eternal mercy.