Tuesday, November 08, 2011

That day

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Zephaniah 1:1-18

TO CHEW ON: "The great day of the Lord is near;
It is near and hastens quickly,
The noise of the day of the Lord is bitter;
There the mighty men shall cry out.
That day is a day of wrath,
A day of trouble and distress,
A day of devastation and desolation,
A day of darkness and gloominess,
A day of clouds and thick darkness,
A day of trumpet and alarm
Against the fortified cities
And against the high towers." Zephaniah 1:14-16

"The Day of the Lord."  As we've pored over Scriptures that allude to this day in the last little while, we've had other warnings of judgment and doom—and now this graphic and oratorical prophecy of Zephaniah's.

It's interesting to note the setting of his message. Zephaniah (a contemporary of Jeremiah and Nahum) lived in Judah during the reign of Josiah. The nation of Israel was no more, having been carted into exile by Assyria 100 years earlier. Those Assyrians forced Judah to pay tribute under kings Manasseh and Amon. Judah's servitude didn't affect the people only politically but spiritually too.

The pagan religion imported by the Assyrians who resettled Israel spread to Judah. King Manasseh built temples to their gods and practiced child sacrifice (2 Kings 21:3-6). But a Babylonian uprising defeated Assyria and under King Josiah the nation turned back to God.

Josiah found the Book of the Law, purged the land of idols, and again celebrated the Passover. Things were great, right? Apparently not. My Bible's introduction to Zephaniah tells us:

"In retrospect the reform was one of externals since the hearts of the people had not changed...Into this complacent atmosphere the devastating message of Zephaniah comes like a searing blast" - "Introduction to Zephaniah," New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1231.

But what does this ancient prophecy have to do with us? My Bible's introduction again:
"Because of the repeated use of the term 'the Day of the Lord,' the Book of Zephaniah has meaning for end times. The Day of the Lord is either the period of time or the actual day when God will bring His purposes to culmination for mankind and for the Earth. The righteous will be rewarded with eternal blessing, and the wicked will be consigned to eternal damnation" - New Spirit-Filled Bible, p. 1232.
So Zephaniah's over-2600-year-old clarion cry of doom is a warning to us too. Let's not be lulled into complacency by our own peace and prosperity. Rather, let's search our hearts to make sure they are right with God. And let's sound the warning of that coming day to our oblivious neighbours and friends.

PRAYER: Dear God, it's so easy for me to get mesmerized by this world and my busy life. I confess I easily lose sight of eternal things like the coming Day of the Lord. Please make these things real to me. Help me to live with the consciousness of their nearness. Amen

MORE: Fiction that brings history to life

Among the Gods (Chronicles of the Kings #5)by Lynn Austin explores the life and times of King Manasseh, the king who preceded Zephaniah's time by a few years. (Read my review of it here.)

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