The first chapter is about the day of the lord, the coming judgement that will disrupt everything. The second, reasons why God will judge various neighbouring countries. Chapter three: why Jerusalem too is being harshly judged. Plus hope: judgement will be a purifying process. Gathering the humble remnant of those faithful to God will be the catalyst for God’s love and mercy to bless all nations.
It is like a neat three chapter template of prophesy. It is the last prophesy book I will read in this trip though the Bible, so the elements are familiar to me.
I linked the day of the lord to losing my job, just for the sense of facing harsh realities. I don’t think there is a direct cause and effect between my sin and losing my job, but it really is the same through the prophets.
Despite the seemingly simple narrative of literal this-for-that sin and punishment, I don’t that is what these are. They are more an urgent but universal message of the theology of evil, consequences and the eternal demands of justice. I think the ‘day of the lord’ is a way of explaining God’s timing, of bridging temporal and eternal perspectives. It is a deadline, for the patience of the oppressed and the repentance of the oppressors.
I linked the list of judgements on other nations, AND the chosen nation of Israel to rejecting the idea that God is political, is on anyone’s side. There is an equality to both the hubris and consequences of evil and the hope of purifying grace.
I linked the discussion of the chosen people of Israel to recent tensions over race. To the challenge, to the parts of us that are humble, that are witnesses to Christ’s spiritually transforming salvation, to be the presence of God in an evil world.
So I experienced Zephaniah as a series of triggers as personal events, and public pain unfolded. To remember the calm of eternity and the urgency of time. God’s eternal truth: there will be justice, there will be love. Bought into moments seemingly of chaos. A disrupting noise to compete with, cut through, the daily noise. An urgent message, to focus on what is lasting.