Those who read my ruminations each day as I read through the Bible and comment accordingly may wonder why so many of my essays deal with judgment and bad things that will happen. It would be a fair question to ask in that regard. If you also are in God’s Word daily, it should be readily apparent. The Bible is not a book of cuddly, feel-good sayings that speaks only of a gentle man who came to love and never harm us. In fact, it is the very Word from the God of creation who has shown us His entire character. This God we serve is defined as One of love; there is no doubt about that. However, the flip side of who He is reveals a God who demands obedience to His commands – commands that are not onerous, but given so as to keep us from the damage a sinful life brings.
The Holy One of Israel warned His Chosen People about the consequences of rebellion and disobedience more times than we can count. (Actually, that would be interesting to know how many times He did warn about this in the pages of His Word.) Because the Israelites ignored God’s many admonitions to walk in all His ways and not follow those of the pagan gods of the surrounding nations, the Lord had no choice but to follow through with the judgments He had said would come upon them if they did that very thing.
The book of Zephaniah is representative of God’s chastisement. It speaks of near-term ruin for Israel and for destruction that will come at the much later time of the Tribulation. Consider some of the terrible things that God promises:
“I will utterly sweep away everything
from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
“The great day of the Lord is near,
near and hastening fast;
the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter;
the mighty man cries aloud there.
A day of wrath is that day,
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
against the fortified cities
and against the lofty battlements.”
“I will bring distress on mankind,
so that they shall walk like the blind,
because they have sinned against the Lord;
their blood shall be poured out like dust,
and their flesh like dung.”
Given passages like these, it’s rather difficult to write about the gentle Lamb who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Zephaniah speaks of God’s terrible wrath on that day and of the woe it will bring to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the entire earth.
This great day of the Lord is like no other. For ancient Israel when God’s hand was against her, she suffered terribly for her sins. The people were consumed by sword, plague, famine, and captivity until they learned their lesson and cried out to Yahweh. Inevitably He relented and restored them to His good graces, but then forgot Him, to their detriment.
In the seven years that are coming upon the earth to bring an end to history as we know it, God’s wrath will be greater even than what Israel previously endured. Because of that – in His mercy – He advises in Zephaniah 2:3:
Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land,
who do his just commands;
seek righteousness; seek humility;
perhaps you may be hidden
on the day of the anger of the Lord.
He knows that during those awful years, some will have tender hearts toward Him. In the midst of the evil machinations of Antichrist and his minions, even while He rains down terrible plagues, God holds out hope that those who belong to Him may find a place of shelter in this storm of storms.
We who have chosen to love and revere Jesus in these days before the Tribulation will be safely with Him in heaven. Many in those dark days on earth will realize their mistake of rejecting the Lord of mercy and grace while it was easy, and choose to turn to Him and the love He offers despite the persecution and suffering that occurs.
All that is soon to happen on that terrible day is for a purpose. Look at what God promises those who place their trust in Him according to Zephaniah 3:9:
“For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples
to a pure speech,
that all of them may call upon the name of the Lord
and serve him with one accord.”
The curse of the Tower of Babel will be reversed. The inhabitants of the earth will again speak a common language that will unite them in one purpose.
Moreover, the prophet declares in Zephaniah 3:15:
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil.
The promise of Jesus – Emmanuel – God with us is fulfilled at this glorious time following the terrors of the Tribulation. Those who have called upon the Name of the Lord and survive will enter the 1,000-year period of peace on earth, as Jesus rules and reigns from His throne in Jerusalem. How glorious that will be!
Yes, the Bible speaks of much darkness and trouble. Man’s sin has brought all this upon our lost and dying world. But, there is a day of redemption. The passages of doom and gloom are necessary to show us the dangers of turning from the Lord. When we do, we find nothing but trouble.
Ah, but when we trust in God and place our faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, we have nothing to fear, for He is with us.