Devotional thoughts on Zephaniah 3:9-14, 20
By Alan Dowd
There’s no doubt that the book of Zephaniah is about God’s judgment, his “fierce anger” with a wayward world, his punishing and purifying “fire” for sin (Zephaniah 3:8). But Zephaniah’s contribution to Scripture is also about love, mercy, and the promise of a world made right.
After the fire, after the correction, after the discipline, the Lord promised to welcome his children back into his presence. “I will gather you,” he cheered. “I will bring you home,” (v. 20) he promised, emphasizing his love by describing his children with the beautiful words “Daughter Jerusalem” (v. 14).
Amazingly, awesomely, thankfully, the Lord is merciful even in delivering justice. We see glimpses of this throughout Scripture. Cain was punished for his sin, exiled from his family, but the Lord mercifully protected him from physical harm. When Jesus freed a young boy from demons, “they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss”—a place of “torments” (Luke 8:31). So, Jesus mercifully sent them into a herd of pigs to die quickly.
Purified by God, made holy by God, restored by God, his people would gather under his banner of love, serving him “shoulder to shoulder.”
“On that day”—when all is put right by the Lord, when he makes all things new, when his will on earth perfectly and finally reflects his will in Heaven—“the meek and humble” will receive his inheritance. The proud and the haughty and the deceitful will be no more.
This promise, echoed throughout Scripture, should give us confidence, joy, and peace—and a strong dose of humility. After all, he alone has taken away the punishment I deserve for being wayward; for being sinful from the very beginning, “sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5); for being oblivious to his many invitations; for being too stubborn to accept the gift of grace; and worst of all, for being self-assured and self-righteous after accepting that precious, priceless gift. Yet mysteriously, miraculously, he forgives me and forgets my sin. He calls me home. He carries me home. He prepares a place for me in his home.
Alan W. Dowd is a freelance writer in Fishers, Indiana.