Devotional thoughts on Zephaniah 3:1-8
By Alan Dowd
Zephaniah wrote about God’s beloved city—Jerusalem—which had veered far away from its true King. What was once the holy city had become “rebellious” and “defiled.” Jerusalem, seduced by godless people, “accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord, she does not draw near to her God.” For her sins, she would feel the full force of God’s justice.
It’s also a cautionary and fearful tale for God’s people in America on two levels.
First, as our nation grows less rooted in Judeo-Christian values, as Hollywood and academia (oblivious to the irony) tell us there is no absolute truth except the absolute which declares there are no absolutes, we seem to be marginalizing a number of institutions—marriage, the nuclear family, religious liberty—that have made America a good and great nation. The American people didn’t invent these institutions, but enough of us respected these institutions that they undergirded our society. As these institutions are marginalized, we veer further off track.
As Christians and as Americans—in that order—we should care about this. We must never put our country ahead of our faith in Jesus. As Paul reminds us, “Our citizenship is in heaven,” and so is our hope. Even so, Paul describes us as “Christ’s ambassadors.” Yes, that means we are living in a foreign land. But to extend Paul’s metaphor, it also means this country is our diplomatic posting. This piece of earth matters enough that God has placed us here to speak the truth in love, to be salt and light for a world bent on decay and darkness, and to care about our country even as we keep our hearts focused on eternity.
Second, individuals can veer off track too—even believers. And there’s always a cost. Consider David, Jonah, and Peter—all men of God who turned away from God. We must never forget that God is both just and merciful. “Morning by morning he dispenses his justice.”
Zephaniah reminds us that the Lord calls all of his wayward children to return to him. The fact that he wants us to “accept correction” means that he does not expect perfection. The given, it seems, is he knows we will fail. What he expects is for each of us to seek him and then get back on track.
Alan W. Dowd is a freelance writer in Fishers, Indiana.