God is waiting for the wicked to repent. He is patient and doesn’t want anyone to perish. But those suffering at the hands of the wicked, godless leaders have no recourse for justice. They are at the mercy of pagan leaders who have no regard for God and God’s laws. The Psalmist, Psalm 46:10-11, tells those suffering in such a state to trust God.  He sings, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” This is what Zephaniah tells his listeners also. To quietly rest in faith that God will indeed bring justice to the wicked. Zephaniah 1:7-9 says, “Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests. And on the day of the Lord’s sacrifice— I will punish the officials and the king’s sons and all who array themselves in foreign attire. On that day, I will punish everyone who leaps over the threshold and those who fill their master’s house with violence and fraud.” Barber says, “In executing judgment upon the earth, God would be manifested in His sovereign majesty. He would demonstrate that He alone has the right to administer justice on the earth. For this reason, noise and clamor are to give way to silence. Before Him, every mouth is to be shut, and those who will have so far offended His Majesty with seeming impunity must then endure His enmity.”[1]

“The Day of the Lord” seems to be a technical phrase that refers to the coming day when all wrongs will be put right, when God will settle all disputes, and when God will judge the wicked and vindicate the righteous. It’s used with great urgency. Jesus said that day would come as a “Thief in the night.” It will not be expected, but it is imminent. Bridger observes, “Today, in the twenty-first century, those who speak most urgently about coming disasters and ‘time running out’ for our planet tend to be the scientists and environmentalists who warn us about the dangers of global warming and the failure of most of us to do anything about it.”[2] But the call of Zephaniah and all the prophets focused on the urgency of sinners to get right with God. John the Baptist, as well as Jesus Himself, came preaching the importance of repentance for salvation.

Speaking of “foreign attire” by Zephaniah and the offering of sacrifices points directly to the fact that the leaders of the Nation have deserted the Biblical principles and standards laid down for the Nation, which would result in prosperity and a happy, wholesome life for each individual and the nation as a whole.  They have exchanged the ways of life for the ways of death. 2 Kings 10:22 speaks of the special clothing for Baal worshippers. It says, “Bring out the vestments for all the worshipers of Baal. So, he brought out the vestments for them.” They then went into the house of Baal to offer sacrifices. The religion of Baal was sexual promiscuity. The sacrifices to Baal were children. I can’t help but think the “sacrifices” that God has prepared will be the nation’s leaders who have traded that which is important to God for that which is worthless. Pleasure, power, and possessions will never bring meaning and purpose to one’s life. Those that pursue the three P’s at the expense of the innocent will face God’s judgment on the day of the Lord. Zephaniah is calling for the nation to repent of its sin and embrace once again the life-affirming message of the Scriptures.

 [1] Barber, Cyril J. 1985. Habakkuk and Zephaniah. Everyman’s Bible Commentary. Chicago, IL: Moody Press.

[2] Bridger, Gordon. 2010. The Message of Obadiah, Nahum and Zephaniah: The Kindness and Severity of God. Edited by Alec Motyer and Derek Tidball. The Bible Speaks Today. Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press.