Focal Passage: Zephaniah 1:1-11
Everyone will be held accountable. That can be both a comforting and terrifying statement depending on where you are in life. It is comforting if you realize no one will escape the gaze and justice of God. The unfair boss, the back stabbing friend, or the abuser will have their deeds brought to light. It can be terrifying if you comprehend there is a sinner at play here and the sinner is me.
Zephaniah is warning of the impending judgment to come upon all idolaters. The language utilized is in no uncertain terms in verses two and three. “I will completely sweep away everything from the face of the earth.” “I will cut off mankind…This is the Lord’s declaration.” In other words, the Lord is going to do it. He will hold everyone accountable to whether they followed the Lord in their deeds or not.
Jesus said almost the exact same thing in the New Testament. He was warning the people about religious practices that were duplicitous by stating, “There is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered, nothing hidden that won’t be made known.” Therefore, our fear should not be of man or woman, but of the Lord. If you are living a life that is upright, you will be rewarded. If you think you are getting away with something, do not be fooled, a day of reckoning is coming.
Zephaniah urged the people in the context of the coming judgment to choose their loyalty. One cannot pledge their loyalty to God and to the pagan deities. Loyalty is a powerful thing and by its nature cannot be split. We know how valuable loyalty is at a practical level. We want and desire a loyal spouse, co-worker, or friend. Loyalty is essentially faithfulness and consistency. We know we are being faithful to God in loyalty if we are seeking and inquiring of Him. It seems the people were doing the opposite in Zephaniah’s day, according to verse six they were “turning their back … not seeking or inquiring of the Lord.”
Jesus also warned against dual masters. “No household slave can be the slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” The implication is the same in Zephaniah’s day, Jesus’ time, and ours. The Kingdom of God has been declared. Where then is your allegiance? Who are you going to serve? Are you seeking and inquiring of Him?
In this passage Zephaniah declared that it is going to be bad for those who do not listen. According to verse 10, “On that day … there will be an outcry … wailing.” We do not want to be counted among the wicked in the final day. Jesus instructed us in Luke 21 to “be on your guard… That day will come on you unexpectedly like a trap.”
We are to both be on alert and praying. There is a readiness and dependency that comes with Kingdom living. Christians are the people who declare, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” And, we are sinners who need Thee every hour.
Zephaniah, like Joshua, calls us to “choose this day whom we will serve.” Clarity on this issue will be evident to all. Do not be foolish, we will have to give an account for how we lived. It is obvious who the pagan serves; we are to be a warning to them, come into an accountable relationship with God. If not, they will wail “on that day” like Zephaniah warns and will cry out to the mountains and hills, “fall on us and cover us.”
— Moore is pastor to adults at First Baptist Church, Clarksville.