EVERYONE has an OPPORTUNITY to REPENT & TURN BACK to GOD: "Before the decree is issued, or the day passes like chaff, before the Lord's fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the Lord's anger comes upon you! Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord's anger." (Zeph. 2:2-3)
Zephaniah, whose name means “The Lord has hidden”, was a prophet from the royal family in Judah. He warned the people that the nation’s immorality and idolatry had made God’s judgment inevitable (1:4–13; 3:1–7). He also predicted that the people who repent would survive the coming judgment and enjoy blessings (2:1–3; 3:8–20). His short prophetical book is reflective of God’s total plan of redemption, which has led Martin Bucer in 1528 to make the following declaration: “If anyone wishes all the secret oracles of the prophets to be given in a brief compendium, let him read through this brief Zephaniah.”
The above verses (Zeph. 2:2-3) come closest to summarizing briefly the theme of the book. The only means by which anyone can hope to escape the judgment of God is to “seek” God on a daily basis (Psalms 105:4; Amos 5:6; Matt. 7:7, 8). The “meek of the earth” are those who cling to God’s standard of justice, and they are exhorted to continue seeking “righteousness” and “humility” passionately. To seek God is to seek righteousness and humility, and through this God’s judgment may be averted (v. 2).
A deeper study of God’s Word reveal that God is merciful to those who acknowledge their wrongdoings, make a clean confession to Him, and turn their lives back toward Him. God’s judgment of sin is inevitable, but He always leaves everyone an opportunity for repentance to escape the “great day of the Lord”, which is a day that will display the terrifying wrath of God (1:14–15). The Bible is replete with examples of people who escaped God’s judgment through repentance:
- The Assyrians of Nineveh had fasted in sackcloth as they repented of their wickedness and idolatry in response to Jonah’s preaching (Jonah 3). As a result, the Lord had withheld His judgment of that city.
- King Hezekiah had responded with repentance in the days of Micah the prophet, and God had withheld His judgment of Judah (Jer. 26:17–19).
God’s wrath against sin is still in effect today (Rom. 1:18). If we want to escape His certain judgment, we have to follow the same terms from God: repentance from sin and obedience toward God. Christ’s death on the cross ensures that the penalty for our sin is paid in full (3:21–26). Our genuine faith in God’s salvation plan always includes repentance. We need to forsake evil and turn toward God today. Then we will be “hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger” (Zeph. 2:3; Acts 17:30–31; 1 Thess. 1:9–10).