Chastising the Nations

So On first reading of this verse it sounds like Israel is at it again, and Zephaniah is bringing a word of the Lord to correct them. Not so. This is Zephaniah speaking to the nations surrounding Israel, who have been plundering her borders (often used by God to chastise the people of God) now on notice. What is amazing about this is that God is sending His prophet to warn Gentiles.

Unlike Israel and Judah, the Gentiles of the nations have no standing covenant with God, no Sinai moment, and no agreement of behavior with the Almighty, or so we think. On what standing here does God take the nations to task? They come under the covenant made with Noah back in Genesis 9, which applies to all nations. Among other things, Noah’s covenant covers the proper role of capital punishment, taking another’s man life. A nation that kills indiscriminately runs afoul of this covenant. If we know anything of the world of ancient Israel, human life was not precious.

My point is that God holds the nations accountable to Himself, even if they do not have the law of Moses. But as you see in this verse, He also holds open the possibility of salvation from His judgment. Seeking righteousness (according to God’s own standard) and humility, and individual might be safe from God’s judgment upon the whole nation. In this the Jews did have the corner on righteousness, for even then, salvation was found in their teachings of the law (to the extent one could be “saved” through animal sacrifice to the God of Israel). All the world received a covenant through Noah. But only Israel had a way to deal with sin against that covenant. All the other nations invented religions of appeasement that were ultimately false. Only Israel had truth. Thus, seek the Lord (of Israel) and His righteousness and you may be saved. Sound familiar?

It is the same call to the nations today. Seek the Lord (Jesus) and you will be saved by Him through faith. Instead of the incomplete sacrifices of animals, we have the perfect sacrifice of the Son of God which covers all sin for all time. Praise be the name of the Lord who cares even for those not called by His Name.

God bless you today!

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I've been in ministry in the Christian Churches/ Churches of Christ for 20+ years. Finished my doctorate in Biblical Studies in 2015. Serve today as a Hospital Chaplain.

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