“The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there. A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements.” (Zephaniah 1:14-16)

What ideals, things, concepts or lifestyles are important to you? How does your pursuit of these compare with your desire to worship the Lord? Similar questions were raised by the prophet Zephaniah who prophesied sometime during the reign of the godly King Josiah. It is quite likely that the judgments he uttered against the wickedness of Judah were instrumental in effecting the King’s religious reforms. Yet eventually the nation fell to the Babylonians for the spiritual change in the people was not long lasting or widespread. Many were guilty of shameless idolatry. Many worshipped gods of fertility such as Baal and Molech.

The greatest sin of the nation, however, was blatant religious hypocrisy. Those who worshipped other gods still claimed to have a relationship with Yahweh. They continued to offer sacrifices to Him assuming that these would be enough to keep Him satisfied and ensure His protection. They sought their own prosperity to the exclusion of others. In the process they were unfair and unjust to their neighbors and the poor and needy. Consequently, as Zephaniah proclaimed, all the wicked would be swept away as the fires of God’s judgment consumed all the corruption and purified what remained.

The fires of God’s judgment and the Day of the Lord, though terrible and painful, destroy evil. The Lord warns of such judgment in order to lead people to repentance and faith. Through the witness of the church the warning goes forth along with His message of mercy to who all those who would trust in Him. We Christians are the ones called to carry that message to all people before it is too late.