The Judeans of Zephaniah’s day were probably happy to hear that Zephaniah was calling people to repentance. It was no new message. It is found throughout the whole of the Bible and is one of the major themes of the Old as well as the New Testament. People are sinful, unkind, thoughtless and self-satisfied. They need to turn away from their wicked ways and seek the Lord.
Yet, when Zephaniah started preaching, his message was not received with rapturous applause. On the contrary, it was hated, because instead of addressing it to the heathen around them, it was aimed directly at them.
Today, all people, including church congregations, need to be reminded of the need to repent. Those who have never tasted that the Lord is gracious (Ps. 34:8) need to have their hearts, minds and wills opened to receive the message of God’s love, the message that warns them of the danger they are in without Christ and that urges them to ‘call on the name of the Lord [and] be saved’ (Acts 2:21). Those who have known the presence of the Lord for very many years also need to heed the call to repent and return to the Lord and his ways. Sadly, many Christian people have continued to sin in many ways, not least by gossiping, being jealous of the gifts of others or giving the impression that they are better and more deeply spiritual than others. Those who persist in their unholy ways will be swept away—at least, their boasting will be removed, even though they themselves will be saved, but only as those ‘escaping through the flames’ (1 Cor. 3:15). This is a very unpopular message, and many preachers today are being urged to drop the old gospel message and only emphasize the fact that God is love and that if we come to him he will meet all of our needs. Yet if we only preach the love of God, we will preach an unbalanced gospel. It is quite wrong and unhelpful to think that we should not preach anything that will challenge people’s lives for fear that it will deter them from turning to Christ. The Old Testament prophets pulled no punches when they spoke about God’s punishment of evil and disobedience; neither should God’s people in these days, as they seek to bring sinners to the foot of the cross in repentance and faith.
*We will be looking at today’s reading of Haggai, this coming Sunday morning*