Filter by Category
Filter by Date

Pay Attention, Man of Valor!

John Snavely

In the Old Testament of the Bible, we find a rarely discussed, small book with a big message tucked between Habakkuk and Haggai: Zephaniah.1

The prophet Zephaniah writes as a man fed up with the wrongs in his society, who doesn’t care who he offends or makes uncomfortable when he shares God’s words.  

And he makes one thing abundantly clear in his book. Seven times in the three chapters, he wrote, “The word of the Lord that came to…” or “…declares the Lord.” 

Zephaniah says it plainly: this is not me talking—it is God Jehovah. Pay attention!

In verse 1, we learn that Zephaniah was the great-great grandson of King Hezekiah. This likely meant that he had standing in Hebrew society—perhaps even as a member of King Josiah’s court. He had a front-row seat to the horrors of the idol worship and sacrifices to Baal and Molech going on in his day. 

50 years before Zephaniah’s time, the Assyrians had invaded the northern kingdom of Israel (732 BC). Having seen that, God prompted him to make a desperate last-ditch plea to southern Israel (Judah) to come back to godly living so they, too, would not be destroyed. He rightly connected the invasion with God’s judgment.

A Message of Warning

Judah at this time was a prosperous little nation, and these Israelites were depending on their amassed wealth to protect them from harm. But in chapter 3:1-4, he bluntly states, “Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city! She listens to no voice; she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord; she does not draw near to her God.  Her officials within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves that leave nothing till the morning. Her prophets are fickle, treacherous men; her priests profane what is holy; they do violence to the law. The Lord within her is righteous; he does no injustice; every morning he shows forth his justice; each dawn he does not fail; but the unjust knows no shame.” (ESV) Zephaniah clearly calls out their arrogance, pride, and idol worship. 

Zephaniah speaks first to the rulers and leaders of society, but he then tells the farmers, peasants, and “humble people” of the land: “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do his just commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the Lord’s anger” (2:3 ESV). It’s a shame that when the leaders of a society are caught up in gross sin and idolatry, many times the “humble of the land” follow their lead and are swept away in God’s judgment as well.

Zephaniah also prophesied against other countries (2:4-15).

Unfortunately, Judah fell captive to the Babylonians 15 years later.  

It’s interesting to wonder: did all those people even listen to him? Did they understand that those words were not Zephaniah’s but God’s? Did they realize God had orchestrated the destruction of their countries when they were later invaded as He had indicated through Zephaniah? Or did they think it was just life, merely the result of ruthless invaders? 

They didn’t pay attention.

What About Us? Do we listen to God’s words? Do we notice God’s hand in events that happen? 

A Message of a New Beginning

Zephaniah starts by proclaiming judgment, but he ends with a message of hope: “For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord.” (Zephaniah 3:9 ESV) 

Many years later, when the Israelites were brought back from Babylonian captivity, they realized that they had to get back to holy living. They had been so intermingled with the pagan nations around them they hadn’t seen fit to pass on to their children the covenant law—or even their own language! Ezra and Nehemiah took drastic measures to correct that (recorded in their books). 

What About Us? When we get saved, we become a new creation as 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us. We are to adopt a new way of doing things. One of which is a new language. Now that means, of course, we should avoid foul language and jokes, but we also need to avoid gossiping, slander, and all other forms of malice against one another. 

Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (ESV).

James 1:26 “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (ESV).

Psalm 34:13 “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.” (ESV)

A Message of Reconciliation

At the end of Zephaniah, we are struck with how merciful God is. His anger dissipates; He even says He will rejoice over His people with gladness (3:17).  Where in the pantheon of idols and false gods out there do you see the kind of mercy we see at the end of Zephaniah?

How many of us show mercy when we are wronged?

Yes, the Israelites were caught up in some awful sin: God punished them, but He also forgave them and reconciled with them, and He will eventually restore Jerusalem at the end of all things. 

We, too, have received forgiveness for our sins and are reconciled to God if we have placed our faith in Jesus. 

But the warning through Zephaniah is clear: Seek the Lord and obey His just commands—these are God’s Words—pay attention!

  1. These books along with nine others in the Bible are considered “minor” prophets. Not because their messages were minor – not at all! It’s only because their words were fewer! ↩︎


  • John Snavely

    John Snavely leads the men’s ministry at Lebanon Valley Bible Church in Lebanon, PA.

Picture of John Snavely
John Snavely leads the men’s ministry at Lebanon Valley Bible Church in Lebanon, PA.
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap