Story of hope
December 6, 2021 | Sally Bias
About the author: Sally has attended ZPC for 23 years. She has served on the ZPC staff for 18 years, most recently as the director of communications. She is a Home Group leader and has served on Great Banquet and Awakening teams. She has three children: Carly, Celia, and Carter.
Today's Scripture: Zephaniah 3:14-20
When I first looked at today’s scripture passage, it felt uplifting and hopeful. It is all about singing and rejoicing because God has taken away our punishment. It is rich with promises from God himself…he is with us; he takes great delight in us; he will calm us with his love; and our sorrows will dissipate. He promises a great family gathering where he will turn painful partings into reunions. These are true and faithful promises and I have no reason to doubt them. The last line in The Message translation of this scripture puts it succinctly. It simply says, “God’s Promise.”
After I read today’s passage, I did some digging about Zephaniah, the author of this book. I found out that he was a prophet who foresaw all kinds of bad things coming for Jerusalem. He had warned the leaders in Jerusalem for years about what he knew was coming, but the leaders didn’t want to hear it and wouldn’t listen. But Zephaniah continued to highlight the many problems he saw and warned of God’s judgment at the injustices in Jerusalem. As it turns out though, God’s judgment is not in the form of wrath to destroy humankind, but rather it exhibits God’s passion for humankind and his desire to rescue his world from evil and violence. His judgment is meant to purify and bring about restoration.
When I initially read the end of the chapter (and the end of Zephaniah!) before the rest of the book, it was nice. I like learning about the promises God has for me. I like receiving God’s blessings. I like thinking about how it will be when God’s kingdom comes, on earth as it is in heaven. It feels very satisfying to know that God loves us and the world he created. But we have reminders every day that we live in a fallen and unjust world. What does this look like for you personally? Losing a loved one? Illness? A broken relationship? And what does it look like for our world? Poverty? Homelessness? Disparity? Violence? Do these realities diminish God’s promises?
I don’t think so, but sometimes we can get bogged down waiting in the messiness of our imperfect world. What can we do? We can look for ways to represent God’s kingdom in our broken world and when it feels overwhelming, we can read passages like Zephaniah 3, to remember the hope in God’s promises.
After further contemplation, I realized that the book of Zephaniah is the telling of God’s story and how it intersects with humankind’s story. This story, in different ways, is told again and again throughout the Bible as well as in our lives today. It is the continual narrative of God searching for us, finding us, and providing a way for redemption and re-creation. I am grateful for the hope that I find in stories like Zephaniah. They are a guiding light for me while I await the arrival of God’s kingdom.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for searching for us, finding us, and providing a way for us. We pray that you will keep our eyes open for ways we can show others your Kingdom.