8 December 2012

Zephaniah 3:14-20

"Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!" (v. 14)


Most people would not want Zephaniah at their party! Throughout this short book Zephaniah unleashes a crushing condemnation on Israel and the surrounding nations. It is not an easy book to read and it seems to shift in its tenses and intended audience. It is also uncompromising on its judgement upon the whole of humanity for its wickedness and its worshipping of idols.

But just as the reader feels the hopeless despair of the world around them they read verse 14 of the final chapter. From now on the tone changes, now the people of God are asked to rejoice and celebrate (maybe Zephaniah might be fun at a party after all). This is in sharp contrast to the rest of the book - so what might it say to readers today?

Perhaps this contrast is the call of the faithful. Perhaps Christians (and all of God's people) are called to rejoice in the promise of a God who does and will save despite the world seeming so desperate. It is hard to celebrate when the world reels with the pain of war, famine, greed and exploitation.

Yet this is the world that God has called humanity into being and it is into this world that God becomes fully human in the person of Jesus. It is God in the very centre, a God who loves and moves and shapes this broken world that gives cause for joyful exuberance.

There is no doubt that this final passage of Zephaniah is a wonderfully generous promise of the party to come; of a time when all humanity can rejoice in the saving actions of God. What better way to prepare for Christmas than to celebrate the all-saving, all-loving God in the midst of a world that is desperate to be saved and loved.

To Ponder

  • When you look at the world, do you see it as a bad place where good sometimes happens? Or a good place where bad sometimes happens?
  • What does celebration look like for your community? What is there to celebrate?
  • Is it possible to celebrate all that God has done whilst recognising all that is to be done? How?

Bible notes author

The Revd Simon Sutcliffe

Simon Sutcliffe is an ordained minister in the Methodist Church currently working part time as the tutor for evangelism and church growth at Queen's Foundation, Birmingham and part time as a pioneer minister with Venture FX establishing new forms of Christian community in the Chester and Stoke-on-Trent District. Simon has four children who help to keep him grounded and in a constant cycle of tidying up(!), and is deeply disappointed that none of them support Bradford City..