If there is a God, why isn’t he punishing bad people, and especially those who use religion as a shield – who give him a bad name? Zephaniah teaches us today that God is still here, inhabiting a remnant. He is nurturing those who trust him and his justice is coming.
1 Woe to the city of oppressors,
rebellious and defiled!
2 She obeys no one,
she accepts no correction.
She does not trust in the Lord,
she does not draw near to her God.
3 Her officials within her
are roaring lions;
her rulers are evening wolves,
who leave nothing for the morning.
4 Her prophets are unprincipled;
they are treacherous people.
Her priests profane the sanctuary
and do violence to the law.
5 The Lord within her is righteous;
he does no wrong.
Morning by morning he dispenses his justice,
and every new day he does not fail,
yet the unrighteous know no shame.
12 But I will leave within you
the meek and humble.
The remnant of Israel
will trust in the name of the Lord.
13 They will do no wrong;
they will tell no lies.
A deceitful tongue
will not be found in their mouths.
They will eat and lie down
and no one will make them afraid.”
Zephaniah 3:1-5, 12-13
As Zephaniah presents the word of the Lord to Jerusalem, he shares that Jerusalem is oppressive, rebellious, and defiled. There is no obedience or receptivity to correction; no trusting of God or drawing near to him. Her officials and leaders are like lions and wolves on the hunt. Even her prophets and priests are treacherous and profane their duties and the institutions of God.
We have seen this. This is the time when people will cry out and say, if there is a God, why is he not dealing with these people and punishing those, particularly within the church, who give him a bad name? Why does he tolerate misuse of power in society? Where is God?
We see, in the words of Zephaniah, that God is there. The Lord is within her. Somewhere within deceitful and treacherous Jerusalem, a city which had gone astray, the Lord is still inhabiting some of the city. Some. A small some. A remnant.
God is still righteous, he does no wrong, he still dispenses justice (even if we don’t see it on a grand scale), and he does not fail. Whereas we might look in and surmise that God is failing at his own job – at his own duties in ruling over creation, God is not failing. He is, for his own reasons which are superior to ours, forbearing. God is putting up with some level of wrong, even while he continues to work, and he has plans to deal with Jerusalem.
And God plans to nurture the remnant. And maybe in those times we might think God is not as active as he ought to be, he is, rather, focusing his energy and ministry on the remnant which is still trusting in him in the middle of the unrighteousness of the city. The remnant may be underground, they may not have a voice in the public square any longer, yet God’s promise to them remains:
They will eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid.
If you are in a remnant situation, at school or work or in your city or country, stay true to God. He will nurture you.