The LORD your God, is in your midst,
      a mighty savior,
Who will rejoice over you with gladness,
     and renew you in his love.

―Zephaniah 3:17

 

Zephaniah, the ninth of the Minor Prophets, has an interesting introduction to his prophetical book. Curiously, the names of four of his forefathers are listed. Evidently his great-great-grandfather was a man named Hezekiah. Some suggest the possibility that this ancestor of Zephaniah’s was actually King Hezekiah of Judah (2 Kings 18–20); however, this is uncertain.

St. Zephaniah’s time of prophecy occurred during the reign of King Josiah of Judah (640–609 B.C.). Most scholars regard Zephaniah’s writings to have addressed the issues of the first years of King Josiah’s reign, when the king was still a child. At this time in Judahite history, the people had been led for decades by two evil and violent kings (Manasseh and Amon), whose actions polluted the hearts of many people of the kingdom. The fallout was great: God was forgotten by many, and paganism was rampant.

Clearly, Zephaniah was horrified over the deplorable attitudes among the Judahites. His prophecies warned of the coming of “the Day of the Lord,” a time of God’s pronouncing judgment upon the people. The prophet chose powerful and threatening words, hoping to capture the attention of the fallen-away nation. He portrayed a devastating and distressful judgment day. Slaughter, pillage, distress, desolation, gloom, and perish are just some of the impactive words that Zephaniah used to make God’s desire for faithfulness understood. Zephaniah clearly had strong feelings for his people and desperately desired a complete reformation of their hearts.

Intriguingly, in the midst of the distressful and threatening phrases, Zephaniah stuck in a brief but meaningful quip of hope for the humble: that their kind conduct might ease the Lord’s anger. In the second chapter of Zephaniah’s book, warnings are also directed toward various nations that surrounded Judah. Zephaniah made it clear that those neighbors who had brought woe and immoral temptations to Judah were to be punished.

Zephaniah, like many prophets, closed his prophecy with a final message of hope. He announced that God would renew the people of Judah, remove his judgment from them, and dwell among them.

 

Nine Days of Bible Journaling with St. Zephaniah

You can find St. Zephaniah on the Dec. 3 page of the Roman Martyrology. If you find yourself striving for more humility—to be more like the people St. Zephaniah praised, this prophet might be a saint for you to lean on for a time. Reading, pondering, praying about, and journaling with St. Zephaniah for nine days might bring you a spirit of hope and add a touch of humility to your life.

  • Day 1) Zephaniah 1:1–4
  • Day 2) 2 Chronicles 34:1–3
  • Day 3) Zephaniah 1:12–14
  • Day 4) Zephaniah 2:3
  • Day 5) Zephaniah 2:7
  • Day 6) Zephaniah 3:8–9
  • Day 7) Zephaniah 3:12–13
  • Day 8) Zephaniah 3:17–18
  • Day 9) Zephaniah 3:20