The Book of Zephaniah - "Searchlights from the Word" by G. Campbell Morgan.
I will utterly consume.
Zephaniah exercised his ministry in the days of Josiah. This is an interesting fact, because in his days there was a great reformation, and yet the prophet makes no reference to it. An examination of the history of that reform will show that, so far as the nation was concerned, it was superficial. The king was loyal to God, and sincere. He was also popular with the people, and they followed him in his reforming work, as to external things. But there was no true repentance. Therefore Zephaniah did not recognize the reform; and indeed, in all probability the insincerity of it gave greater vehemence to his denunciation of the sin of the people. Taken as a whole this prophecy sets forth the severity and goodness of God with overwhelming force; and shows how these apparently contradictory elements of His government move to the same end. The words we have emphasized give the key note to the prophet's message as to the action of God, consequent upon the sins of the people. This chapter is wholly taken up with the day of Divine wrath. The outlook was wider than Judah. It began with the declaration that the whole creation, so far as it was polluted, should be destroyed. It then dealt with the nation itself, denouncing its sins, and announcing the consuming wrath of God as proceeding against princes, extortioners, the city, the merchantmen, the luxurious. It is a terrible setting forth of the severity of God against apostasy. There was no equivocation, no uncertainty, no hesitancy, in the prophet's words. They abide for all time, a revelation of the fact that God not only will make no terms with sin, but that He will proceed against it in fiery indignation that it may be utterly consumed.
Gather yourselves together.
In this chapter we have the prophet's appeal, on the ground of the approaching day of wrath. This opening call might with accuracy be rendered in our colloquialism; "Pull yourselves together." That is the exact idea. All the Nation was spiritually and morally relaxed, and so mentally dulled, and unable to realize the true meaning of its own sin. The prophet stood before the Nation as a physician, and cried to it sharply, urgently: "Pull yourselves together." The sign of moral paralysis was that the Nation had no shame. To a sense of sin, and a consequent sense of shame, the prophet sought to bring them, in view of the decree of the Divine judgment which was determined against them. He commenced by describing the judgments which were to fall on the surrounding nations, Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Ethiopia, and Assyria; and then proceeded to show how this same fiery destructive force would fall on Jerusalem (3:1-7). In the course of this appeal the prophet specially addressed the remnant of elect souls who were loyal to Jehovah. Two things are impressive in this section of the prophecy. The first is that this is the very call that nations constantly need to hear; and that it is difficult for them to obey. Today, those nations most highly privileged need to pull themselves together, and to face moral and spiritual facts. The second is that the souls within the national life who are loyal to God are those who constitute the only hope of the nation being able to do this.
Therefore wait ye for Me, saith the Lord.
That is the sentence in which the theme of the severity of God merges into that of His goodness. It is most significant, when the force of the "therefore" is considered. Observe the immediately preceding words: "They rose early and corrupted all their doings." "Therefore," because there is no hope of recovery in the people themselves, "wait ye for Me saith Jehovah." When the case is most hopeless, as to man's corruption, then Jehovah acts, and He does so in "indignation," in "fierce anger," in "the fire of His jealousy"; but all that in order to the ending of corruption and the restoration of the sinning people. From that point the prophetic message is one of hope; it becomes a song of love, and there is none more full of exquisite beauty in the Bible. It is a celebration of the Motherhood of God, in which the prophet described Him rejoicing over His people, silent in His love, and then breaking the silence with a song of love. That victory is the victory of love. That is to say that it can only issue from the action of the God of love. There is no hope in human effort. The only thing that man can do is to wait for God. But that waiting is a responsibility. To wait for God is to be at the end of self; it is to be submissive to His way of judgment; it is to return to Him with complete surrender, the surrender of utter hopelessness in any other than Himself, the surrender of acknowledged and yielding weakness. Wherever there is such waiting, in love He chastises to purification; and then in love rejoices as His purposes are fulfilled in the restoration of those upon whom His love is set.