"I have heard the taunting of Moab And the revilings of the sons of Ammon, With which they have taunted My people And become arrogant against their territory.Zephaniah 2:8(NASB)
The race that God created to rule over the earth fell in the Garden of Eden, and Israel, the nation God chose to witness to the world of His goodness and grace, failed to fulfil her covenanted role. Instead of telling the Gentiles about the Lord, everyone did what was right in their own eyes. They followed after pagan gods. They disobeyed the Lord. They broke their covenant with Him and dishonoured His holy name.
Like so many prophetic writings, Zephaniah chapter 1, speaks of God's determination to pour out His judgement on Judah and Jerusalem, because of their idolatry. He warns of the terrors of the coming 'Day of the Lord', which He describes as a sacrificial feast... where God would give the wicked people of Judah as a sacrificial victim to their adversaries... and they would be devoured by their ungodly enemies, in the 'Time of Jacob's Trouble'.
Because sin must be punished, Judah had to be disciplined. Because they broke their covenant and had become violent, deceitful, and idolatrous, Israel had to face the consequences of their sin, and Zephaniah prophesied that the Lord would use the pagan nations, dwelling round about, as His rod of discipline. They would become the hammer God would use to execute judgement upon His people.
While Judah is given a call to repent of her sin and return to the Lord at the beginning of chapter 2, it is the doom of the hostile Gentile nations that dominate the middle section of the book, and Zephaniah identifies the many nations the Lord would use as His rod of discipline, to chasten His errant people. In verse 8 we read God's wrath would be poured out on the kingdoms of Moab and Ammon - during that great and terrible Day of the Lord.
The Moabites and the Ammonites, on the east side of Jordan, would be the tool God would use to punish His people and woo them back to Himself. These descendants of Lot had spoken insolent words against the Lord. They had boasted of their magnificence and might and mocked the people of God. "I have heard the taunting of Moab, and the revilings of the sons of Ammon, with which they have taunted My people, and become arrogant against their territory."
Nothing evil people do against the Lord or His people go unnoticed by God, and He sent a terrible warning to these ungodly pagans. "Therefore, as I live—is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel—Moab will be like Sodom and the Ammonites like Gomorrah. They will be a place overgrown with weeds, a salt pit, and a perpetual wasteland. The remnant of My people will plunder them. The remainder of My nation will dispossess them."
While some like to claim that this prophecy was fulfilled at the time of Israel's captivity in Assyria and/or Babylon, it is yet future, for God has declared that the land would become totally uninhabitable and be rendered an utter wasteland and that the faithful remnant of Israel will plunder the land of its wealth and riches. Although the named nations may have disappeared, and a partial fulfilment may have ensued in times past... this will be fully and finally fulfilled during the coming 'Day of the Lord' - the 70th week of Daniel.
Not only is He a God of justice, Who will always punish sin, but the Lord is also protective towards His people and jealous for His holy name. While God uses the satanically inspired aggression and evil, perpetrated by the Gentile nations against His people, to forward His plans and purposes, we must never forget that He is also the Author of Good.
God in His grace takes and uses ALL things - both the good and the bad, the difficult situations and the easy times, the disappointments of life and the blessings we receive - the works of evil and the prayers of the saints... and He works them together for the good of His people.. so that His redemptive plans and purposes continue to be unfolded, until they will, one day, be fully and finally complete - when Christ is ALL in ALL.
While Zephaniah's prophetic writings are directed to Israel and the Jews, there is much for the Christian Church to learn from these ancient oracles. God will always judge sin, whether the evil is perpetrated by unbelieving sinners, who defy the name of the Lord, OR those who have been called and chosen to be His people, but are walking out of fellowship with their Saviour. While God shows Himself to be long-suffering and of great mercy towards sinner and saint alike, He is the righteous judge of the earth.. and He cannot allow sin to go unpunished.
Although He is a God of great goodness and grace, He sends rain on the fields of the unrighteous who blaspheme His name as well as the righteous, who worship Him in spirit and truth. He causes the sun to shine down on both the godly and the ungodly, but He is also a God of justice who will punish those who disobey Him through unbelief (i.e. the unsaved - Jew and Gentile alike) and He will also chasten His people, who stray from the path of righteousness (i.e. the saved - Jew and Gentile alike).
Let us never forget that when we are the butt of the tauntings and revilings of those who hate us, God is in control and He is the One Who will vindicate us and punish our enemies, for we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. God has declared, "vengeance is mine - I will repay", and Jesus Himself taught, "they hated Me without a cause and they will hate you also."
Although God will never allow sin to go unpunished in the lives of sinner and saint alike, let us rejoice that a day is coming when God will right all wrongs. He will avenge His people who have been abused and persecuted by evil-doers, and He will punish the wicked for their sin.
May we take to heart these warnings from Zephaniah and act with justice, treasure the Lord's gracious love, and walk humbly in the company of our God and Saviour, for His greater praise and eternal glory.
Heavenly Father, thank You that You are the Author of good, the Architect of justice, the Producer of peace, and the Designer of salvation. Thank You that You work all things together for our eternal good and even use the problems, pain, injustices, and evil in this world, to carry forward Your perfect plans and purposes, for the benefit of those that love and trust you... and also for the condemnation of those who refuse to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. May I always be mindful of the truth that You have already defeated that which is evil at the Cross, and that a day is coming when sin, Satan, death, and hell, will be fully and finally eradicated from the earth and Christ will be all in all. Keep me looking to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith, for His name's sake, AMEN.