Reading: Zephaniah 1-3
Summary: Zephaniah’s task was not a pleasant one. His was to announce to Judah God’s impending discipline against them. Though he offers no hope for their being saved from this judgment, He does, like others of the prophets, speak of future glory for God’s people.
The chronological placement of Zephaniah is difficult. Some see him addressing the very religious conditions of Judah prior to Josiah’s reforms and that perhaps the prophet influenced the actions of the young king.
Not a Josiah? Be a Zephaniah
Josiah and Zephaniah; of the two, Josiah is the far better known. Of the two, Josiah held the more prominent position as king. Of the two, Josiah is heralded as the great reformer, the one who “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2). Of the two, Josiah may not have been possible without Zephaniah.
Spiritually speaking things were horrible when Josiah became king at the tender age of 8. He began seeking the Lord at 16 and at 20 began his extensive religious reforms. The prophet Zephaniah lived “in the days of Josiah” (Zeph. 1:1) and addresses very serious religious wrongs, the kind that Josiah attempts to correct. Zephaniah may very well have been the source of motivation for the young king to launch his ambitious efforts to bring his people back to God (perhaps as well as Jeremiah). Zephaniah appears to be the man behind the movement.
Would Josiah—and what we know him for—be possible without Zephaniah? I don’t know that we can know for sure. But we do know this: our world is in desperate need of Josiah’s and Zephaniah’s. We need people with the courage and conviction of Josiah to use whatever influence and opportunity they have to do right, combat unrighteousness, and lead people back to God. We need people who though they may not be in positions of prominence are, with no less courage and conviction, influencing whomever they can in whatever way they can.
For every Josiah there is a Zephaniah; without the Zephaniah’s of this world there would be no Josiah’s.