2 Chronicles 7:13 reads, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, ...”
It’s difficult to read this text and not be reminded of recent events. Could we be witnessing the events the Bible foretold as the end of the age? If so, how then should we live?
The Old Testament Prophet Zephaniah was thrust into the limelight in similar circumstances. He was the great-great-grandson of King Hezekiah and ministered during the reign of Josiah, king of Judah. The Book of 2 Kings confirms that Josiah was only 8 years old when he became king. Zephaniah’s royal lineage gave him both keen awareness and potentially strong influence in the court of a young king.
King Josiah inherited a complete mess. His grandfather, King Manasseh, reigned for 55 years, reintegrating every form of pagan ritual and worship. Josiah’s father, Amon, did nothing to mitigate the downward spiral and was assassinated after only two years. Scholars surmise that Josiah was strongly influenced by Hilkiah, the high priest along with the prophets of his day with Zephaniah being one.
The text of the Book of Zephaniah is blunt and direct. Judgment would soon fall on the nations surrounding Israel and on the Jewish people. Zephaniah challenged them to repentance and obedience. Many in his day were on the road to self-fulfillment. Their goal was to live for themselves.
Others choose the higher road of public service. In biblical days these were civic officials, judges, priests, etc. But the right course is the way of divine destiny. Choosing to seek and serve the Lord and King.
The text goes on describing the nations of Gaza, Moab, Ammon and Cush. God’s judgment would ultimately fall on all nations - including Judah and Jerusalem. The Jews claimed an exemption - they were of the Tribe of Judah. But God was searching their hearts and they came up short.
We find similar perspectives today. Some try to bargain with God. Others plan to stand up to the Creator and bull their way through. But the righteous seek their calling and purpose in God’s will.
The concluding verses of Zephaniah’s work describe the time of the Lord’s return. A time the prophet never lived to witness. And so the book concludes without any clear resolution.
But the Bible does tell the rest of the story. It’s found in 2 Chronicles 34. Here we find the most detailed account of the reforms under King Josiah.
While he was still young, King Josiah began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of idolatry. These reforms ultimately led to the discovery of the Book of the Law of Moses. When Josiah heard the word of the Lord and realized the implications, he tore his robes in humility and repentance. As a result, the day of destruction was withheld until the next generation.
America stands at a similar crossroads. Twenty years have passed as America attempted to right the world all the while we tumble into greater sin and depravity. The conclusion is settled - only the timeline is in question. Yet our God can save and deliver and heal.
We have but one choice. I began by quoting 2 Chronicles 7:13 regarding the conditions of our day. Verse 14 provides the appropriate response: "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Tim Walker is pastor at New Life Community Church in Pine River.