People talk about God being just a God of love. Are they right? Are we wrong to see God as a God of wrath too?
Do not let yourself be confused. God is a God of love, but God’s wrath and judgment are no less prevalent in both the Old and New Testament. God’s wrath is no greater than His love and we must never forget that.
In fact, we could even say that God’s wrath is a kind of love.
Zephaniah 2:1–3 is an example par excellence of God’s love existing in perfect unison with His wrath, for before the great Day of the LORD comes, He still shows His people a way to be spared.
The prophetic word continues now in chapter two by calling on Judah to gather themselves (“Gather together, yes, gather, O shameless nation”; verse 1) for one purpose: God calls on them to repent so that “perhaps [they] may be hidden on the day of the anger of the Lord” (verse 3). It is a straight forward request and one in which God elaborates every detail.
For Judah to repent meant three things: they must “seek the Lord”, “seek righteousness” and “seek humility” (verse 2).
First, to “seek the Lord” meant to worship Him and Him alone. Judah must turn from their evil, idolatrous ways. They must no longer worship Baal or Molech or any other pagan god, and they most certainly must stop trying to worship both these false gods and Yahweh at the same time. In short: Judah must live completely abandoned to God in utter faith and utter obedience. The result will manifest itself in righteousness and humility.
For example, if Judah worshipped God and God alone, it would follow that they would seek to obey His commandments. This is the definition of living righteously in the Old Testament. Moreover, they must do what He says without any self-centered motives. They must not grumble, complain or do it halfheartedly. That is what it means for them to “seek humility”. This and this alone is Judah’s last-minute hope for escape. If all the people turn away from their idolatry and seek the LORD, then God will spare them. But they must repent. Otherwise, God’s anger will find them.
Here too we find a foreshadow God’s love and wrath mingled together for us today.
For God is just as merciful to us and just as willing to receive us again and again, despite the sins we commit. Let us look at two New Testament passages that support this point. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Then again in 1 John 2:1, it states, “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” God gives us second chances after second chances. But we have to repent.
You can escape God’s coming judgment in the final Day of the Lord. But to do so, you must confess your sins to God. You must confess your worship of reputation, money and work. You must confess your worship of individualism and pleasure. You must confess your indulgence in the gods of this world – whatever it may be for you. So may we heed the prophetic warning from Zephaniah all those centuries ago. May we turn from our idols and worshipfully obey the Lord alone. And let us do so because He promises to be gracious to us, sinners.
Is this indeed not love?
Want to read more Taleh devotions on Zephaniah? Check this out.