Meet Zephaniah, a bit ‘intense’…
“That day will be a day of wrath –
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of trouble and ruin,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and blackness –
a day of trumpet and battle cry
against the fortified cities
and against the corner towers.
‘I will bring such distress on all people
that they will grope about like those who are blind,
because they have sinned against the Lord.
Their blood will be poured out like dust
and their entrails like dung.”
You know that person who is just a little ‘full on’? Perhaps you casually mention that the stationery cupboard is a bit of a mess and the next thing you know they have created a spreadsheet, a flow chart, and a 3D model explaining why staples and staplers should be kept on different shelves and a list of disciplinary measures for people who don’t refill the printer ink. They’re not wrong - and the 3D model proves it - but it’s just a bit… intense.
Everybody’s been stepping round ‘Cupboard-gate’ for weeks. We all know it’s a mess but it’s a minefield - we can’t just talk about it. Sure we can moan, but come on Zeph, cut as a break will you?
The opening salvo of the book of Zephaniah is bleak, and darkly thorough… full of details and stark imagery, including references to ‘dung’ and ‘entrails’. I think it’s fair to say Zephaniah would have come across as ‘a bit intense’. In a book only 3 chapters long, he spends 2 and a half of them on the offensive tackling judgement and punishment - ending with just 11 verses about restoration.
He may not have been the easiest person to hang around with. “Shall we have leavened or unleavened bread tonight Zeph?”
“You speak of bread when this shameful nation is….”
“Fine, fine, I’ll just do unleavened, it’s quicker.”
But Zephaniah had a difficult message to deliver in difficult times. You can’t accuse him of taking the easy route, telling people what they want to hear and playing to the gallery. He isn’t using spin, post-truth or alternative facts.
In an age of unstable populism, it’s refreshing to consider Zephaniah who is certainly not looking to win any popularity contests. He is someone who sees thorny issues (even more controversial than the absolute midden of a stationery cupboard) like infidelity, idolatry and injustice and gets stuck in with tenacity. He calls a spade a spade and dung - dung.
He knows his dung.
As we remember Zephaniah let’s remember all those who take up unpopular, unglamorous causes and work tirelessly, telling people what they don’t want to hear, but quite possibly need to.
Help me see truth,