Josiahs Need Zephaniahs

Scripture Focus: Zephaniah 3.1-5
1 Woe to the city of oppressors, 
rebellious and defiled! 
2 She obeys no one, 
she accepts no correction. 
She does not trust in the Lord, 
she does not draw near to her God. 
3 Her officials within her 
are roaring lions; 
her rulers are evening wolves, 
who leave nothing for the morning. 
4 Her prophets are unprincipled; 
they are treacherous people. 
Her priests profane the sanctuary 
and do violence to the law. 
5 The Lord within her is righteous; 
he does no wrong. 
Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, 
and every new day he does not fail, 
yet the unrighteous know no shame. 

Reflection: Josiahs Need Zephaniahs
By John Tillman

Zephaniah ministered during the early reign of child-king Josiah. Zephaniah and Josiah have a common relative. They each trace their heritage back to Hezekiah. 

Zephaniah’s writing condemned the established officials, political bureaucrats, the priesthood, and the prophets. These writings may have influenced Josiah when, eight years into his reign, the 16-year-old began to “seek the God of his father, David.” (2 Chronicles 34.3) 

Josiah had many faithful “fathers” to look back to, including Hezekiah, Uzziah, and Jehosaphat, as well as faithful “uncles” like Zephaniah. However, none were perfect. The biblical narrative highlights this.

The changes Josiah implemented were the most complete and remarkable revival in Judah’s history. Josiah is the last “good” leader Judah has before she falls. His reign was a bright flash of possibility before everything went dark.

We are often tempted to think of “the good old days” with an idealistic glow recalling the past in the best possible light. However, the history of any country, any city, or any individual, is a mixed bag. Nostalgia doesn’t do us any favors.

When Zephaniah called Jerusalem, “the city of oppressors” he wasn’t being overdramatic. Israel went from being oppressed to being liberated, to being oppressors themselves. God warned them from the start that the kings they demanded would become oppressors. (1 Samuel 8.6-19) The kings, beginning with Saul, proved God right, modeling themselves on other nations.

The leaders Zephaniah condemned wanted God to powerfully save them from Assyria. They wanted a revival of the economy and of their military power…they just weren’t willing to have a spiritual revival that required any level of sacrifice or repentance.

If we long to see youth, like Josiah, rise up to lead revival instead of abandoning faith, we need to be like Zephaniah, unafraid to boldly speak of, condemn, and repent of sin. There’s no use skirting the truth about individual, city-wide, or national sins. Sins hidden grow stronger. Sins denied become recurring. Sins defended become systemic. The next generation needs us to model condemning our past sins, confessing them, and being free. Josiahs need Zephaniahs.

We have a common heritage in a greater king than Hezekiah. We trace our righteousness not to ourselves or our past but to Jesus. He is the standard we should point to and the one true king we must teach future generations to serve and model themselves after.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; wash me, and I shall be clean indeed. — Psalm 51.8

Today’s Readings
Zephaniah 3 (Listen – 3:38)
Mark 11 (Listen – 3:59)

Read more about He Rejoices Over Us
Zephaniah looks forward with joy to when Israel’s purpose would be fulfilled in God.

Read more about Learning from the Suffering
Many “deconstructors” are spurred into this process by suffering. Some experienced sexual abuse or abuse of power. Many witnessed the defense and covering up of these kinds of abuse.

He Rejoices Over Us — Love of Advent

Scripture Focus: Zephaniah 3.9-10
9 “Then I will purify the lips of the peoples, 
that all of them may call on the name of the Lord 
and serve him shoulder to shoulder. 
10 From beyond the rivers of Cush v 
my worshipers, my scattered people, 
will bring me offerings. 

Reflection: He Rejoices Over Us — Love of Advent
By John Tillman

Zephaniah looks forward with joy to when Israel’s purpose would be fulfilled in God. In the same way, we anticipate the day when our hearts will be remade into the image of God’s Son. It is the love of Christ that grows in us and matures us into his likeness. 

Jesus was born a babe, became a child, grew in stature and favor, and became a powerful man able to carry out his Father’s business. May his Holy Spirit so order our lives that we may follow his example. May our childlike faith grow in wisdom and stature, and may we blossom in the favor of God and man. May we, in every way, grow up into the worthy calling of Christ Jesus.

Let us pray that such would be, using an acrostic poem by Melissa Tillman, followed by a prayer based on Zephaniah’s words.

Unto Us
By Melissa Tillman

Unruly and Unruled. Unacceptable. Unclean.
Naked and ashamed. N’ere do wells. Needy Neglecting. Navigating blindly the Night and its
Terrors. Truth rejecting. Towering egos Torn asunder, Turned every one to 
Our Own way. Away from the Only One Holy. Orchestrator of your Own 

Usurpation, Unwilling that any should perish. Unto us is born a 

Savior! Sanctifier of our Souls!
We sing, O Sanctifier, and shout in anticipation of your coming!
Fill our hearts with rejoicing!
You have removed our punishment,
So remove our guilt, our shame, and our injuries to ourselves and others…

Our enemy, sin, defeated, our king, we turn to serve only you.
Let not our hands be idle or lazy but make music 
Of justice
Of mercy
Of humility
May they sing from our pores

May you delight in us.
May we feel your pleasure as you rejoice over us in singing…

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Know this: The Lord himself is God; he himself has made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. — Psalm 100.2

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Zephaniah 3 (Listen – 3:38)
John 1 (Listen – 6:18)

This Weekend’s Readings
Haggai 1 (Listen – 2:39), John 2 (Listen – 3:02)
Haggai 2 (Listen – 3:49), John 3 (Listen – 4:41)

Read more about End of Year Giving and Supporting our work
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Read more about God Changes—Guided Prayer
Make God changes, once-and-for-all changes, in our lives
Give us eyes that see our sin.
Give us ears that hear your voice.