Have you ever been jittery the night before a big day? Perhaps you have felt the mixture of dread and excitement that heralds something momentous. An interview, a presentation, a wedding, or a performance, I am sure most, if not all, of us can recall a day that stands out from the rest. What is it about a day like this that turns our stomach and consumes our imagination? These significant days reveal deep truths about who we are and/or they forever shape who we are. Sometimes we can see these days coming, but more often than not, we don’t.
The prophetic books of the Bible often refer to “The Day of Lord.” This is commonly referred to as “Judgement Day” and it is preferred topic for the prophet Zephaniah. Zephaniah lived in the southern kingdom, also known as Judah. The northern kingdom (aka Israel) had already been obliterated by Assyria and now Judah had a big target on it. Zephaniah spoke out about the abuses of power by political, religious, and economic leaders within Judah. He warned that the injustice and idolatry of the people would lead to judgement, otherwise known as, “The Day of the Lord.”
The prophets talked about “The Day of the Lord” in a variety of ways. Some looked forward to it with hope for on this day lies would be exposed, the marginalized would be exalted, and wrongs would be made right. Some spoke of “The Day of the Lord” as a day of darkness and not light. They spoke of a day when God’s purifying holiness would devour evil. Essentially, all of the prophets said the same thing about “The Day of the Lord” but whether one viewed that day with eager anticipation or with fear depended on what would be revealed in their lives and in their community.
The popular notion of “Judgment Day” aka “The Day of the Lord” associates it with the last days, a final act for the earth. Yet in Zephaniah (as well as in other prophets), the “Day of the Lord” referred to specific moment in history, not to the end of history. There are many days of the Lord. They are days that reveal the deep truths about who we are and/or forever shape who we will be. This is what ultimately makes “The Day of the Lord” hopeful. Because there are still more days to come. When we are visited by a day of the Lord, injustices and abuses of power are exposed. Once exposed, we have the opportunity to address the broken pieces of our soul and of our society. Once exposed, we have the opportunity to, by grace, seek healing and reconciliation. “The Day of Lord” gives us the opportunity to be transformed and to move forward with justice, compassion, and humility.
Doesn’t it feel like we’re having a “Day of the Lord” right now? And isn’t it exactly the kind of day we need to have?
“On that day it shall be said…Do not fear, do not let your hands grow weak. The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love…[On that day] I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you home.” – Zephaniah 3:16-20
For more information about the book of Zephaniah check out: https://bibleproject.com/explore/zephaniah/