A recent Advent reading was from Zephaniah 3.  Scanning the rest of the chapter later, I stayed for a while on the opening verses (3:1-2):

“Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city!  She listens to no voice; she accepts no correction.  She does not trust in the Lord; she does not draw near to her God.”

My observation is that most Bible readers nowadays mentally check out when a passage kicks off with the word “woe”.  Perhaps it’s the “old feel” of the term; perhaps it’s the sheer weight of the word and it warning nature.

But we would be wise to swallow the “woe” and rest on what follows.  There is warning.  Anyone who strives to live in a responsible, upstanding fashion may be tempted to deflect a word like “rebellious” toward someone more “worthy of the title”.  But that would dull the blade set to do surgery on us.

Zephaniah fleshes out “rebellious” with these descriptives:

  • One who listens to no voice.
  • One who accepts no correction.
  • One who does not trust Yahweh.
  • One who does not draw near to the God he claims as his own.

These are harder shots to dodge.  Who among us doesn’t shut our ears sometimes when we should be listening hardest?  Which of us has called God our own, while living out nothing resembling trust?

Such living wears the banner of “rebellious”, and we dwelling on Zephaniah’s words can convict us that this banner fits with remarkable comfort, more than we expected.

That is the blade of prophecy.  At its sharpest, it has surgical precision and transformative power in the lives of God’s people.  That has always been the intention—to tune our attention.

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