Recently, I read the book of Zephaniah after realizing I hadn’t read it in awhile. It was written by the prophet Zephaniah, where God proclaims the judgments that were coming to the nation of Israel, as well as Moab, Assyria and others. It’s a pretty short book with only three chapters, but there was something beautiful in the third chapter that really struck me.
After two chapters of God declaring His judgments and the sins of the nations, the third chapter begins with more descriptions of the oppression and sin that existed in Jerusalem, but in verse five there is an incredible statement made:
The Lord is righteous in her midst,
He will do no unrighteousness. Every morning He brings His justice to light; He never fails, But the unjust knows no shame.
Zephaniah 3:5 (NKJV)
Did you read that first part? In the midst of all the oppression, injustice, perversion, and other forms of darkness, the Lord is righteous in the middle of it. As you’re reading this you may be thinking, “Well of course the Lord is going to be righteous, why would He not be?” You’re right. The Lord is righteous, but what stood out to me was that this was a declaration that the wickedness in Jerusalem did not mean that God left Jerusalem.
In the Law of Moses, God set up ways to approach Him in the tabernacle and temple. You couldn’t just walk in without being consecrated (meaning set apart), because He is holy and commands reverence and respect. It would be tempting to think that because God had standards for our approach to Him that He would be “infected” by our sin if He Himself chose to come among us. We may imagine God needing to put on some protective gear, so that none of our sins rubs off on Him by accident.
The reality is that the goodness of God is never overpowered by the wickedness of sin, and in verse five we see this clearly. Through the prophet Zephaniah, God declared that He is active in the midst of the wickedness that surrounded and enveloped the city of Jerusalem and the nation of Israel. He declared that every morning He brings His justice to light, even as the unjust were not ashamed of their conduct.
This gives us hope as believers in every nation that we reside in! Even though the context of the verse speaks to Israel, we can affirm that the Lord is righteous in the midst of any nation His people are in. We can maintain a firm hope and diligent commitment to the things of God, knowing that every morning He shows His justice, even when there are many who are taken advantage of by the shameless acts of the unjust.
God will not make us love one another, love is literally a choice, therefore we see much evil caused by our own will and desires. Yet God is not ignorant of the justice that is needed before us. As we navigate this perilous world, may we be wise and know what the will of the Lord is, and remember that He truly is righteous in the middle of it all.
Have you ever wondered where God was when you witnessed things were out of control? How do you see God’s presence and involvement in spite of what’s happening around you? Let’s talk in the comments below!