Zephaniah 2 – Parse Ye the Day of the Lord

Zephaniah 2 Bible with Endangered Species 72 Percent Cocoa Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Almonds
Aw yeah, got that pumpkin plate. U WEENIN’: GOOD.

Today’s ChocolateEndangered Species Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Almonds

Today’s PassageZephaniah 2

God is not a man that He should change His mind, but we’re not God. I’ve read through the Bible more than once, and each time I come back around to a passage, I’ve grown as a person, I’ve learned new things, I’ve come to a different place that gives me a new perspective on it. If you’ve been reading the Bible for awhile, you’ve likely had the same experience. And sometimes God shows us we’ve been wrong about something. Our views change, we reject old opinions, and hopefully our new opinions jibe more consistently with the text and the world as they are. Here on Chocolate Book, we approach the Bible heuristically.

So, I don’t always believe the things I used to believe. Sometimes I don’t even believe the things I believed yesterday! Take, for example, yesterday’s post. I concluded that the Day of the Lord, as described in Zephaniah, was necessarily an endgame event for our human universe: apocalyptic in character, properly belonging with the events of Revelation. Now, I’m not so sure.

Here’s why: in the second chapter, Zephaniah begins mentioning ancient cities and cultures by name. Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron (4) all get promises of punishment. God goes on: “Woe to the inhabitants of the seacoast, the nation of the Cherethites! The word of the Lord is against you” (5). Have you ever heard of the Cherethites? I certainly haven’t. It’s because the word of the Lord was against them.

And this is still the Day of the Lord we’re talking about. Zephaniah encourages his hearers, “Seek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger” (3). I noted that in yesterday’s chapter, God promised to wipe the earth clean of man and beast, but here we see a way at least to give oneself a non-zero probability of surviving the Day of the Lord. I didn’t know this yesterday, but I read further in the chapter, and now I do. To paraphrase a line from The Big Lebowski, new information has come to light.

But how do we make sense of this new information, especially given that Paul talks about the Day of the Lord as something that has yet to happen? I’d begin by pointing out that even when we ran across it in Joel, you probably didn’t expect the events described to occur within a single twenty-four hour period. We’re already interpreting the Day of the Lord as a non-literal day. Is the Day of the Lord something that comes in pieces, something that in a sense already came and in another sense is yet to come? Jesus Christ himself came, but while the populace was expecting the Messiah to arrive and usher in a new age of peace and justice in a single coming, Jesus left the earth with a promise to return. Perhaps we’re meant to view the Day of the Lord as something that happens in part in every prophetic judgment, God’s process of bringing about justice one day at a time, until the final climactic events that right his world’s wrongs: the culmination of the Day of the Lord.

I’m still sorting these things out, and I ‘ll cop to sometimes making a mess of them with my exegetical errors and convoluted hermeneutics. Like Walt Whitman, I contradict myself, though hopefully more because I’m growing and learning and receiving correction and less because I contain multitudes.

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