Impartial Grace: Zephaniah

Yahweh will be awesome to them, for he will famish all the gods of the land. Men will worship him, everyone from his place, even all the shores of the nations….

(Zephaniah 2:11, emphasis added)

“Therefore wait for me”, says Yahweh, “until the day that I rise up to the prey,for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour on them my indignation, even all my fierce anger, for all the earth will be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. For then I will purify the lips of the peoples, that they may all call on Yahweh’s name, to serve him shoulder to shoulder.

(Zephaniah 3:8-9, emphasis added)

My Life Application Study Bible (p.1893, NIV) describes the “Blueprint” 1 and underlying message of Zephaniah’s prophesy. This is a warning to “the people of Judah that if they refused to repent, the entire nation, including the beloved city of Jerusalem, would be lost.” Israel would lose the cherished city. It is not “ merely punishment for sin, but also a process of purifying the people.” Our lives are lived in a fallen world. The chaos and confusion, the violence and distrust among the people will come to an end. “We can hope in the perfect kingdom of God to come.” It is good to be disciplined by God now so that we are purified from sin.

This “Blueprint” unintentionally leans into universal reconciliation. Bible scholars who prepared this statement believe the people of Judah knew they “would eventually” be blessed. It’s as if their blessing is an expected, yet unmerited favor. The people of Judah have to do nothing, but wait. God will eventually bless Judah.

Zephaniah’s prophecy warns the people of Judah that before the blessing from God there must be discipline from God. The authors of this commentary suggest these verses have a two fold purpose. The first to satisfy the need to atone for sins. The second purpose is to burnish, purify, strengthen,and discipline the people of Judah.

“Believers” in Christ Jesus we are confident in both steps. We understand His Salvation is based purely in His grace and mercy. God will indeed discipline us, after all the Father disciplines those He loves. Those who do not believe, will. They, too, will experience His relentless love and they will be disciplined accordingly.

These scriptures reveal God as loving and just. He will gather all the nations. All the kingdoms will come together at His command. All will bow to Him and worship Him. In the same way the fire purifies the “Believers” it will purify the “Not Believers.” God does not offer a distinction here that the whole world does not mean the whole world. God is telling us that His authority and His sovereignty cannot be supplanted. Satan cannot defeat Christ, in fact, Satan has already been defeated. Satan cannot usurp God’s authority. All of them will call on the Name of the Lord! This is Impartial Grace.

1Zephaniah’s Prophecy Blueprint.” Life Application Study Bible (p. 1893, NIV). Zondervan Press. 2005.