“Be silent in the presence of the Lord God, for the day of the Lord is near. Indeed, the Lord has prepared a sacrifice; he has consecrated his guests.”
Zephaniah wrote these words to a people oblivious to God, a people nearing a time of judgment and discipline. The people God had chosen to represent him had instead chosen to mock Him and rebel against Him. Though they would be disciplined in the short term, another five hundred years or more would pass before the day of the promised sacrifice.
When it came, the sacrifice proved far different than any nation had ever offered. God Himself hung on a criminal’s cross, while the curtain that had come to prevent the people’s recognition of their own corruption ripped in two. That moment began a judgment that will continue until the end of the world. In that moment the final victory of good over evil was revealed.
This judgment, this victory, is far from obvious to the wicked. Evil continues to be promoted, horrible acts continue to be perpetrated. The father of lies will never concede defeat as long as he sees opportunity to sow chaos and doubt. Self-absorbed humans will always fall for any excuse offered for refusal to acknowledge God. And always they will attack the faithful, the ones whose unwavering reflection of goodness and truth serves as an uncomfortable reminder of their loss.
Yet Zephaniah says that God’s people cannot be shamed. They are safe and separate from those who practice evil. They are exalted throughout the earth, victors and rulers where their enemies would make them slaves. They have no fear of enemies, and live in a peace their enemies will never experience. They are surrounded by a shield of living water born of that sacrifice; washed clean of evil as they stepped through it, they can no longer be stained by it.
For those who cling to evil and mock victory, however, that shield is made of impenetrable stone. They bash themselves against it with useless howls of pain, fear, and anger, destroying themselves with their own frenzy. Or they stand forlornly with their backs to a wall of water, besieged by their own army and doomed by their own fears.
The victory has been won. The judgment has been pronounced. Whether we suffer destructive defeat or celebrate eternal and perfect conquest depends on the side we have chosen. There is no neutral territory; we are either good, made perfect by the Judge Himself, or we are evil. And as Zephaniah warned the scornful people of Judah, our time to choose has a swiftly approaching end.