The expression “Wait for it!” can be used to build suspense before a verbal climax. One expects that what is said next will be surprising, humorous, or unexpectedly significant. According to one source, its increased “colloquial usage as a dramatic interjection” can be attributed to its frequent appearances in the popular American TV show How I Met Your Mother.
To those who think they have escaped divine justice, God says, “Wait for it!” Whereas in yesterday’s reading the purpose of waiting was to experience God’s deliverance, in today’s reading the purpose of waiting is to see His just wrath against sin and evil. The poetic and prophetic books of Scripture resound with cries for this: “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease”? (Jer. 12:1).
The context for Zephaniah 3 is Judah’s sinfulness and unwillingness to repent. The nation was being chronically rebellious, disobedient, and prideful (vv. 1–2). Leaders exploited others, prophets lied, and priests profaned worship (vv. 3–4). God, who is perfectly righteous, had been more than patient, waiting for the nation to accept correction. The fact that He hadn’t punished them yet did not mean they had gotten away with their wickedness, as they seemed to think. They should have already known this from His past judgments on other nations (vv. 5–7).
When God said, “Wait for me,” then, it was a severe and perhaps sarcastic warning (v. 8). They didn’t think He was actually coming. They didn’t want Him to show up and “testify” about their evil deeds. They disregarded and disrespected His righteous wrath and judgment. But His arrival and His justice are as certain for judgment as they are for the salvation of the faithful remnant who waits in hope (see vv. 9–20).
Can we really give “shouts of joy” when the wicked perish (Prov. 11:10)? That doesn’t seem very “nice.” But the answer is yes, if our desire is for God’s plan to be accomplished and His name to be honored. If, however, our feelings are fueled by hatred or revenge, that is not godly waiting. For a vital lesson on this topic, read Jonah 4.