On November 21, 2017, after a week of house arrest, Robert Mugabe, age 93, resigned as president of Zimbabwe. He had held the position since the country’s independence from Great Britain in 1980. Military leaders acted to remove Mugabe from power when it became clear that he was positioning his wife, Grace Mugabe, 52, to assume the presidency in the event of his death.
Long political reigns are difficult to end, and they often become corrupt. One wonders if this was the case in Judah under the reign of King Manasseh who became king at 12 years old and ruled the country for 55 years. He left an infamous legacy of religious syncretism and idol worship, even the atrocity of child sacrifice, and God promised to punish the nation on his account. “I will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes out a dish” (2 Kings 21:13).
But Zephaniah preached not during the reign of Manasseh but during that of Josiah, Manasseh’s grandson. Josiah led a national religious revival, collecting monies to repair the temple, removing the idolatrous images from inside God’s holy sanctuary, re-instituting Passover observance, and renewing the nation’s covenant with Yahweh (see 2 Kings 23). If Josiah was such an upright king, why was God still promising, through Zephaniah, to judge His people for the faults of Manasseh?
God was waiting for a fuller repentance. Although the hearts of some kings in the southern kingdom turned toward God, the hearts of God’s people never fully did. And this is why the Day of the Lord was coming in Judah—a day of judgment. And we see another aspect of the Day of the Lord in this book. It is not simply a day of judgment; it is also a day of restoration.
All the Minor Prophets except Nahum conclude their proclamations of judgment with the hopeful anticipation of salvation. Reread the final verses from the books that we have studied this month. What hope does it give for you personally that God “relents from sending calamity” (Joel 2:13) and “pardons sin” (Micah 7:18)?