(this transcript has been lightly edited for readability)
Well, I like where Zephaniah is positioned, and I like his function. Zephaniah’s review, that’s just what it is. And you read through Zephaniah and you should be thankful for the rescuing power of divine repetition that God knows this, that these themes of redemption are not intuitive to us. It’s not our normal way of thinking about ourselves; they’re not our normal way of thinking about the world; they’re radical and counterintuitive mainly because the whole redemptive message is other-centered rather than me-centered. My narrative often has me in the center and it's about my hopes, my dreams, my comfort, my ease. I love me and have a wonderful plan for my life versus this radical message that God has chosen us to be part of something transcendent, part of something hugely bigger than us, namely, relationship with Him.
And so, we need those themes repeated to us again and again and again. Listen, you will never ever reach a point where it doesn’t benefit you to hear the gospel again, and you should never be bored when you hear the gospel again. You should never be bored when God repeats those themes again because it’s so deeply counterintuitive for all of us. We need to be confronted with those truths moment by moment by moment till our thoughts are really like God's thoughts.
Well, here are the familiar themes in Zephaniah. It's the redemptive pattern that's depicted from the Garden to Revelation; God sets His love on His people. This whole plan is initiated by God and by the move of His love.
The second step is sad, but it happens again and again. In the face of that love, His people rebel against Him. Don't be too hard on the children of Israel because you do it too. In fact, it's a good possibility, today, there will be a moment of rebellion in your life, where you speak to somebody in the way that you shouldn’t speak or you’re a bit greedy, a bit selfish, a bit lustful, a bit angry, a bit impatient.
Third, God disciplines His people in His judgment. He disciplines His people because He loves His people, and He wants to deliver them from this evil that is their destruction. And then after His discipline, He extends, once again, to His people His mercy.
Now, if you pay attention to biblical history, that theme is repeated over and over again. If you pay attention to your own life, that theme is in your life; God loves you with an everlasting love. You find it hard to follow Him because you still want your own way. And so He disciplines you to draw you back and then He extends His mercy once again to you.
How do mercy and judgment live together? How can this God be both of those things? Once again, that's answered most powerfully by the cross. God's love is demonstrated there; His discipline is demonstrated there; His mercy is demonstrated there. Those themes need to be repeated again and again and again because we are so forgetful.