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Zephaniah 3:9–13

“At that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the LORD and serve him with one accord” (v. 9).

Having hinted at the hope of salvation in Zephaniah 2:1–3, the prophet moves on to describe the day of the Lord and how terrible it will be for the unrighteous, the men and women who will not seek Him (2:4–3:7). Because the destruction of God’s enemies is sure to come, the people of the Lord can and should wait for Him to bring it (3:8). For them, it will be a day of salvation, one that they can anticipate and even benefit from in the present as they live by faith (Hab. 1:1–2:4).

Destruction of those who impenitently oppose God will not be the end goal of the day of the Lord, however, for life will come on the other side of death and disaster, which is a common theme in Scripture (Lev. 26; Isa. 11; 53; John 10:1–18). This life, Zephaniah pledges, will be given to peoples all over the world. Moreover, this life will reverse the divisions that separated Jew from Gentile and nation from nation. Today’s passage seems to echo the story of Babel, wherein God confused the speech of the peoples of the earth so that they could not gather together as a unified body against the Lord and His children (Gen. 11:1–9). Language and speech create some of the most significant divisions among humanity, and these divisions are due to the corruption or change of tongues that the Lord imposed at Babel. But in the day of the Lord, God will purify the speech of all the peoples of the earth (Zeph. 3:9a). Communication problems will be abolished and people from every tribe and language will unite to “call upon the name of the LORD” and serve Him (v. 9b). On that day, there will be a full reversal of Babel’s curse. Whereas God scattered humanity across the globe when they united to oppose Him so long ago, God will draw in worshipers from around the world into one place—His kingdom—to love and serve Him (v. 10).

We who serve the Lord today need not dread this day, for in Christ we are saved “from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10). Yet not only are we assured of the inheritance of eternal life as we pass through the day of the Lord, we can rejoice that we will not be put to shame. There is no question that our works will be judged (Rom. 2:6–11), but God will not bring them before us in order to shame us. He will remove from our hearts the pride and other sins that corrupt even the smallest beginning of obedience in us (Zeph. 3:11). We will be pure and humble as God glorifies His people.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

When we first trust in Christ, we are freed from the power of sin. The removal of sin’s presence, however, comes at our glorification when God, by His grace, brings us into the fullness of His kingdom, never to be handed over to sin again. This is part of the good news of the gospel—that Christ breaks the power of sin and will one day eliminate its presence as well. Let us preach this truth to ourselves and others each and every day.

For Further Study
  • Ezekiel 30:1–3
  • Acts 2:1–13
  • 1 Corinthians 10:11–15
  • 2 Peter 3
Related Scripture

Seeking the Lord

God’s Joy in His Sovereign Salvation

Keep Reading The Shema

From the May 2013 Issue
May 2013 Issue