“Then I will purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him shoulder to shoulder. From beyond the rivers of Cush my worshipers, my scattered people, will bring me offerings. On that day you, Jerusalem, will not be put to shame for all the wrongs you have done to me, because I will remove from you your arrogant boasters. Never again will you be haughty on my holy hill. But I will leave within you the meek and humble. The remnant of Israel will trust in the name of the Lord . They will do no wrong; they will tell no lies. A deceitful tongue will not be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid.” – Zephaniah 3:9-13
This passage marks our float out of the book Zephaniah. It was a pretty short book with some interesting nuggets of knowledge along the way.
Today’s passage starts with an interesting word picture, serving God “shoulder to shoulder”. It reminds me of the command to walk humbly with your God in Micah 6:8. It seems in order to do this walking shoulder to shoulder with God some purification is required, “Then I will purify the lips of the peoples”. It is not clear why purifying the lips is the focus here rather than the whole body, but it seems the words the people are speaking reveals where their heart (soul) is. Much of the old testament has been preoccupied with being clean and how to become clean in the eyes of God.
Then comes the water reference “From beyond the rivers of Cush my worshipers, my scattered people, will bring me offerings”. On one level this is merely a geographic reference to the people beyond the rivers of Cush. As I understand it the land of Cush was south of modern-day Israel near what is now Sudan along the Nile River south of Egypt. I am not sure what significance this particular location had except that it was somewhat remote and along a major water source, the Nile.
Another way to look at this reference is metaphorically. In a sense all God-followers are “worshipers”, and unless they are Jewish they are outside of the special relationship God has with the people of Israel. They are metaphorically “beyond the Rivers of Cush”. This is reassuring for a God-follower like myself that is in this camp.
It sounds like a bit of sifting is in store for the people of Israel, “I will remove from you your arrogant boasters”. This is certainly a good argument for not being an “arrogant boaster”. The people that will remain are those that are “meek and humble”. This sounds similar to the sermon on the mount where Jesus said the meek will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5-7). It is ironic that Jesus gave this instruction on “the mount” and in this passage God is warning the people of Israel about being “haughty on my holy hill”.
The remnant after the sifting process will be a confident people able to “eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid”. This sounds like a people who can just take courage and do it! I think all modern-day God followers could benefit from this kind of courage and confidence.
Prayer: God you are the great sifter of souls. May we be seeking you so that when the sifting occurs we can remain with You.