The prophet Zephaniah had a similar literary style to Isaiah and moreover to Jeremiah and Joel. Both he and the prophet Joel project a dark and grim picture of the day of the Lord. Similarly, in both books there are rays of hope and light that penetrate the thick darkness. In the book, there are two recurring expressions: “remnant” (1:4; 2:7, 9; 3:13), and the “day of the Lord” (1:7-10, 14-16, 18; 2:2, 3; 3:8, 11, 16).
In his exposition of the text, Alexander MacLaren stated that there is a wonderful rush of exuberant gladness there is in these words! There are swift, short clauses, the triple invocation in the former verse (verse 14) and the triple promise in the latter (verse 15). “The very words seem to dance with joy. But more remarkable than this is the parallelism between the two verses. Zion is called to rejoice in God because God rejoices in her. She is to shout for joy and sing because God’s joy too has a voice, and breaks out into singing. For every throb of joy in man’s heart, there is a wave of gladness in God’s.”
Here, the Pulpit Commentary explains that the love which God feels he shows in action. He cares for the exiled and dispersed, and will gather them again and comfort them for all their sorrows. I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly; or, far removed from the solemn, assembly. Those who grieve because by their exile from the Holy Land they are debarred from duly attending the periodical festivals, these God will restore, and enable them again to participate in their sacred feasts.
“Who are thee,” — They are of thee, O Zion. These are the true Israelites; this is why they mourn for the cessation of the festivals, and why they shall be restored to the Holy Land. To whom the reproach of it was a burden; i.e. who felt the desolation of Zion and the reproaches uttered against her by enemies (Psalm 137.) as a burden grievous to be borne.
These verses appear chiefly to relate to the future conversion and restoration of Israel, and the glorious times which are to follow. They show the abundant peace, comfort and prosperity of the church, in the happy times yet to come. He, Jesus, will save. He will answer the name and “save his people from their sins.” Before the glorious times foretold, believers would be sorrowful, and objects of reproach. But the Lord will save the weakest believer, and cause true Christians to be greatly honored where they had been treated with contempt. Friend, isn’t that what “justice” is all about?
One act of mercy and grace shall serve, both to gather Israel out of their dispersions and to lead them to their own land. Then will God’s Israel be made a name and a praise to eternity. The events alone can fully answer the language of this prophecy. Many are the troubles of the righteous, but they may rejoice in God’s love. If now kept from his ordinances, it is our trial and grief; but in due time we shall be gathered into his temple above. The glory and happiness of believers will be perfect, unchangeable, and eternal, when they are freed from earthly sorrows, and brought to heavenly bliss!
Community Asset Builder and Christian writer, Dr. Wayne M. Williams, presently resides in Athens with his wife of 38 years, Lita. For additional study notes, see the Facebook page International Sunday School Lessons.