The opening oracle of Zephaniah is both shocking and devastating:
“I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth” declares the Lord. “I will sweep away man and beast; I will sweep away the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, and the rubble with the wicked. I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth” declares the Lord.
Sadly, it sounds very familiar to what we read in Genesis 6 – The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
From Adam to the flood was just under 1700 years and God’s creation ‘grieved him to his heart.’ Move forward another 1700 years and the extent of God’s grief is once again evident. The really distressing thought is that, even yet, we continue to cause God great sorrow, ‘for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth’ (Gen8:21).
People often find it hard to reconcile the God of the Old Testament with the God of the New Testament. The former appears harsh, vengeful and violent, while the latter is filled with love, grace and hope. Careful examination of scripture reveals God’s consistency and the truth about his apparent contradictory nature. In fact, when you look at any of the prophetic books, they are condensed versions of the whole Bible. Each book declares God’s judgement while offering the hand of mercy; each book gives the hearer a choice. That is the arc of the Bible – justice and mercy. The OT highlights God’s justice which was birthed from sorrow and the NT highlights his mercy which was birthed from love.
How can we not expect judgement when we continually add to God’s sorrow? Century after century, man’s deeds were weighed on the scales and justice was delivered. This could not continue indefinitely, so, ‘unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. The Son was sent not to condemn the world, but that the world, through him, might be saved.’
God created us for his own, to love us, to enjoy us and to be glorified through us. Let us not add to his pain but let us bring him joy through faithfulness, in everything that we do.