25th August 2017

Godless Cities 

“Herds shall lie down in her midst, all kinds of beasts; even the owl and the hedgehog shall lodge in her capitals; a voice shall hoot in the window; devastation will be on the threshold; for her cedar work will be laid bare.
Zephaniah 2:14 (ESVUK)
 

The book of Zephaniah in the Old Testament is sobering reading. Not much is known about Zephaniah save what is noted in the first verse of his book: that his great-great-grandfather was Hezekiah, probably the famous King Hezekiah of Judah, and that he wrote his prophecy during the reign of Josiah. What is evident from his writings is that Zephaniah was informed enough to be a political commentator of his times.

Zephaniah outlines the fate of nations and cultures that have rejected God, and in the leading verse he is referring to Assyria, especially to its capital city, Nineveh. His words have a literal and metaphorical application. Literal in the historical sense, and metaphorical in that its spiritual lifelessness mirrors its physical desolation. Zephaniah describes a city in ruins, deserted by the people who once lived there. Once Nineveh would have “lived securely” and boasted “I am, and there is no one else”, but now “what a desolation she has become” (verse 15).

The “capitals” refer to the tops of pillars and columns, that typically would have been carved ornately with floral or animal motifs and sometimes with pagan symbolism. Well-known examples of such a feature are Ionic and Corinthian columns. The “owl and the hedgehog” are variously translated according to the Biblical version used. The thought is that the heads of the columns have fallen on the ground, and that they have become the habitation of animals that shun the presence of man. In the Assyrian section of the British Museum you can see such capitals, and Zephaniah’s description comes to life.

The only hope of any city, town or nation, explains Zephaniah, is that in its midst might be found “a people humble and lowly” who “seek refuge in the name of the Lord” (Zephaniah 3:12).

There are implications here for us today. Metaphorically many of us live in spiritual wildernesses: will we stand up and be counted as the humble and lowly people who are bold enough to seek refuge in the name of Jesus Christ? 

Prayer
Great Father, we live in a society that, for the most part, has rejected you and the gospel of your Son, Jesus Christ. Help us, please, through your Spirit, to be a witness to the saving grace of Jesus and to walk humbly before you.
In Jesus’ name.
Amen
 

Study by James Henderson

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About the Author:
James Henderson is the National Ministry Leader for Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland.

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You are welcome to attend any of our local congregations in the UK and Ireland. For details of your nearest local congregation, check on our website, www.gracecom.church under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.

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