Zephaniah was the first of the angry young men. He lived in the last quarter of the 7th century before Christ and his great, great grandfather was King Hezekiah.
By reading and doing our sums we guess he was nineteen when he started to prophesy and he was as idealistic as young people should be, but very angry. If you want to know what made him angry you should read through the history of the times which you can find in 2 Kings chapter 21 which describes the government under Manasseh not only allowing, but encouraging, sorcery and divination, spiritism and idolatry. Manasseh even sacrificed his own son by burning him to Moloch.
In the year 621 B.C. a reformation had started, led by a young girl called Hulda and a teenager called Jeremiah, but the reform died out and world events took over. Zephaniah got more and more angry when he saw what was happening to his nation. His name means God is hidden – God in darkness – reminiscent of “God is dead” – remember?
He was angry that the affluent society was far too secure for its own good; it had become money-minded and slothful, syrupy and thick. He had become angry at the attitude that said, “It makes no difference what you believe. If there is a god he doesn’t do anything”.
He was angry at the people’s refusal to mend their ways as he saw the rapidly increasing slide to destruction. There are only three chapters but they burn with a young man’s passion for a society that would dare to take God seriously.
If you want the key to his thought you will find it in three pictures all in one verse, chapter 1 v 12, where he uses the pictures of the ceremonial search for leaven at the time of Passover saying that evil and corruption need to be exposed and cast out of every home in every street in the city.
His second picture is of wine left too long after fixing its colour and body. It becomes syrupy and muddy and is neither use nor ornament! Men need to be poured out every so often before that happens to them.
His third picture in that one verse, is a picture of a self-opinionated intellectual standing with his hands on his hips, arguing about the concept of God.
Zephaniah had a right to be angry, but remember that creative anger is really love that refuses to be silent in the face of corruption.
The book of Zephaniah is as up to date as tonight’s news.