We are studying Zephaniah 3:14-20 for Sunday, May 3. This is the final, glowing promise of restoration that follows Zephaniah’s devastating opening prophecy. [Some notes on the text are here.] Here are some questions that we might want to reflect on:
We know the prophet Zephaniah was originally writing for people in the late 600s BCE, and we know something of the historical events that followed his time; readers today generally read Zephaniah as being directly concerned with the Babylonian conquest and exile, and then Judah’s later restoration.
So, how do we as contemporary readers read this text? In what way or ways is this text addressed to us, do we think – or is it, do we think? [Some options: it is still a prophecy about the future, albeit a different one, that is our future; it demonstrates a pattern in the way God deals with God’s people; it tells us something about God’s character and God’s relationship with God’s people; we might be able to think of others.]
What difference does it make how we answer this question?
Who is the text addressed to, specifically? That is, who is the “you” in the text?
[We can look at verses 14-20, but it would be a good idea to look at verses 8-13 as well; one useful exercise might be to write down the names of those addressed by the text; it might be good to be aware that the form of “you” in verses 15-18 is feminine singular, and in verse 20 is masculine plural.]
Do we experience ourselves as addressed by the text? How? Where do we find or see ourselves in this text?
What does this text tell us about God? About God’s relationship with people? How does it tell us that? What’s our response to that message?
That is: What does it make us think? How does it make us feel? Why is that? Does it impel us to take any action? What action? Why?
[A more general, abstract question:] It seems uncontroversial to say that the text speaks of restoration after disaster. Is the promise of restoration hopeful? Is it important? Is it necessary? What effect does this promise of restoration have on people who are going through a disaster?
[On second thought, maybe this isn’t all that general and abstract of a question at the end of April, 2020. Maybe it’s highly concrete and personal.]
What exactly is being promised? [again, might be a good idea to go through the text and make a list]
Does one of these promises speak to us more than another? Which one? Why?