Lent Devotional: Zephaniah 3:9-13

by Jonathan Haefs

Zephaniah 3:9-13 (click here)
…for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain. But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD… (Zephaniah 3:11b-12)

Reflection
The prophet is crying out to God’s people about a coming day of salvation and restoration. Yet, not all who have labeled themselves as belonging to the Lord will experience this day the same.

There is a sharp contrast between the experience of the proud and the humble. James 4:6 tells us that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

That is exactly what we see here in Zephaniah’s words. The proud experience judgment, while the humble experience salvation. So my question is, “What’s the difference?…what makes someone proud or someone humble?…what guarantees salvation over judgment?”

On the surface, it may seem like the difference lies in our works. If we act in a humble way, verses acting in a prideful way…we will earn salvation. But, that is contrary to everything we know about the grace of God! Such earning would only serve to put me in a prideful place because I could boast about the salvation I had earned.

Zephaniah leaves no room for confusion over what it means to be prideful or humble. The proud are those who have been “haughty” in God’s holy mountain. In other words, they have trusted in themselves, even when proclaiming trust in the Lord. Zephaniah 1:8-13 describes these people as wealthy and trusting primarily in their own possessions and abilities.

The humble, on the other hand, are those who are “lowly” and seek refuge in the name of the LORD. In other words, they do not trust in themselves or rely on their own resources, but totally rely upon God.

The difference between the proud and the humble is not works-based but faith-based. The difference is where we place our trust. Do we admit our lowliness and our need for the Lord…or are we prideful and trusting in ourselves. The only people who can receive grace are those who first know they need it.

No matter how much we try to identify ourselves with God’s people, we are only truly one of those people if our trust is in him.

The difference between pride and humility is where one places their faith.

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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