The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. NIV
As I began my second day looking at reminders not to worry in the book of Zephaniah, I realized that I don’t know much about the history of this book. The explanation in my NIV Bible says that the name, “Zephaniah,” means “The Lord hides (or protects).” It goes on to say that Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of King Josiah, and that he was a person “of considerable social standing in Judah … a fourth-generation descendant of King Hezekiah.”
The book, it says, could have been written about 630 B.C., about 70 years, more than two generations, after the book of Isaiah.
630 B.C. — I struggle to grasp how long ago that was.
I love this verse … it portends the coming of my Savior, Jesus Christ. Through Him, my punishment has been taken away, the power of my enemies has been thwarted, the Holy Spirit indwells me, and I have nothing to fear or to worry about.
And yet, sometimes I still do … worry, that is.
Our next-door neighbor has a six-toed, calico cat. Her name is Trouble and, up until this Spring, Trouble was the most friendly, outgoing cat I had ever met. She would come up to me, anyone actually, on the sidewalk in front of her house and, if you stopped to speak to her, she would wind herself in and out of your ankles and purr quite loudly. Many times, people would come to visit at our house and would ask, “Do you want me to let your cat in?” Because Trouble had greeted them at our door.
Earlier this year, Trouble disappeared. I assumed that she had been hit by a car or taken home by a stranger who couldn’t resist her charms, but, when I spoke to her owner, I learned the real story. Trouble was horribly injured by someone, the vet thinks, who kicked her. The owner spent a pretty penny getting Trouble put back together, and then the cat had to stay inside in the basement in a collar for many weeks while she healed. I didn’t see her again until a few weeks ago.
She jumped up on the brick wall that separates our houses. I was sitting outside and exclaimed in delight when she made her appearance … Trouble and I have always been good friends. But, when she saw me, she was immediately frightened, and jumped back down into her own yard. As she left, I could see that she had lost most of her gorgeous tail since the Spring.
This morning, my husband and I were sitting outside having coffee when Trouble again jumped up on the wall. I talked soothingly to her as I approached, and she let me pet her face as she stood on the wall, but, she did not jump down to greet me like the old days. I sat back down to see what she would do next.
As she worked her way along the wall, she got to a low part where my azaleas are planted. They are bordered with lariope, which has gotten quite tall, since it is the end of summer. Trouble jumped into the azaleas, and then worked her way along crouched behind the lariope like a lion on a hunt … but she wasn’t hunting anything, she was hiding herself.
I remarked to my husband that it made me sad that Trouble was so different. “Do you remember how outgoing she used to be?” I asked, “And now,” I said, “she is so cautious!”
“Sometimes life does that to you,” he wisely said.
We all start out as children, like Trouble, open to and welcoming of new people and new experiences. But, along the way, as we get beaten up by life — some as much as Trouble, some less — we gradually pull away and hide behind our own little hedges of lariope.
If Christ is not a part of the picture prior to that hurt, the ability for Him to be a part of it afterward becomes, I think, more difficult, because people are less trusting.
Today, I will think about how I can bridge that hedge for people that I know are hurting … those who have been beaten up by life and who don’t have Christ or the assurance that this verse offers.
That’s a lot to think about today.