In Zephaniah 2, there is this striking line given against Assyria, “He [God] will stretch out his hand against the north and destroy Assyria…. She said to herself, ‘I am the one! And there is none besides me.’” In the context of Zephaniah’s prophecy, at first encounter, we the reader, might find ourselves cheering. We, place ourselves alongside God’s people, who were oppressed by the Assyrians. And we respond with a “Yeah!” “Give it to ‘em God!”
And, on one hand, this is right. Even though Assyria was part of God’s judgment on his people, they overreached their role and treated God’s people horribly; and God responded by also disciplining Assyria. God does not abandon his people. Instead, he looks out for them and brings justice. And, justice is a common yearning we all have, as humans in a world of evil. Justice seems absent most of the time, so when we see it, we get excited and encouraged that it is possible. And, in this instance, it is only possible because of God’s care and oversight of his people and the world he created.
But, on the other hand, our “hip-hip-hooray” can also be amiss. As much as we can identify with God’s people who we treated unjustly. Do we not often identify — albeit reluctantly, and not openly — with Assyria and their unjust attitude? How often is our heart founded upon the very stance of the Assyrians, “I am the one! And there is none besides me”?
This concept strikes differently in our local society, than it did with Assyria. Assyria is described as “communally” making this bold statement. But, we, in the U.S., do not first think “communally.” Rather, we first think, “individually.” Which, maybe makes this statement strike our core all the more.
“Pride.” This is a sin that has roots running all the way back to the Garden of Eden. And, it’s a sin that pollutes the air of our day and age. We may think of current societal figures here — who offer similar boasts (E.g. D. Trump or H. Clinton). But, these type of boasts are often not far from our own lives.
How often do we, as the body of Christ, have the attitude of “I am the one! And, no one else can do what I can do in the church.” Or maybe put another way, “I know whats right, and no one else.” How sad it is when this kind of attitude creeps up in the church. It hinders the witness of the church; and it hinders the life-giving gospel of Jesus from being extended into the lives of those in the family of God.
The beauty of God’s family and way of life is that there is a way out of this mess. God is at work in our life through his Spirit — extending the resurrected life of Jesus into our individual lives. God has also provided us ways of working through “pride.” Practices of “forgiveness,” and “reconciliation” pave a new path over the broken one of pride. And, this road is not paved on our own, but by our surrender to God’s Spirit at work in us.
May we not end-up like Assyria — with pride being it’s end. May we be end-up like Jesus — with humility, forgiveness, and reconciliation as our end. The result being a community that witnesses, not only to the justice of God, but also to the mercy and grace of God. What a beautiful gospel that we, as a community, have the privilege to witness to the world.