Within the framework of the Mosaic Law was a provision for God’s people to receive mercy if they would repent from their sins. Because they had taken advantage of this provision numerous times, there came a point when God basically said, that’s enough. You will have to be punished in order to learn your lesson. The way that God chose to discipline his children was to allow them to be taken into captivity by their enemies, the Babylonians. Before the end of their time in the Promised Land, God spoke to the people of Judah and warned them that the end was coming. In one last attempt to spare them from destruction, God sent the prophet Zephaniah to tell the people that “the great day of the LORD” was near (Zephaniah 1:14).

Zephaniah did not offer the people of Judah an opportunity to escape their punishment, but he did say there was a way they could escape death. He said, “Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’s anger” (Zephaniah 2:3). Zephaniah told the people the way for them to be saved was through humility, asking the LORD’s help. The Hebrew word translated seek, baqash means to search out by any method, but specifically it refers to worship and prayer (1245). God’s ultimate goal was to restore his relationship with his people. It was only because they had turned away from him repeatedly that he was forced to discipline them.

The best way to understand the process of salvation was for Zephaniah to let the people know they were lost. Jesus often told parables about things being lost to illustrate God’s desire to reconcile with those people that had been separated from him by sin (Matthew 10:6, 15:24, 18:11). When Cain killed his brother Abel, he was sent out and prevented from ever seeing God’s face again (Genesis 4:14). In actuality, what happened was that Cain was hidden from God’s sight. In a sense, you could say he was invisible to God. The Israelites had committed so many sins while they was living in the Promised Land that God could no longer look at them. They were too disgusting for him to look at. The only way God could reconcile with them was to punish his children and force them to repent.

Zephaniah’s call to repentance included the possibility that God might still show mercy to those people that humbled themselves before him. In the same way that they had been hidden from God’s sight, Zephaniah suggested the people “seek righteousness, seek meekness; it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’s anger (Zephaniah 2:3). In this instance, the word hid refers to someone hiding or sheltering a person from his enemies (5641). In other words, God could conceal the repentant sinner from the Babylonian army so that his life would be spared and he would be taken into captivity instead of killed. If God’s people remained alive, God promised he would allow them to return to Jerusalem when their captivity was over (Zephaniah 2:7).

Nothing happened

Jotham, king of Judah, reigned at a unique time in the nations history because prophets such as Isaiah, Amos, and Micah were predicting the destruction of the kingdom when all was going well. Jotham’s father, king Uzziah, had restored Judah to a state similar to that of kings David and Solomon, and yet things were not the same. Perhaps the clearest sign that there was an internal problem was the leprosy that kept king Uzziah isolated for the last 10 years of his life.

Jotham took over his father’s responsibilities in 750 B.C., five years before king Tiglath-pileser of Assyria began his campaigns, heading in the direction of Israel. By the end of Jotham’s reign in 732 B.C., Gilead had been captured and the fall of Israel was eminent. The dramatic change Jotham witnessed in a short period of time most likely caused him to believe the predictions he had heard were true.

In some ways, it could be said that Jotham’s reign was like a bridge between the old way of life in which God’s people dwelt safe and secure in the Promised Land and a new way of life in which the Israelites would become targets of mass destruction. The Assyrian Empire was the first of many that would threaten Israel’s existence. Were it not for God’s divine protection, Judah would have been destroyed along with the northern kingdom of Israel. In spite of the corruption that existed within Judah, it says in 2 Chronicles 27:2, that Jotham “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Uzziah did.”

Jotham’s success was attributed to a steadfast focus on doing God’s will. It says in 2 Chronicles 27:6 that “he prepared his ways before the LORD his God.” You could say that Jotham was trained well by his father king Uzziah. No doubt Jotham had been raised to take over his father’s kingdom and was prepared from a young age to make wise decisions. The best evidence that Jotham was a disciplined and diligent leader was the lack of controversy or moral failure during his reign.

Although it may seem as if Jotham’s short reign was insignificant compared to his father king Uzziah’s, Jotham played an important role in keeping Judah stable during Israel’s initial defeat by king Tiglath-pileser. Perhaps the best thing that could be said about Jotham’s reign is that nothing happened.