They Shall Trust


Elder Mark D. Rowell

Zephaniah 3:12I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the LORD.”

Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say (based on biblical cross-references) that Zephaniah, Jeremiah and even Ezekiel were contemporaries. That is, they lived in or about the same time frame in history. John Wesley goes so far as to say that Zephaniah “…foretells what Jeremiah and Ezekiel did.”  I give this short “historical” perspective so that we might understand what was going on when Zephaniah was given his prophesy. If we compare to Jeremiah, we understand the judgement of God against Judah is at hand. With regard to our text, the historical setting is important to understand the immediacy of the prophecy and then the extension of the prophesy to current times.

I will also leave in the midst of the an afflicted and poor people…”

Nearing the end of his prophecy, Zephaniah brings to light something wonderful regarding Judah and Jerusalem, or more specifically, a particular people to be found within Jerusalem. However, his initial description of this people isn’t all that pretty…on the surface.

An afflicted people, according to James Strong, is a people that is “depressed, in mind or in circumstances” which can be rendered as brought low. (Psalms 116:6)  While a poor people are those who are left “dangling,” or by implication, “weak and thin.” The term “frail” comes to mind with how Strong defines poor. (Psalms 39:4) So the prophet singles out a specific people that the Lord will leave, but this people is brought low and frail - broken. Here are a few references regarding being broken:

Psalms 34:18 “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and seventh such as be of a contrite spirit.”

Psalms 51:17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

Both speak of those that are of a broken heart and contrite spirit, but notice the context that shows that the Lord regards and is “nigh unto them” who are in this condition. Remember that David penned Psalms 51 when Nathan made him realize the greatness of David’s sin against God. David even utters the words “Restore unto me the joys of thy salvation!”  Sounds like perhaps David found himself to be afflicted and poor.

Isaiah speaks of the contrite spirit in Isaiah 57:15. He also references it in 66:2:

“For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”

Did you notice how the Lord said “to this man will I look?” God is looking for the poor, contrite, and ones who “…trembleth at my word.” God is very clear to show us the position we should find ourselves in when looking unto the Lord. While there are so many verses that come to mind that might summarize our low estate in being an "afflicted and poor people," my thoughts are drawn to Job 42:1-5, especially verses 4 and 5 when Job finds himself broken by his realization of just how awesome God is: I have heard of thee by they hearing of the ear: but now mine eye teeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.  Wow! Do we not find ourselves to be in the same shape as Job when we realize just how awesome our God is? It’s similar as Isaiah 6:5: Then said I Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.  You see, being afflicted and poor is not a bad thing my friends! For it’s when we are afflicted and poor (or broken) when we finally are able to SEE - just like Job, just like Isaiah - just how undone we are.

Now then, having seen them, and us, in this state, what is it that Zephaniah says next in our text?

“…and they shall trust in the name of the LORD.”

And there it is! You see, the Lord didn’t just leave in the midst of all these things an afflicted and poor people just so that they (we) could be afflicted and poor! Absolutely not! Rather, he left them (us) afflicted and poor, so that we SHALL TRUST in the name of the Lord! The word trust here is defined as “to flee for protection.”

Psalms 61:2 “From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

I submit to you that when we are of a contrite spirit and a broken heart (afflicted and poor), we find ourselves trusting in the Lord, and not in ourselves. Paul says it best: “But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead.” 2 Corinthians 1:9

The immediate prophecy of Zephaniah speaks of a remnant saved from the captivity of Babylon, and that they would return to Jerusalem, and build again the temple. However, the extension of this prophecy is to us, even to this day, as those who find themselves afflicted and poor in spirit, trusting in the name of the Lord, as we try to serve Him in this low ground of sin and sorrow, trusting Him who, thus far, has lead us on.

I will leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the LORD.” 

                        “Come all ye mourning pilgrims dear,

                          Who’re bound for Canaan’s land,

                          Take courage and fight valiantly,

                          Stand fast with sword in hand;

                          Our Captain’s gone before us,

                          Our Father’s only son,

                          Then pilgrims dear, pray do not fear,

                          But let us follow on.”