Reading the second chapter of Zephaniah, I found it interesting to see how the overthrow of the evil nations is often portrayed in the Old Testament as a victory for nature. The plants and the animals resume their domination of lands that once were ruled by mighty kings.
It implies that man is, after all, pretty weak. Even his greatest constructions fall to the gentle ravages of time and nature combined – the empire created by God, nature, always wins out in the end. The fragile pelican shall sit as king upon the great pillars, and the mournful cry of the bittern shall replace the trumpets of the King. These inhabitants at least, shall praise the true God, unlike their human predecessors.
It is also a metaphor for getting back to basics, for simplicity, for ‘meekness and humility’. The simple life in touch with the land and the seasons and the beasts somehow instils in us a mode of connection that we miss when we are surrounded by our own creations in the city. Perhaps it is because we can no longer clearly see God’s creation? Perhaps it is because our own urban creations make for an incredibly unbalanced life, one of rush and anxiety and unfocussed vision that leads us to look too much to things that don’t matter? In the city, where is the wonder of the Milky Way at night, bisecting a sky dazzled with uncountable stars? Where is the gentle serenity of a silent walk in the fields with nothing but cows and dandelions for company? Where is the profound meditation that comes from these experiences, building up day after day to a well of wisdom?
It reminds me of a story I once read about an American father who takes his son to an impoverished third world country to teach him about poverty. The child comes home and thanks his father for showing him just how poor he really is. For the child, the simple life of the impoverished citizens, with time to spare, surrounded by people who love you with a love undiluted by material cares and the beauty of nature for your roof, walls and floor is a life of untold wealth. His own life comes a very poor second!
A topic worth coming back to…