on Zephaniah 2 :1
Gather yourselves - Others, sift yourselves. Separate the chaff from the wheat, before the judgments of God fall upon you. O nation not desired - unlovely, not delighted in; hated because of your sin. The Israelites are addressed.
on Zephaniah 2 :1
Having set forth the terrors of the Judgment Day, the prophet adds an earnest call to repentance; and then declares how judgments, forerunners of that Day, shall fall, one by one, on those nations around, who know not God, and shall rest upon Nineveh, the great beautiful ancient city of the world. Jerome: "See the mercy of God. It had been enough to have set before the wise the vehemence of the coming evil. But because He willeth not to punish, but to alarm only, Himself calleth to repentance, that He may not do what He threatened." Cyril: "Having set forth clearly the savageness of the war and the greatness of the suffering to come, he suitably turns his discourse to the duty of calling to repentance, when it was easy to persuade them, being terrified. For sometimes when the mind has been numbed, and exceedingly bent to evil, we do not readily admit even the will to repent, but fear often drives us to it, even against our will. He calls us then to friendship with Himself. For as they revolted, became aliens, serving idols and giving up their mind to their passions, so they would, as it were, retrace their steps, and lay hold of the friendship of God, choosing to serve Him, nay and Him Alone, and obey His commandments. Wherefore, while we have time, while the Lord, in His forbearance as God, gives way, let us enact repentance, supplicate, say weeping, "remember not the sins and offences of my youth" Psalm 25:7; let us unite ourselves with Him by sanctification and sobriety. So shall we be sheltered in the day of wrath, and wash away the stain of our falls, before the Day of the Lord come upon us. For the Judge will come, He will come from heaven at the due season, and will reward each according to his work."
Gather yourselves together, yea gather together - o, rather, "Sift yourselves, yea sift" . The exact image is from gathering stubble or dry sticks, which are picked up one by one, with search and care.
So must men deal with the dry and withered leaves of a past evil life. The English rendering however, comes to the same meaning. We use, "collect oneself" for bringing oneself, all one's thoughts, together, and so, having full possession of oneself. Or "gathering ourselves" might stand in contrast with being "abroad," as it were, out of ourselves amid the manifoldness of things seen. Jerome: "Thou who, taken up with the business of the world, hurriest to and fro amid divers things, return to the Church of the saints, and join thyself to their life and assembly, whom thou seest to please God, and bring together the dislocated members of thy soul, which now are not knit together, into one frame of wisdom, and cleave to its embrace." "Gather yourselves" into one, wherein ye have been scattered; to the One God, from whom they had wandered, seeking pleasure from His many creatures; to His one fold and Church, from which they had severed themselves outwardly by joining the worship of Baal, inwardly, by serving him and his abominable rites; joining and joined to the assembly of the faithful, by oneness of faith and life.
In order to repent, a man must know himself thoroughly; and this can only be done by taking act by act, word by word, thought by thought, as far as he can, not in a confused heap or mass, as they lie in any man's conscience, but one by one, each picked up apart, and examined, and added to the sear unfruitful heap, plucking them as it were, and gathering them out of himself, that so they may, by the Spirit of burning, the fire of God's Spirit kindling repentance, be burned up, and not the sinner himself be fuel for fire with them. The word too is intensive, "Gather together all which is in you, thoroughly, piece by piece" (for the sinner's whole self becomes chaff, dry and empty). To use another image, "Sift yourselves thoroughly, so that nothing escape, as far as your diligence can reach, and then - "And gather on," that is, "glean on;" examine yourselves, "not lightly and after the manner of dissemblers before God," but repeatedly, gleaning again and again, to see if by any means anything have escaped: continuing on the search and ceasing not.
The first earnest search into the soul must be the beginning, not the end. Our search must be continued, until there be no more to be discovered, that is, when sin is no more, and we see ourselves in the full light of the presence of our Judge. For a first search, however diligent, never thoroughly reaches the whole deep disease of the whole man; the most grievous sins hide other grievous sins, though lighter. Some sins flash on the conscience, at one time, some at another; so that few, even upon a diligent search, come at once to the knowledge of all their heaviest sins. When the mist is less thick, we see more clearly what was before one dark dull mass of imperfection and misery. : "Spiritual sins are also with difficulty sifted, (as they are,) by one who is carnal. Whence it happens, that things in themselves heavier he perceives less or very little, and conscience is not grieved so much by the memory of pride or envy, as of impurities and crimes."
So having said, "Sift yourselves through and through," he says, "sift on." A diligent sifting and search into himself must be the beginning of all true repentance and pardon. : "What remains, but that we give ourselves wholly to this work, so holy, and needful? "Let us search and try our ways and our doings" , and let each think that he has made progress, not if he find not what to blame, but if he blame what he finds. Thou hast not sifted thyself in vain, if thou hast discovered that thou needest a fresh sitting; and so often has thy search not failed thee, as thou judgest that it must be renewed. But if thou ever dost this, when there is need, thou dost it ever. But ever remember that thou needest help from above and the mercy of Jesus Christ our Lord Who is over all, God blessed forever." The whole course of self-examination then lies in two words of divine Scripture. And withal he warns them, instead of gathering together riches which shall "not be able to deliver them in the day of trouble," to gather themselves into themselves, and so "judge" themselves "thoroughly , that they be not judged of the Lord" 1 Corinthians 11:31-32.
O nation not desired - o, that is, having nothing in itself to be desired or loved, but rather, for its sin, hateful to God. God yearneth with pity and compassion over His creatures; He "hath a desire to the work of His Hands" . Here Israel is spoken to, as what he had made himself, hateful to God by his sins, although still an object of His tender care, in what yet remained to him of nature or grace which was from Himself.
on Zephaniah 2 :1
2:1 Gather yourselves - Call a solemn assembly, proclaim a fast. Not desired - Or, not desirous. Unwilling to return, and unworthy to be received on your return.