Friday, April 16, 2010


Yesterday, we began an overview study of the book of the prophet Zephaniah. He foretold that God was going to engage in some 'spring cleaning', sweeping both the rebellious city of Jerusalem and the rebellious world clean. The rest of chapter 1 continues to unfold what the Day of the Lord will be like:

7 Be silent before the Lord GOD!
For the day of the LORD is near;
the LORD has prepared a sacrifice
and consecrated his guests.
8And on the day of the LORD’s sacrifice— "I will punish the officials and the king’s sons
and all who array themselves in foreign attire.
9On that day I will punish
everyone who leaps over the threshold,
and those who fill their master’s house
with violence and fraud.
10"On that day," declares the LORD,
"a cry will be heard from the Fish Gate,
a wail from the Second Quarter,
a loud crash from the hills.
11 Wail, O inhabitants of the Mortar!
For all the traders are no more;
all who weigh out silver are cut off.
12At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
and I will punish the men
who are complacent,
those who say in their hearts,
'The LORD will not do good,
nor will he do ill.'
13Their goods shall be plundered,
and their houses laid waste.
Though they build houses,
they shall not inhabit them;
though they plant vineyards,
they shall not drink wine from them."

Three times in these verses, the message of the Lord is that he will punish the wicked - those who array themselves in foreign attire (which isn't a prohibition on Italian designerwear, but rather on siding with the rebellious, courting the surrounding nations and being like them, rather than being God's holy, distinct people), who fill the Lord's house with violence and fraud, and the complacent.

Let's think about these complacent for a moment or two. 'those who say in their hearts, 'The LORD will not do good, nor will he do ill.'' These inhabitants of Jerusalem, these covenant people are complacent because they think that God is himself complacent. They have forgotten what their God is like - the majestic, powerful, speaking, sovereign, saving Lord. They instead think that God will neither do good or ill, he just doesn't care and won't act one way or the other.

What a shock, then, when they are addressed by the speaking, saving LORD's prophet, who declares that the LORD will not only act, but will judge and punish their complacency. There will be no hiding place - the image of the Lord searching the city with lamps - no hidden corner or dark place escapes his reach and sight.

The complacent ones will suffer ruin and futility - they have gone to all that work of building houses, planting vineyards, and storing up goods - but they will never enjoy them.

But hang on - these very things that Zephaniah proclaims were promised centuries before. Indeed, as Zephaniah declares these things in Jerusalem, the people should have been paying attention, remembering the Law, and realising that these were the promised curses which accompanied the disobedience of God's rule:

'You shall build a house, but you shall not dwell in it. You shall plant a vineyard, but you shall not enjoy its fruit.' (Deuteronomy 28:30)

Yet even this condemnation from God's word is not enough to stir them up to repentance. Rather, their complacency continues, and their punishment is certain. Is there a possibility that we too could be complacent? Could we also have lost our awareness of who God is and what he will do (and has done)?

We're complacent when we think that God doesn't care about our sin, or that God won't punish rebellion - so we don't worry about our ongoing sanctification. We're complacent when we think that God won't cast sinners into hell - and so we don't engage in evangelism. We're complacent when we think that God is not active in his world today - so we sit back with our ticket to heaven without getting stuck in to his work today. We're complacent when we think that God will not do good - so we don't expect him to answer our prayers, so we don't pray.

God, our majestic, powerful, speaking, sovereign, saving, judging Lord does not want us to be complacent. Will you step up for God and cooperate in his mission today?

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