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.’
I was feeling a little numb the other day—just spiritually cold, emotionally detached, relationally isolated…from everyone, but especially from God. I don’t really know why, but the why isn’t really my point anyway. Point is, I was feeling numb, and so I just randomly opened the Bible to “wherever” and read, not having the emotional energy to really dig deep into what I had been studying. “Wherever” happened to land me in Zephaniah, where God just laid me bare.
I know God isn’t too keen on “lukewarm” (I learned that from Revelation and the letter to Laodicea), but I don’t really think of myself as “lukewarm,” I mean, I am in full-time ministry, after all. I know I love God, even if I am not always “feeling” it (kind of like how I hear marriage can be). Zephaniah addressed a different kind of lukewarm-ness though. It addressed being lukewarm in our expectations of God.
Complacency towards God is explained as not expecting God to act, neither expecting Him to go good, nor bad. Why is this so offensive to God?—so much so He would punish it? Because God is always at work. He is an active God. Zephaniah is all about the things God is going to do, the things His people should be expecting Him to do, both good and ill. (Now, I should clarify, his “ill” isn’t “bad” in the sense of God doing something He shouldn’t; it’s judgment.) The first several chapters in Zephaniah focus on the “ill.” God promises to judge the enemies of His people, to judge His people’s sins and the nations’. Then the book ends with the good. It foretells that God is going to convert the nations (that nations beyond Israel will come to know His glory) and restore His people (this is particularly great news, since their judgment is also foretold). God works out His justice and His grace perfectly. He is busy, constantly at work, dealing with sin and restoring people to fellowship with Himself…and He wants for us to be living with a sense of expectancy of what He is going to do.
Ouch. I confess, I was feeling a bit complacent. I was tired, weary of waiting for answers to prayer and weary of the same-old struggles. I was beginning to feel like nothing would ever happen…I wasn’t expecting anything from God—neither good nor bad. And that sense of futility, like nothing will happen, is simply a lie from the pit. THAT is not who God is.
And if ever I should know that, it’s Christmas—when God, after hundreds of years of silence, came to earth as a baby. Surely, during that time of silence many people despaired. Surely many of them felt God wasn’t going to do anything. I understand that it felt that way. It feels that way for me sometimes, and I haven’t been waiting for four hundred years for my prayers to be answered. But even then God was working on a plan. Even then He already know what was coming…Jesus…the savior of the world…the Prince of Peace…He was coming. Hallelujah!
You may be waiting, but don’t despair. Keep on waiting and expecting. Know that God is at work, and He will do good, and He wants you to be expecting Him to do good. In fact, Isaiah promises that God will act on behalf on those who wait for Him.
From of old no one has heard
Or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
who acts for those who wait for him.
This Christmas, let the baby Jesus be a reminder to us all that God truly does act on behalf of those who wait for Him. Be encouraged. Expect God to act on your behalf, to do good—it pleases Him when you do so.