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This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

Christian journalist: Don’t get congealed in your deistic satisfaction (Zephaniah 1)

Zephaniah 1:12, “At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dreg, who think, ‘The LORD will do nothing, either good or bad.’”

Exegesis and Application

Throughout his book, Zephaniah warns God’s people (“Jerusalem”) that a divine searching is on its way. This is the central indictment of Zephaniah’s message. Earlier, in vs. 5 (which I have covered in another blog), Zephaniah mentions the sins of public idolatry. Here he mentions the secret sins of personal pleasures. The Lord is looking with a search light to find believers:
1) who are complacent
2) who are like wine filled with the dregs
3) who think God doesn’t care about their conduct.

These characteristics may describe one believer or three different believers. It really doesn’t make any difference in the attention of God. He wants to root out this type of thinking. The word for “those” in the Hebrew is enoush meaning “weak” and “feeble man.” Not the usual Hebrew word adom. The word “complacent” is a one word translation which literally means “settled (Hebrew – shemer) on their dregs” (Hebrew = kopho). Three Hebrew words that are unique and picturesque. The point being made here is that these are men who have settled (“congealed,” “stiffens”) into a lifestyle that takes everything out of life and is content to rest on the comfortable life. These people have now “thickened” over the wine of life dregs or sediment. “Kenneth Barker helps explain, “In wine making process, fermented wine has to be poured from one vessel to another to separate the wine from the sediment (lees, dregs). If the wine is allowed to settle too long, it thickens and is ruined (cf, Jer. 48:11-12).” Zephaniah’s wine metaphor refers to those who have enjoyed the lush life and have become complacent in the process.

The final descriptive phrase is against those believers who think the LORD is not interested in conduct. He will not reward nor will He punish conduct. He will leave us alone. This is a form of deism where one believes a God might exist but he has no interest in the lives of human beings. Zephaniah emphasizes that nothing escapes God’s attention, even the hidden disinterest in Him by people, especially His people. This is a warning but it also is a promise that God will find us even when we stray because he is looking for us day and night.

1) Christian journalist, the message from Zephaniah for you is to remember that God is an omniscient God who never rests in rewarding those who are actively obedient and punishing those who are fat, sassy and satisfied in their self-absorbed lifestyle. His loving but penetrating eyes go to and fro looking for faithful followers who are pressing His kingdom forward (2 Chron. 16:9).

2) As you prosper in your calling of journalism be sensitive to the danger of spiritual complacency and theological foolishness. God is not mocked and will require an accounting from you. It is easy to relax and not be on point for the Lord. Don’t get lulled into satisfaction and boredom with the life and calling of Christianity.

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