Summary: God warns us against complacency and urges us to keep seeking refuge in him.
Every fall the following tragedy unfolds across the world. Homes that were built with great effort are obliterated in an instant. Food that was prudently gathered gets scattered and lost to the wind. Parents helplessly watch as their children are run over, while other children are left without parents. It sounds horrible doesn’t it? But you’ll never read about this tragedy in the newspaper although it also happens even right here in Alberta. That’s because it happens to field mice. Mice often take up residence in farmers’ fields thinking it will be a wonderful place to live. The tall wheat stalks provide cover from predators, refuge from the wind, and an ample food supply. So the mice build homes there and gather food thinking that the field belongs to them. They have children and do things that mice do as families, never giving thought to the rumbling of the tractor they hear in the distance. They never suppose that tragedy will overtake them one day and life as they know it will end in an instant with one pass of the harvest combine (John Jeske).
That’s how it will also be at the end of the world, says the Bible. People who have made comfortable lives for themselves thinking that this world belongs to them will be utterly shocked when God appears to claim it and their lives as his own. As we continue our Tweets from Heaven sermon series, we turn our attention to the short Old Testament book of Zephaniah. Through that prophet, God tells us more about Judgment Day or as he calls it: “the Day of the Lord.” God doesn’t hold anything back in his description of that day because he wants us to be smarter than field mice. He wants us to know that this world and our lives do not belong to us to do with as we please; they belong to him who created both this world and us. Listen again to what God said through Zephaniah. “I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth… 3 I will sweep away both man and beast; I will sweep away the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea… The great day of the Lord is near— near and coming quickly...That day will be a day of wrath—a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness…17 I will bring such distress on all people that they will grope about like those who are blind, because they have sinned against the Lord. Their blood will be poured out like dust… 18 Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord’s wrath. In the fire of his jealousy the whole earth will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live on the earth” (Zephaniah 1:2, 3, 14a, 15, 17a, 18).
When you consider that the prophet Zephaniah worked during the life of good King Josiah, God’s dire warning of judgment seems out of place – like a parent telling a child already wearing a snowsuit, tuque and mitts to “Bundle up!” But while King Josiah may have been eagerly doing the Lord’s will, many others in Judah were not. God said: “I will destroy every remnant of Baal worship in this place, the very names of the idolatrous priests—5 those who bow down on the roofs to worship the starry host, those who bow down and swear by the Lord and who also swear by Molek, 6 those who turn back from following the Lord and neither seek the Lord nor inquire of him…I will punish the officials and the king’s sons and all those clad in foreign clothes… 12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, ‘The Lord will do nothing, either good or bad.’ 13 Their wealth will be plundered, their houses demolished. Though they build houses, they will not live in them; though they plant vineyards, they will not drink the wine” (Zephaniah 1:4-6, 8, 12, 13).
In spite of King Josiah’s efforts to rid the land of Baal worship, priests of that idol continued to flourish. So we’re not startled to hear God say that judgment was coming upon them and on those who worshipped Molek, or who bowed down to the sun, moon, and stars. But why was God upset at the king’s officials who dressed like foreigners? These men must have been more interested in trying to be like the celebrities of the world than trying to be faithful children of God. That continues to be a big temptation for Christians doesn’t it? You probably don’t bow down to an idol every morning, but do you daily, even hourly bow over your smart phone or computer to see what’s going on in the world of movies, sports, fashion, and technology? Are you more eager to learn about these things and to pursue them than learn about your God and pursue his will? If so, you’re starting to act like those clueless field mice and are forgetting that this world is like a farmer’s field just waiting to be harvested and then burned.