Bible Reading: Zephaniah 1:1-18

“At 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.” (Zephaniah 1:18)

Whenever God sends judgement into the world, He is refining His people, His church. In Zephaniah’s times, God sent judgement to refine those in Judah who had turned to lawlessness and godlessness. Through judgement, God sifts those who are genuine and those who have been playing a false religion. Zephaniah proclaims how those who are wicked will be punished. He prophecies how the officials and king’s sons who have deserted God will be condemned. All “those who have turned back from following the LORD, who do not seek the LORD or inquire of him” (Zephaniah 1:6) will receive judgement. 

Through COVID-19, God is once more refining His church. To all those who were proud of their human advancements and technologies, God sent a plague to show them that humans are weak and incapable of fighting the smallest virus. To all those who did not think about God or life or death, God fast-forwarded death in their tracks to show them that He is real. Yet, Zephaniah also reveals that God will also punish and sift out those who have been complacent and ignorant about His being. 

Complacent people might well be Christians. We attend online church, read our devotions and pray to God. Yet, our hearts are nowhere near to God because, in reality, we don’t really care. Our desires are for the things of the world. Like the rich that James 5:1-6 describes, we “have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. [We] have fattened [our] hearts in a day of slaughter” (James 5:5). 

Moments like COVID-19 are times of God’s active intervention in history. The world will be a completely different place on the other side of this pandemic. Our children in the future will read about today in their history books. They will be discussing this pandemic in their classrooms, the very same way we discuss the world wars or the black plague. These days are a time of judgement where God will punish evil and change the course of the world. 

Why have we been ignorant to God’s work all these times? Comfortable in our homes, we have only turned our attention to our own entertainment. We live in luxury, and we do not care about anything other than the end of lockdown. What if we are the ones who God will sift from His church because we have rejected Him? What happens if our spiritual zeals for His kingdom are left dead on the other side of this pandemic? 

We must not and cannot be ignorant of the spiritual realities around us. The devil will use times like these to tempt and weaken our faith. Yet, we ought to trust that God is sovereign over all and by His faithfulness, He can guide us through all this. God leaves a promise after judgement at the end of Zephaniah. 

“On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain. But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD” (Zephaniah 3:11-12). 

God will refine His people to become humble and lowly people whose only trust is placed in the LORD. Therefore, let us put aside our assurance in our worldly comfort because those things can be taken away at any time. Our lives are in God’s hands, and so we must put our complete trust in His hands. We must give our care to the things above. May God have mercy on us and remember us that we can continue to be people who are deemed faithful and righteous until the end in Christ Jesus. 

Lord, please forgive us for our ignorance and awaken us to the spiritual reality. Do not let us slumber in our comforts and luxuries and fall into ignorance. Make us aware that this life is nothing without You. Make us aware that our only hope is in You—plant in us a humble heart and a heart that relies on You alone. Praise be to You who is in control and always faithful to all Your children. In Jesus’ name, amen.