HIDDEN FROM COMPLACENCY - Zephaniah 1:1-2:3

Shalom to you all, and praise be to our Saviour and King Yahushua Messiah, aměn! As I was reading this week, I kept coming back to the short prophetic instructions of Tsephanyah (Zephaniah) and the more I searched other Scriptures, the more I found myself coming back to this book and realised just how alive these words are for us in these days. Tsephanyah was the great great-grandson of Ḥilqiyahu (Hezekiah) and the words of his prophecy took place during the reign of Yoshiyahu (Josiah), a reformer who removed much of the idolatrous worship that had crept into Yehuḏah. It appears that this prophecy took place before all Yoshiyahu’s reforms took place. In this prophecy Tsephanyah deals quite directly with the “Day of YHWH” and clearly pointed out that Yehuḏah should not be looking forward to that day because even though their enemies would be punished, they too would be judged for their sins. And so the purpose of this prophecy was not to drive these recipients to hopelessness and despair but rather to ‘shock’ them out of their sin of complacency that they had developed in their worship unto YHWH. Matthew Henry writes that Tsephanyah intended not to frighten them out of their wits, but rather frighten them out of their sins! In a message tonight called, “Hidden from complacency”, let us together look at the first chapter and a bit and be encouraged that we may never be found to be complacent in our worship to the Almighty! (Read – Tsephanyah 1:1-2:3)

Tsephanyah means, ‘hidden by Yah’ or ‘treasured by Yah’ and we can see how pertinent his name was to the essence of this message. This prophecy was a warning of the coming day of YHWH when His wrath will be poured out and the only hope that the people of YHWH would have would be to turn back to Him and be hidden in Him, sheltered from His anger.

One of the major problems with Yehuḏah at this time was the fact that they had become very complacent in their worship unto YHWH, of which verse 12 gives us great insight into this. The language of this verse would have caused Yehuḏah to think possibly upon the Passover when every family would take a lit candle and search out every nook and cranny in their house in order to remove any leaven (yeast) that might be there. In this same manner YHWH would search every inch of Yerushalayim in order to punish the sin that was there – and the sin that is being spoken of here is that of complacency!

Now we know that sin can primarily be grouped into 2 groups:

1 – sins of commission – that is when we do something we are not supposed to do, and:

2 – sins of omission – that is when we neglect to do the things we should do!

Both of these groups can be a result of complacency, and what provokes YHWH to anger is the kind of complacency that accepts sin as a lifestyle simply because many do not even think that YHWH cares about our sin and that He will do nothing about it! From this letter, one must understand that it is very clear that YHWH was not speaking to ‘outsiders’ but rather to His children – or rather those who claim to be His children and claim to love Him! It is complacency that I want us to address tonight, as it is a very real problem still in our day, in our greatest attempt in worshipping YHWH our Elohim!

YHWH will search out for those complacent ones; or rather in verse 12 we read that He will search and punish those who are ‘settled on their dregs’! Now the word for ‘settled’ in Hebrew is ‘qapha’ which means, ‘settled or thickened’ and has the meaning also of a person who has fulfilled a satisfying existence as a figurative extension of a thickened substance that does not move easily, in other words it can carry the meaning in this context as one who is stuck in their ways.

‘Dregs’ is the sediment that is contained in a liquid – that which is left in the wine to age and then strained off, for if it is left there too long it will destroy the wine, as the dregs is the most undesirable part. It is the Hebrew word ‘shemer’ and in this context spoken of here it can refer to those who are indifferent or inactive. Almost a description of those who will just simply go with the flow so to speak – do whatever to get by with no care of the effect of complacency and so causing the rest to be ruined!

Many translations simply use the English word ‘complacent’ here for ‘settled on their dregs’ and is a very fitting description. Complacent simply means ‘marked by complacency’, where ‘complacency means ‘self-satisfaction, especially when accompanied by the unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies! How true is this description of many today? They are self-satisfied unaware of real dangers and deficiency in the purity of their worship!

A very similar message to this prophetic warning that may be well known to us when speaking of the end days is the very message given in Ḥazon/Revelation 3 to the assembly in Laodicea, known to us as the ‘lukewarm’ assembly. They were neither hot nor cold and Yahushua says that the lukewarm He spits out! In other words complacency has no place as a form of worship unto YHWH, Yahushua will spit out the complacent – those who are self-satisfied, stuck in their ways unwilling to be changed by His Word – those who go with the masses who are seeking their own satisfaction by any means!

This prophetic warning is as real for us today as it was for Yehuḏah back then!

So how do we then guard against complacency in our relationship with YHWH?

I am glad you asked, for Tsephanyah describes for us a number of underlying problems that were happening within Yehuḏah, problems that led to a complacent lifestyle, a lifestyle that could cost them their lives! These problems leading to complacency can be grouped into 3 major components. Let us look at these three and allow the mirror of His word to reveal to us what we look like…

1 – FAILURE TO SEEK YHWH!

In verse 6 Tsephanyah writes “…and those who turn away from following YHWH, and who have not sought YHWH or inquired of Him.

There were many who had stopped seeking YHWH and had become complacent in their lifestyle, worshipping other mighty ones and were ‘swearing by YHWH and swearing by Malkam’. They had stopped calling upon or seeking YHWH, and were worshipping other mighty ones as they perhaps sought to satisfy the flesh. Dawiḏ, while he was in the Wilderness wrote how we are to seek YHWH in Tehillim/Psalms 63:1:

O Elohim, You are my El; I earnestly seek You; my being has thirsted for You; my flesh has longed for You in a dry and thirsty land without water.

Yehuḏah, at large was not seeking YHWH – they had lost their hunger and thirst for Him. Are you seeking YHWH like Dawiḏ describes in your life right now? Are you thirsting for YHWH the way you would thirst for water if you were stranded in the middle of the Karoo in the height of summer without any water supply? Let’s be honest here, most of us start out thirsting for YHWH that way as we begin our spiritual walk, where we find ourselves not able to get enough of His Word as we do everything we can to eat up all we can; and where we long to be in His presence constantly taking every opportunity to learn more and more about Him. The sad reality is that for most this intense hunger and thirst all too easily fades and they find themselves waking up one day from their slumber recognising and realising that they just don’t thirst and hunger as they did! Many people start out the same in their marriages – for a while it is all sparks, bells and whistles and then somehow they find that the spark has gone, as they have failed to retain the passionate and urgent love they had in the beginning and have become complacent in their lives toward one another. This does not have to be so for the follower of Yah, aměn! Thirsting and hungering takes effort and requires faithful endurance. We must be constantly seeking YHWH – His word promises that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled – filled according to their hunger – how hungry and how thirsty are you for righteousness? How thirsty are you for set-apartness? Failure to seek YHWH will cause complacency to set in where you become accustomed to getting by with as little worship as possible while being self-satisfied with many worldly lusts and desires of the flesh that consumes your time away from YHWH – and we best remember that YHWH is a jealous El!

2 – SEPERATING THE ‘SECULAR’ FROM THE ‘SACRED’

Verses 10 & 11 give us a description of the circumstances similar to that which we see being spoken of in Amos. Many of the ‘business’ people would go to the temple on Shabbat yet the rest of the week they engaged themselves in ‘immoral’ business practices as they tried all means possible to ensure a bigger profit, and so they very quickly separated the ‘sacred’ from the ‘secular’ in their double lives! The very same happens today – people tend to compartmentalise their lives in order to try to make sense of their hectic schedules and demands of everyday life. So they will quickly and very easily put prayer, reading of the Word, attending fellowship and gathering on Shabbat into a pigeon hole which they would describe as ‘spiritual’ or ‘sacred’ or ‘set-apart’ and then all the rest they would put in another pigeon hole so to speak labelled ‘secular’ or ‘worldly’ – which would include such things as their job, career, even family, their neighbourhood, their finances  - yes that’s right – for many they do not see their finances as having anything to do with their spiritual lives!!! And so people so quickly and easily separate their lives into two areas, thinking that they can lead this double standard life and be ok with it! The major problem with this kind of thinking is that it is not Scriptural. Our lives were bought at a price – we belong wholly to Yahushua who paid the price for our sins and the punishment thereof with His Blood redeeming us back to Himself as His Bride who must now make herself ready, being found spotless when He returns.  There can be no separation in our lives, trying to exclude YHWH from some things and include Him in others – He is to be in every aspect and area of our lives. Sha’ul addressed this very thing to the believers in Colossae:

Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the Name of the Master Yahushua, giving thanks to Elohim the Father through Him.

Colossians 3:23 “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Master and not to men.

Whatever we do – that is everything – nothing excluded – be it in word or action – must be done heartily to Yahushua. That means that if we find ourselves involved in something that cannot carry the approval of His Name to it - then we are not to do it! You see many may gather once a week yet leads a totally different life the rest of the week – this is the danger of ‘separating’ what we have come to know as ‘secular’ and ‘sacred’ – when in reality in the life of a believer there is only one way!!! The measure of our worship unto YHWH is seen in how we live our lives each and every day of the week. In set-apart living there can be no complacency by trying to ‘compartmentalise’ various areas of our lives – we are called to be totally set-apart unto Him, period!!!

3 – ATTEMPTING TO COVER ALL BASES

This is a major problem of compromise and complacency today. For many they have not totally abandoned their partial worship unto YHWH – they have just simply retained or added to it a whole bunch of stuff that they cannot let go of or have picked up along the way as they try to cover all their bases in pleasing many areas of their multi-faceted life! They will bow to idols and even follow the examples of many so-called leaders today who are two leading double lives where idolatry has a role. We learnt recently that a well-known torah-teacher of today is at the same time involved in the field of martial arts and is even called a guru using a style of martial arts called ‘kali’ which is a pagan goddess, and when you see two different websites that seemingly show two different lives then you have to ask yourself what is going on here – are they trying to cover their bases and be a friend to all! From my understanding of the Word and I say this with great concern at what is going on in the world – Torah and martial arts do not go together!!!

Many will swear an oath to YHWH while at the same time pledging their allegiance and oath to other mighty ones or idols so to speak. This kind of attempt at covering all basis is a fleshly attempt at being able to befriend as many as they can and keep everyone around them happy, which no doubt always will result in complacent worship unto YHWH!

Verse 9 speaks of this kind of attempt at covering all bases and not rocking any boat – we see the term ‘all who leap over the threshold’ - and those YHWH will punish. But what does this mean? Well this was a pagan practice that was developed and has its origin in the worship of Dagon the ‘fish-god’, of which we see many priests of Dagon today very much alive in serving this pagan deity with their mitre/fish hats – you all know what I am talking about!

Shemuʼĕl Aleph/1 Samuel  5:4-5 “And they arose early the next morning and saw Daḡon fallen on its face to the ground before the ark of YHWH, and the head of Daḡon and both the palms of its hands cut off, on the threshold, only Daḡon itself was left of it. 5 That is why, to this day, the priests of Daḡon and all who come into Daḡon’s house do not tread on the threshold of Daḡon in Ashdoḏ.” 

‘Leaping over the threshold’ was a term used to describe those who refuse to recognise the set-apart place and deny YHWH’s authority and Covenant in their worship of other mighty ones!

Now we may easily say that this does not happen today, right! Well how about when people regard all religions as equally true, or how about when philosophers regard all faiths as equally false or even when politicians regards all religions as equally useful!!! Many want to cover all their bases and so be acceptable on every level of society.

Many today who claim to be followers of the Almighty never start their day before checking out their horoscopes, perhaps even straight after reading the Word!!! Although we may not have idols carved out of stone (which many do have by the way) – but how many people make idols out of their jobs, or their possessions or their social standing and status or even their families where they will find themselves quickly and easily listening to the instructions of their earthly fathers, over and above the instructions of our Heavenly Father, even when it clearly contradicts and is in contrast to the divine instructions of the Heavenly Father!!! YHWH makes it very clear – no other mighty ones are to be worshipped or bowed down to! Do not cover all the bases – stay grounded in the Truth! Yes it will cost you your life – count the cost – the worthy cost of a worthy walk in Yahushua!

What does your life look like? Has complacency had a way of creeping in?

Complacency is defined as being satisfied with the status quo no matter how bad it is. Complacency is accepting evil when it should be replaced with good. Complacency is keeping silent when speaking out the truth is the practical thing to do. But why is complacency a sin? According to the prophet Tsephanyah (Zephaniah), Elohim would search the city with lamps and punish those who were complacent. Complacency can be summarized as being content and indifferent in the midst of moral chaos. Complacently is accepting sin as a lifestyle. It is looking on sin and acting like it doesn't exist or thinking it doesn't matter one way or the other.

How is your outlook and approach to sin – does it matter to you or not? Are you at times happy to be in a place of complacency? The Good News for us is that we do not have to fall prey to complacency! In chapter 2:1-3 Tsephanyah gives us the antidote to complacency: (Read 2:1-3)

In these 3 verses we find 3 commands that are intended to keep us from becoming spiritually complacent, let us look briefly at these:

1 – Gather together – I do not need to speak too much on this, as we have discussed this on many occasions, but the fact still remains – gathering of the set-apart ones in fellowship is of critical importance – one thing we should not neglect to do as some are in the habit of doing.

2 – Seek – this is a predominant command here as it is repeated 3 times. We are told to:

                A – Seek YHWH

                B – Seek Righteousness

                C – Seek Meekness/Humility

These three are connected, for we are to continually humble ourselves, serve one another in love, seeking every opportunity to do so and seek righteousness that is His right standards for set-apart living. We have become in Yahushua the righteousness of Elohim and we are to walk in His ways. As we saw earlier that many failed to seek YHWH which leads to complacent living – Seek, Seek and Seek is the command here!

3 – Obey – Obey is not written here, but what is written is the term, ‘hidden’. This is speaking of those who are obedient – those who guard His commands as Deḇarim/Deuteronomy 6:25 tells us that our righteousness will be to guard to do all that Elohim has commanded us to.

Yoḥanan/John 14:21 “He who possesses My commands and guards them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I shall love him and manifest Myself to him.

Holding on to and guarding to do His commands expresses our love for Him. And those who guard against complacency by adhering to these three commands – to gather together, seek and obey have this blessed assurance and promise of YHWH – a promise that is closely related to Tsephanyah’s name – remember I said that his name means ‘Yah hides’. For those who gather, seek and obey have this hope that in the day of YHWH, when His wrath is poured out, they will be hidden in Him. YHWH does not say that He will remove His people from tribulation or prevent them from going through tribulation – yet He promises to hide or protect His remnant bride through it.

I encourage you to go and read the rest of this brief prophetic letter that ends with the message of hope on how YHWH will restore Yisra’ĕl and make her prosper once again.

As we look at this word and its application for us today – may we truly be found never to be complacent but rather hidden from complacency as we daily humble ourselves before Him, seek His face, obey His commands and not give up meeting and gathering together strengthening one another in His love, especially as we see the day of YHWH approaching fast!

Have there been hints of complacency of late in your walk with YHWH? Heed these words and be found to be hidden from all forms of complacency as you diligently hear, guard and do His Word. Perhaps you have let your hunger to seek YHWH fade or have been found trying to separate your weekly walk with your Shabbat walk or have tried to cover all bases – listen to the words given to Tsephanyah by YHWH for us to hear today – may we earnestly seek Him with our all – give Him our all living a totally surrendered and submitted life unto obedient living, walking the straight and narrow path that we have found in Him, and so with joy be always hidden from complacency, aměn!

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