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At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent… (Zephaniah 1:12).
When I taught a series on the minor prophets, I noted that Zephaniah wanted to share some really, really good news, but first, he had to make his audience confront the really bad news. The really bad news is that we all have sinned and fall short of God’s righteous standard. The really, really good news is that God has provided forgiveness for our sins through Jesus.
Sadly, one of the things that keeps us from addressing the sin in our heart is complacency. The King James Version of Zephaniah 1:12 says that the people were “settled in their complacency.” If you look up the definition of the Hebrew word here, it literally means settled on their lees.
Look at the full verse in the NIV: “At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who arelike wine left on its dregs, who think, ‘The Lord will do nothing, either good or bad.’”
This phrase—“who are like wine left on its dregs”—puts the people at a tipping point. The lees or dregs of a barrel is where the wine is at its finest color and flavor. But wine that has “settled” is right at the point of curdling.
God is addressing people who have become self-satisfied. They have reached the place that they have called their “good life.” They want nothing to disturb them; especially not any teaching or preaching that may bring the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
So they have deluded themselves. They have said, “If everything seems to be going well for me, then I must be doing everything right. Don’t tell me anything that might make me uncomfortable.” Outward appearances and circumstances can be deceiving. We have to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit. We must never become complacent in our relationship with Jesus.
A very similar warning is sounded for the church in Laodicea. Jesus called them complacent when He said that they were neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. They, too, had also stopped listening to the Holy Spirit because they had complacently said to themselves, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.”
Laodicea was at the point where they should have been at their finest, but instead their complacency had brought them to a place of curdling—a place where Jesus threatened to spit them out of His mouth!
Complacency is deadly!
The solution: listen to the rebuke and discipline that the Holy Spirit brings, and repent of complacency. If we do, we will discover the inestimable, eternal riches that only a vibrant relationship with Jesus can give us (Revelation 3:14-22).
Let us never become settled on our lees, but let us be ready to be poured out for our Master’s enjoyment and glory. May I suggest that we all regularly pray the prayer of David: “Search me, O God. Point out any sin that I have complacently allowed to remain in my heart” (Psalm 139:23-24). And when that sin is revealed, don’t wait to repent because your wine is just about to curdle! But the restoration that repentance will bring to your heart will allow the richness and vibrancy of your life to be pleasing to your Savior!