Updated: Nov 2, 2020
Last week when I taught the Old Testament book of Zephaniah in two hours as part of our “The Bible in 2 Hours” series, I was reminded so poignantly that God is going to “search” and “punish” those who are “stagnant in spirit.”
Zephaniah 1:12 says:
“And it will come about at that time that I, [God], will search Jerusalem with lamps,
and I will punish the people who are stagnant in spirit,
who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good or evil.’”
Let’s think through this together: Zephaniah called people out for falsely accusing God of doing nothing. “The Lord will not do good or evil,” is a false proclamation that says God is a do-nothing God.
But herein lies the lesson. Ironically, it was those who themselves were “stagnant in spirit” who accused the living God of being stagnant. Unfairly they projected their own stagnant spirit onto God.
Do you see? The problem was not God. The problem never is God. Only when we are stagnant does God come across to us as being so. I guess that’s why we sag and wilt. We get so duped sometimes that we forget to turn to God in prayer.
Pondering Zephaniah, I asked myself why Christians tend to pray so very little. Yes, we pray before meals, and we pray as we go about our day, and pray perhaps at night and morning prayer. But do we pause to prioritize prayer to God for an hour or two a day? For most, the honest answer is, “No.” Many of us have never prayed all night as Jesus did (Luke 6:12).
I submit to you, dear friends, that the reason we don’t pray more is because we have become “stagnant in spirit.” What else explains our habit of carrying our anxieties instead of pouring them in detail to our Lord? When we are stagnant in spirit, we miss out because God gives help to those who call upon His Name.
Thanks to Zephaniah, I am inspired to ask everyone to join me in repentance. Let’s be fervent in spirit. Let’s be so “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3) that we find ourselves “blessed” with the “kingdom of heaven” in answer to our fervency and prayers.
For the past several mornings I have awakened, then logrolled to the floor to start my day for an hour in unhurried prayer, confessing to God my belief that He does act. He does heal. He does provide and change things for the better when we pray. Reestablishing this habit feels familiar to me because for years I used to pray daily on my knees at 6:00 am. Today it made such a difference because now in this crisis of a post-Covid world of instability, volatility, and political unrest, my sense of hope has soared.
Zephaniah reminds us:
The Lord is righteous within [the tyrannical city]. He will do no injustice.
Every morning He brings justice to light! He does not fail. (Zephaniah 3:5)
Many of us know that God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Zephaniah tells us that God’s justice is new each day too.
God is active! Aslan is on the move!
As Zephaniah put it, “Near is the great day of the Lord, near and coming very quickly!” Therefore, “seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth who have carried out His ordinances. Seek righteousness; seek humility.” Take heart! “The Lord is in your midst, a victorious warrior.” God is fighting for us. God is forwarding history to “the day” when Christ returns. So let’s pray to Him with faith and not be found believing that God will just do nothing, so why bother? Zephaniah reminds us of the unchanging truth that God is ever triumphant.
Sarah Sumner, Ph.D., MBA