Searching Tallahassee with Lamps

By Campus Missionary Mary Rowley, based on Zephaniah 1:7-16

You’re sitting in the back of the class, whispering to your friend next to you. You’ve grown experienced at making sure the teacher doesn’t notice, but this time, your overconfidence has betrayed you. Suddenly you hear a voice from behind you. “Do you have something to share with the class?” your teacher asks, giving you “the look.”

We’ve all been there. None of us were perfect students! That image – of the angry teacher looming over you when you thought you were safe – is similar to the image of God portrayed in this passage of Zephaniah. God is describing the Day of the Lord. “At that time,” he says in verse 12, “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 any good, nor will he do ill.’”

If God were to search Tallahassee with lamps and seek out the complacent, what would happen to us? Would we be passed over, or would we be punished? It’s a question of faith. If we believe that God is a passive, inactive God, then we would certainly have cause to be afraid. God goes on to describe the Day of the Lord for those who are complacent: “A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry” (verses 15-16).

However, if we believe what the Bible tells us of God – that he is an active, living, loving God who is always working in our lives – then we would have nothing to fear from God’s searching. Rather than being frightened by God’s presence, we would be delighted to have him in our midst. At the end of Zephaniah, this is described in a positive way: “The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil” (3:15). This is what we can hope for by the grace of God! We have saving faith through Him, and therefore, we can look forward to the Day of the Lord. We don’t have to be afraid.