Is It Futile To Serve God?
Zephaniah described God’s people in his day and time as follows: “Men who are stagnant in spirit, who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will do nothing, either good or bad’” (Zephaniah 1.12). Because of this attitude, God was bringing punishment upon his people Israel (Jerusalem and Judah). It begs several questions: How could God’s people become this stagnant? Why would God’s people become stagnant? What factors contributed to this? More importantly, is this mindset prevalent among God’s people today? Let us consider these matters.
Stagnation is a failure to develop, progress, or advance. When water becomes stagnant, a foulness or staleness results. When people become stagnant, this concept of foulness or staleness is seen in their dullness of hearing and their senses unable to discern from right and wrong.
From Zephaniah 1.5-6, we see the characteristics of stagnant behavior in God’s people. They “bow down and swear to the Lord and yet swear by Milcom.” They had “turned back rom following the Lord and…sought not the Lord or inquired of him.”
How had this happened? We find the answer in the record of their own lives. God’s people had persisted in disobedience to the Law of Moses. They were strictly warned not to imitate the idolatrous practices of the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 6.14), yet they did this very thing! They had become settled in this way of living. Zephaniah said, “And it shall come to pass atet that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, ‘The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil’” (Zephaniah 1.12). This describes their complacency. Other prophets gave us similar explanations:
Ezekiel wrote, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of Israel are doing in the darkness, each at the shrine of his own idol? They say, ‘The Lord does not see us; the Lord has forsaken the land’” (Ezekiel 8.12).
Malachi revealed even more insight. He described their complaining and murmuring as follows: “You have wearied the Lord with your words. ‘How have we wearied him?’ you ask. By saying, ‘All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and his is pleased with them’ or ‘Where is the God of justice?’ You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying gout his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty?’” (Malachi 2.17; 3.14).
Stagnation is no respecter of persons. Complacency can set in today when a person persists in disobedience. A stagnant life only changes by repentance. The gospel message declares this necessity. When a child is raised in an environment of complacency, it presents the most difficult obstacle to overcome in giving one’s life to Christ. Herein we see the need for the training up of a child in righteousness by both word and example of the parents.
Complacency can return in the life of Christians. When Christians suffer from complacency, they become weary of standing for the truth. Read again what Malachi said: “It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going on about like mourners before the Lord Almighty?” (Malachi 3.14).
Weariness in well-doing is an ever-present threat. It wears on us. We see the parade-like atmosphere in the religious world about us on the TV and on social media as they prayed the Lord for their blessings and prosperity, while we go about “carrying out his requirements, like mourners.” Enticed by the glitter, many have sought to incorporate their practices into the worship of the Lord to “liven up” things. They see the proverbial “greener grass” among the denominational way sand desire to be fed with their social “food.” They see the prosperity - the large numbers among them - and conclude that there is not “justice” with God. As the Psalmist stated of the wicked in Psalm 94.7, “They say, ‘The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.’” God answered with a reply that is still applicable today in vv. 8-15.