Nobody escapes God’s wrath in the book of Zephaniah. Kings and royalty, other nations, and the entire earth will come under His judgment. The merchants of Jerusalem are also condemned:
At that time 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 good,
nor will he do ill.’
When I read that God will search Jerusalem “with lamps,” it makes me think that God is announcing a search-and-destroy mission against the fat and happy merchants. The word translated “complacent” is actually a Hebrew idiom — the merchants are “thickening on the dregs (of their wine).” The idea is that wine left with the dregs in the bottom of the cup will get sludgy, kind of like the really thick, nasty coffee made by the coffeemaker in the church kitchen that apparently only Marty can get to work properly. This is a pretty interesting figure of speech to describe complacency. I suppose an equivalent idiom in English would be “slow as molasses.”
When we get complacent — content with what the world has to offer — our attitude toward God becomes one of apathy. “The LORD will not do good,” we think deep down inside of us. In my case, I tend to lose sight of Jesus Christ and become discouraged, forgetting that God will act to help me in each trial of life. On the opposite end, we think, “Nor will He do ill.” We believe that God will not mind a little sin — that He would certainly never discipline us by disrupting our lives and allowing pain to come our way. I’ve definitely been on the receiving end of this discipline.
In our rationalistic Western worldview, we tend to forget that God is intimately involved in every detail of the world. We may say that He is active, but the way we think and act tells another story. We cannot afford to become complacent — to have our eyes fixed on the things of this world, which will one day come to a “full and sudden end” (Zephaniah 1:18).