The Wrath of the Lord
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The Wrath of the Lord
Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Things can happen very quickly by surprise. Over 20 years ago we were all living our lives out normal and in peace when suddenly planes started crashing into the World Trade Center. 2 Years ago, we were living out our lives and Russia began to invade Ukraine. A month ago, we were living out our lives and suddenly Hamas attacked Israel’s civilians, capturing and torturing them and murdering women and children. Anything can happen in an instant and we would never see it coming. The same will happen when the Lord returns. We will all be living out our lives as any normal day when suddenly the Lord will appear to judge the living and the dead. Many will disappear and be taken up and many will be left behind. We read all the time about God’s love and mercy and all of these things are very true. However, in today’s scripture readings we learn about His wrath.
Our passage in Zephaniah prophesies the coming of the Lord. Chapter 1 verse 7 says, “Be silent before the Sovereign Lord, for the day of the Lord is near. The Lord has prepared a sacrifice; he has consecrated those he has invited.” The time is near and he has set apart and made ready those whom he has chosen and he will return to seek them out. Verse 12 says, “At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, ‘The Lord will do nothing, either good or bad.’” The Lord has set apart Jerusalem as his chosen people and he is talking about people who I think are almost agnostic in a sense. They believe that the Lord exists but they do not believe that he gets involved. Therefore, though they were given the tools they need to do the work of the Lord and be his hands and feet, they chose not to use them because they think that they will never see consequences one way or another. They use this belief to become complacent and are just satisfied with their status quo. They do just enough to keep their lifestyle peaceful and happy and do not have a care in the world for those who may be less fortunate than them. Therefore, the Lord will suddenly appear and punish these people. Verse 15 says, “That day will be a day of wrath – a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness…” Our passage in Thessalonians tells us that this day will come like a thief in the night. It will be like the pains of childbirth. Everything is all good for awhile when the mother is carrying her child but then suddenly the pain begins and it will not stop and cannot be escaped until the child is finally born. The same will be with the wrath of the Lord.
Our Gospel passage, this morning comes from Matthew 25:14-30. We know this story as the parable of the talents. A master gives each of his servants a certain amount of money to be responsible for according to their ability. He gives one servant 5 portions, another 2, and the final servant 1 portion. Each are given to their ability. The master leaves them responsible with this money and heads off on a long journey with a promise to return. I have to admit that I have always been troubled by this story. I always felt that the master in this story was mean and crude. To me it seemed that his judgment in the end was over the top. The two who were given the most to be responsible with went to work right away and risked the money that their master gave them but used it to double what they had. The servant with one portion was afraid so he hid the money to keep it safe. He was afraid because he knew his master as a harsh man. He was afraid of the risk of losing what was given to him and so he thought that doing nothing would be better and that his master would be pleased that he didn’t lose anything. However, when his master returns, he finds out that this is not the case.
I want to take a moment to look at the risks each servant had to make. The first servant was given 5 portions of money. This means that he was entrusted with more to be responsible over. This also means that he had more to lose as well as he was given more. We find that he doubles what he was given meaning that he had to risk more to achieve this goal. The second servant was given two portions so he was held responsible for less than the first but more than the third servant. He risks what he has and ends up doubling his amount as well. The third servant only has one portion of money so he has less money to risk. Yet he is not willing to take any risk and just hides the money away. When his master returns, he is pleased with the 2 servants who put the money to work and take a risk to produce more. However, he is angry with the one who was complacent and unwilling to take a risk. It would have been better and safer if he left the money with the bankers so that it could gain interest. In the end the 3rd servant risks more by doing nothing. I wonder if his master would have felt differently if he at least tried to do something with the money and lost it instead of doing nothing? In the end because this servant does nothing he is punished severely.
The lord has given us all responsibilities in life. He has given us abilities and tools as well to care for our responsibilities. However, there are some in the world who are satisfied with complacency. They are ok if they achieve nothing in life. They are ok if there are people out in the world who do not know Jesus. They believe in Jesus and that is enough for them. Yet they have friends and family around them who are perishing in their sins and they do nothing. These are like the people that Zephaniah talks about who believe nothing bad or good will happen. The Lord is merciful but he does not appreciate complacency. If we do nothing it is good as sending these people to hell ourselves. We are given a responsibility as followers of Christ to use our talents and gifts to spread the Gospel of Christ to the world. If we have the gift to preach then we should preach, if we have the gift of giving then we should give generously. If we have the gift of song then we should use our gift to praise and lead people to Christ through worship. If we have the gift of service then we should serve those in need. We are charged to use our gifts to produce more. Therefore, if we are gifted with preaching then we should produce more preachers. If we are gifted with giving then we should teach more people how to give. If we are gifted with service then we should teach others how to serve and so on with all other talents and gifts.
Are you using your gifts to further the Gospel of Christ? Or are you living in complacency and living by the mentality that someone else will take care of that task that you have been charged with? One day the Lord will return after he has given out all of the mercy and grace that he is able to give and he will hold all of us accountable for what we have done with the gifts that he has given us. I hope and pray that we will hear the words well done good and faithful servant. We have a charge to help others escape the wrath of the Lord. If we do nothing then I don’t know if even we ourselves can escape His wrath. How are you using your gifts?