Seek and Hide
My kids love the game of Hide and Seek as much as I did when I was a kid. They love the thrill of pursuit. They love the stealth and sneakiness of hiding. They love the discovery of finding their friends. But hiding isn’t always a good thing. I remember in school sitting through Fire Safety presentations from the local Fire Department. Every year the firefighters would warn us not to hide if there was a fire. They told us that children often become afraid in a fire and try to find a safe place by hiding in a closet or under a bed. I’m not sure we ever really outgrow that instinct. Perhaps we aren’t hiding from fires, but when we feel danger we still try to hide.
The prophet Zephaniah opens his prophecy with a terrifying description of the judgment that is coming to Judah. “I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth” (Zeph 1:2). In fact, the destruction will be so severe that it will be a more comprehensive judgment than the Flood. The Flood was a global disaster that wiped out all mankind, save a few. It wiped out the creeping things and birds of the heavens (Gen 6:7). But at least the fish of the sea got a pass in the Flood; not so much this time. “I will sweep away man and beast; I will sweep away the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea” (Zeph 1:3). The coming Day of the LORD would be a complete and all consuming fire.
But there is great hope in the prophecy of Zephaniah. The fire of the Day of the LORD is not a fire to destroy but a fire to purify. This is the same visual that Peter gives us in 2 Peter 3:1-13. It will be a fire that exposes all the fruitless and sinful works of man. And that dross will be burned up and removed as God recreates and restores his good creation; “a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13). So Zephaniah gives the people of Judah some interesting instructions. In light of this coming Day of the Lord you should gather, seek, and perhaps you’ll be hidden (Zeph 2:1-3).
Zephaniah tells the people to “Gather together, yes, gather…” (v. 1). Before this judgment comes upon you, gather together. You are the people of God. You are the chosen ones of my blessed covenant. You are the ones whom I have called by my name. You are mine and I am yours. Gather together before this great calamity comes upon you. Gather and seek the LORD; seek righteousness; seek humility (v.3). Gather and seek. Why? So you can hide.
Zephaniah calls the people of God to play Hide and Seek but in reverse. He tells them to Seek and Hide. Seek the LORD; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD (v. 3). When terror falls upon us, we will want to hide. It was the same with Adam and Eve in the Garden. After Adam and Eve had sinned against the Lord, they realized their nakedness before a holy God. “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Gen 3:8). They were terrified of God’s judgment on their sin, so they hid, just like a frightened child in a house fire. This isn’t what Zephaniah meant by hiding. In fact, Zephaniah used it in a passive way, “be hidden.” How might we be hidden by seeking?
The Apostle Paul offers an answer to this riddle. He explains to the church at Colossae that by faith and repentance they are united with Christ. His death on the cross was the propitiation for their sins. “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Col 2:13, 14). And in their union with Christ, “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). Seek the LORD and you will be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD. On that day when all sin will be ultimately judged, we will endure the flames. Not because we tried to hide from them, because that is pointless. It didn’t work for Adam and Eve. It doesn’t work for the scared child. It won’t work for us. Rather, we will endure the flames because our sin has been reckoned by Christ and the burn of the flame has been removed. We are hidden in him. Instead of Hide and Seek, we should seek and be hidden.