The prophet Zephaniah is prophesying a terrible and destructive day of the Lord, a day of divine judgment that is coming to Israel. He is writing not long before the fall of Jerusalem, which took place in 587 B.C.. His message is one of destruction and death coming to Israel. This divine judgment is coming because Israel has fallen into the sin of worshipping other gods and because of its unjust and abusive leadership. It is a message as fresh and important as the day it was given those many centuries ago.
We, too, live in an age where people worship many gods. Indeed many deny the very existence of God, claiming divine-like qualities to themselves, or to science, or some other human entity. Someone once said that all you would need to do to see what a person’s “religion” is, would be to watch them for a time and observe what he or she gave all of his or her time, talent and treasure to. In doing so, we can see that many today worship things like power, money, and sensual pleasures of countless kinds, and their whole lives are built around finding ways to maximize these things. Because of this there is much that is unjust and abusive in our social and political leaders today.
Science and technology have become the gods of many people today too. They are worshipped with a kind of subservient awe and reverential enthusiasm. And those who are engaged in these things even begin to believe that, though they do not now have the answers to the great existential questions, they will one day find them. They have even come to believe that they are the masters of nature and that, at some time in the future, scientific and technological man will master the universe. These things have even snuck into the practice of once traditional Christianity, reducing the divine messages of repentance and salvation through God’s infinite love to a means for becoming powerful, wealthy, or famous.
The new god, for many, is no longer the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but a new triune god who can be known only as “Me, Myself, and I.” The philosophies of absolute individualism in all of their many forms have legions of followers today. They vie for social and political ascendency all around us. The disciples of this “religion of the self” give all of their worship energy exclusively to the ego, or to their own particular group, as if there is no divine, transcendent relationship, or universal responsibility that the self, or the group, has with and toward others. Rather, they will do anything to protect and defend the ego, or the group, from those “others,” in order to insure, or to gain, their own continued selfish comfort. Yes, this day and age is being prophesied to by Zephaniah just as much as it was to the people of Israel before the fall of Jerusalem. If we do not turn back to God, his judgment on this time will make the fall of Jerusalem look like a walk in the park. But if we see the error of our ways, if we turn to listen to the word of God with humble and contrite hearts again, and if we choose more and more to willingly live in accord with his ways, we will have no reason “to fear disaster anymore,” for “The king of Israel, the Lord, [will be] in our midst.” (Zephaniah 3:15)
Lord, help us to keep our eyes always and in all ways on you alone. There is nothing of human origin that can compete with your love, your mercy, or your forgiveness. In you alone do we live and move and have our being. You alone are our hope, and our salvation. Help us to live Christ-like lives that help bring others to worship you alone. In your name we pray, Jesus. Amen!
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