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*Zephaniah2** [P]*
*[P]* [*Zephaniah 1:1-13* /The word of יְהוָה which came to Zephaniah son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah: “I will completely remove all things from the face of the earth,” declares יְהוָה.
“I will remove man and beast; I will remove the birds of the sky and the fish of the sea, and the ruins along with the wicked; and I will cut off man from the face of the earth,” declares יְהוָה.
“So I will stretch out My hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
And I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the names of the idolatrous priests along with the priests.
“And those who bow down on the housetops to the host of heaven, and those who bow down and swear to יְהוָה and yet swear by Milcom, and those who have turned back from following יְהוָה, and those who have not sought יְהוָה or inquired of Him.” Be silent before the Lord יְהוָה!
For the day of יְהוָה is near, for יְהוָה has prepared a sacrifice, He has consecrated His guests.
“Then it will come about on the day of יְהוָה’s sacrifice that I will punish the princes, the king’s sons and all who clothe themselves with foreign garments.
“And I will punish on that day all who leap on the temple threshold, who fill the house of their lord with violence and deceit.
“On that day,” declares יְהוָה, “There will be the sound of a cry from the Fish Gate, a wail from the Second Quarter, and a loud crash from the hills.
“Wail, O inhabitants of the Mortar, for all the people of Canaan will be silenced; all who weigh out silver will be cut off.
“It will come about at that time that I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the men who are stagnant in spirit, who say in their hearts, ‘יְהוָה will not do good or evil!’ “Moreover, their wealth will become plunder and their houses desolate; yes, they will build houses but not inhabit them, and plant vineyards but not drink their wine.”/]
Last time we looked at that most shocking and devastating of prophecies – the destruction of everything (Zeph 1:1-3).
יְהוָה has declared a day of judgement, complete destruction!
It is יְהוָה’s doing – “I will” 10x in the verses I read.
Destruction is coming on all the earth but destruction was first coming on Jerusalem (Zeph 1:12) and Judah (Zeph 1:4) – judgement begins with the house of God, with His own people.
But this terrible judgement is not without cause – and today we see the reason [*Zephaniah 1:4-6* /“So I will stretch out My hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
And I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the names of the idolatrous priests along with the priests.
“And those who bow down on the housetops to the host of heaven, and those who bow down and swear to יְהוָה and yet swear by Milcom, and those who have turned back from following יְהוָה, and those who have not sought יְהוָה or inquired of Him.”/].
The reason is idolatry!
*[P]* יְהוָה was going to destroy His nation and people because of idolatry.
The whole nation was so riddled with it that it had to be destroyed, that was the only way to cleanse the idolatry out of it.
When the Israelites invaded the land, יְהוָה destroyed it because of the idolatry, the worship of Baal and Asherah, which pervaded it.
He had given the inhabitants of the land centuries before He finally destroyed them from the land and gave the Israelites strict instructions to extirpate idols from the land.
But the very same idols that the Canaanites worshipped were still being worshipped – the Canaanite god, Baal; Milcom, the Ammonite god; reference to the Philistine god of Dagon in (Zeph 1:9), the Assyrians worshipped the host of heaven (Zeph 1:5).
So, with absolute consistency, יְהוָה had to destroy the land once more to get rid of these false gods.
*Idolatry:* Why does the Bible make such a big deal about idolatry?
Warnings against it, judgement against it, and records of idolatry make up a significant percentage of the O.T.
If idolatry is not an issue then a significant portion of Scripture is totally irrelevant.
But it isn’t.
But we don’t have idols – the Catholics, maybe; the Buddhists, yes; but not us, civilised Protestants!
Is idolatry an issue, yes it still is.
We don’t have little shrines with images in.
I must confess that growing up I used to be amazed that Israel continually fell into idolatry.
Why worship an idol when there is a יְהוָה who does miracles for you and yet the idols do nothing.
How could they be so foolish?!
That is the impression the Bible gives – and they were completely foolish forsaking God that which is no god at all.
But still they kept reverting to idolatry!
There must have been some appeal.
It must have made sense to them.
Why did they do it?
Well lets have a look at some of the idols listed here: Idols: *Baal* *[P]* – God of the storm, thunder, controlled the weather.
They were an agricultural economy – you had to be on side with the weather to ensure the harvest was good.
So you sacrificed, appeased this god, did what was required to ensure that things went well for you materially.
They were trying to manipulate the divine forces in order that things go well materially for them.
Now, we would not try to control or influence things in order that we might profit materially – would we?! Their god was materialism!
Things aren’t that much different today.
We are a materialistic society – we love our shopping and all the nice things we can buy, things that make life comfortable and tie us to this world.
Our heart is where our treasure is – and we have stocked up pretty heavily on this planet.
The measure of a man is the things that he has managed to accumulate!
The car he drives, the clothes he wears, his house, his boat etc. – and we will try and manipulate the forces that operate to ensure we do well.
We come to God for His material blessing.
*Asherah* *[P]* – goddess of fertility – she is not mentioned in this passage but she was Baal’s consort – we use the term “partner” today.
In their story Baal died and there was a resurrection – life came anew in spring through the sexual union of Baal and Asherah.
Fertility was ensured by the act of sexual union with a priestess.
The Canaanite religious system was depraved and permeated with sexuality.
Cultic prostitution was part of the religious ceremony – you went to the shrine and had sex with a priestess.
I used to wonder why Israel would fall into idolatry; sexuality was part of the snare.
Remember at Peor? Balaam had not been able to curse Israel so he persuaded the Moabite women to seduce the Israelite men into idolatry.
And today, sexuality is worshipped.
You look at the films, the music, the gossip that fills the magazines – it centres around sexuality – people with fantastic bodies, who are having endless series of relationships.
We still worship sex and it still proves a snare.
We go out to the prison – we see the casualties, and the church is not immune.
*Milcom* *[P]* was a terrifying god, demanded child sacrifice – they would burn their children in fire to this god.
Why? Tremendous fear!
Why worship such a god? – because he had power, had power to terrify.
I have seen people who have sold themselves to demonic influence who torture their lives and make them miserable – why do they do it?
– Because through it they gain power over others.
It is amazing what we will sacrifice in order to have power.
It is the same with the “host of heaven” whom the Assyrians worshipped.
They were a powerful conquering empire – if we serve the same god as they do then we will have the same power.
So they sell themselves in order to be powerful.
How we worship the powerful and the mighty today.
Who are our heroes, those we admire?
Edmund Hilary who conquered Everest, the sportsmen who make their living by crushing the opposition – a highly Christian motive!
Yet we regard sportsmen as great role models!
We worship the self made man: the mighty, the clever, those who assert themselves and get to the top.
Why did the Israelite consistently fall into idolatry?
One reason is that the idols were *tangible* *[P]* – they found it hard worshipping that which was unseen, preferred what they could see, what they could do – the opposite of faith!
They preferred to walk by sight and not by faith.
But God calls His people to exactly the opposite!
We find that which we see, the evidence of our eyes, much more real than that which is spiritual and eternal – the true reality.
We focus on what we see, the tangible.
Then there is the attraction of something *new, different and exciting* *[P]* – they got bored, religion became humdrum; they turned to something new and exciting.
That is why a large portion of the church is turning to idolatry and worshipping music and entertainment, rather than יְהוָה.
There is something here that underlies the whole issue of idolatry and what יְהוָה hates about it – infidelity.
*[P]* Idolatry was often likened to adultery – because it was forsaking the one you were pledged in covenant relationship to.
Breaking of covenant – and that is abhorrent to a covenant keeping God! – unfaithfulness is rife!
….. it is not even seen as a virtue anymore.
[*Proverbs 20:6* /Many/ /a man proclaims his own loyalty, but who can find a trustworthy man?/]
What happens if we get hurt, something goes wrong, we have a disagreement?
– we up and leave, go to another fellowship.
What happens if marriage gets difficult – up and leave.
What happens if God doesn’t do what you want Him to, the going gets tough – go back to Egypt.
Christianity – “Oh, I tried that”!
Give it a go, if you don’t like it, if you get bored, if it isn’t meeting your needs – give up, move on to something else!
No commitment!
But material wealth, lust, power – these things we worship – Do you see something that is at the root of them all?
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