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Today, we are going to look at a slow and subtle slide. It is a spiritual slide and it has the potential to severely damage the foundation of your spiritual life. In the Old Testament, we come to a prophet named Zephaniah, which means God hides. God was hiding or shielding His prophet from all of the corruption, violence, and idol worship that His people were involved in. God’s people had lost their way. Instead of pursuing God and helping to shape the culture, God’s people ended up being shaped by the culture in it’s greed, corruption, selfishness, and idol worship.
The Day of God’s Wrath Was Coming
Zephaniah 1:2-4 (NLT) “I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth,” says the Lord. 3 “I will sweep away people and animals alike. I will sweep away the birds of the sky and the fish in the sea. I will reduce the wicked to heaps of rubble, and I will wipe humanity from the face of the earth,” says the Lord. 4 “I will crush Judah and Jerusalem with my fist and destroy every last trace of their Baal worship. I will put an end to all the idolatrous priests, so that even the memory of them will disappear.
The book of Zephaniah contains some of the most intense images of God’s justice and love found in all of the prophetic books. It shows God’s fierce reaction to being replaced. Sometimes God has to shock us to get our attention when we are apathetic towards Him, and we don’t want to admit it. The prophet Zephaniah gives a vivid picture of God’s judgment as a loving warning to stop the spiritual slide that is taking place among God’s people.
A Spiritual Slide Begins When Idols Replace God
Zephaniah 1:4-5 (NLT) “I will crush Judah and Jerusalem with my fist and destroy every last trace of their Baal worship. I will put an end to all the idolatrous priests, so that even the memory of them will disappear. 5 For they go up to their roofs and bow down to the sun, moon, and stars. They claim to follow the Lord, but then they worship Molech, too.
God’s people at first worshipped God and God alone, just like God had commanded them. Then they began to worship God alongside their worship of idols, but after a while idol worship ended up replacing God’s worship. The end result was that all kinds of sin and evil was done by God’s people. This is abhorrent to God. An Idol is anything or anyone that takes the place of God in our lives. All idols are counterfeit gods, they promise many things, but they will never be able to deliver on those promises. Secondly, they will not only pull us away from God, but also dominate and control our lives.
A Spiritual Slide Advances When We Live Like Spiritual Atheists
Zephaniah 1:6 (NLT) And I will destroy those who used to worship Me but now no longer do. They no longer ask for the Lord’s guidance or seek My blessings.”
A spiritual atheist is someone who claims to love and worship God, but lives without Him. A lot of Americans “Play Church.” By that I mean that they claim to love and follow Jesus, but they end up living like the rest of the world. They understand that God put them here to shape the culture for Christ, but instead the culture is shaping them.
A Spiritual Slide Destroys When We Think There Are No Consequences
Zephaniah 1:12 (NLT) “I will search with lanterns in Jerusalem’s darkest corners to punish those who sit complacent in their sins. They think the Lord will do nothing to them, either good or bad.”
Just because God was patient with His people and waiting for them to come to their senses, and come back to Him, doesn’t mean He will wait forever.
No Matter How Far We Slide, God Provides A Way of Escape
God’s justice becomes this consuming fire that devours the corrupt evil from the land. Surprisingly, this burning fire of judgment is not aimed at destroying people, but rather to purify the people.
Zephaniah 3:9 (NIV) “Then I will purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him shoulder to shoulder.
Graciously, God provides a way to escape His judgment. God brings justice and judgment in order to rescue and restore. The book ends with these powerful images of God gathering up His family, the outcast, the poor, and the broken, where He exalts them in a place of honor.
Zephaniah 3:18-20 (NLT) “I will gather you who mourn for the appointed festivals; you will be disgraced no more. 19 And I will deal severely with all who have oppressed you. I will save the weak and helpless ones; I will bring together those who were chased away. I will give glory and fame to my former exiles, wherever they have been mocked and shamed. 20 On that day I will gather you together and bring you home again. I will give you a good name, a name of distinction, among all the nations of the earth, as I restore your fortunes before their very eyes. I, the Lord, have spoken!
Are you in a spiritual slide? Perhaps you are living as a “Spiritual Atheist”. God loves us and wants our complete and undivided worship. Ask Him for His forgiveness and make it right today!
Talk About It…
- Read Zephaniah chapters 1-3
- What do you learn about God from this scripture?
- Do you have any idols that you struggle with in your life?
- What do you think about the term “spiritual atheist”
- What do you learn about God’s character in this passage?
- What did you discover that you would be excited to share with a friend?
In the Old Testament, a prophet named Zephaniah, was used by God to warn His people that they had had lost their way. Instead of pursuing God and helping to shape the culture, God’s people ended up being shaped by the culture in its greed, corruption, selfishness, and idol worship. The same is true in our lives, a slow, subtle spiritual slide away from God has the potential to severely damage the foundation of your spiritual life.
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