"I will stretch out My hand against Judah
and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal
and the name of the idolatrous priests along with the priests,
those who bow down on the roofs
to the host of the heavens,
those who bow down and swear to the Lord
and yet swear by Milcom,
those who have turned back from following the Lord,
who do not seek the Lord or inquire of Him."
- Zephaniah 1:4-6
Preaching to the visible church, Judah, Zephaniah reports Jehovah's displeasure against several pagan practices which have been accepted into their worship, a practice known as syncretism. The people of Judah were hedging their bets, professing the name of Jehovah, while, at the same time, worshiping Milcom (also called Moloch), an Ammonite deity, and looking to the stars for their security, a practice which we now call astrology.
Astrology has become an acceptable practice in modern America. No one is shocked when he sees the horoscope in his daily paper. And have we forgotten Nancy Reagan's custom of advising the US President on the basis of what her astrologer told her? Wasn't he the favorite president among evangelicals?
Yet, look at God's reaction to this syncretism: "I will stretch out My hand against Judah." He isn't simply displeased. Rather, He is moved to act against that nation! And it was against the nation. Notice that He doesn't name names. That means that this syncretism, this apostasy-lite, if you will, was spread throughout this society of the supposed people of God. And when did the judgment come? Well, Zephaniah was written about 622 BC, just before the reforms of Josiah. Those reforms brought a postponement of God's justice. The first of three sackings of Jerusalem by the Babylonians came just seventeen years later, in 605. The final destruction came in 586.
When the professed people of God dishonor Him with disloyalty, He does not play games, as He had warned them: "You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and He destroy you from off the face of the earth" (Deuteronomy 6:14-15).
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