“We humans keep looking for a religion that will give us acc es to God without having to bother with people. We want to go to God for comfort and inspiration when we’re fed up with the men and women and children around us. We want God to give us an edge in the dog-eat-dog competition of daily life.
This willful determination to get ourselves a religion that gives us an inside track with God but leaves us free to deal with people however we like is age-old. It is the sort of religion that has been promoted and marketed with both zeal and skill throughout human history. Business is always booming.
It is also the sort of religion that the biblical prophets are determined to root out. They are dead set against it. (And we should be, too!)
Because the root of the solid spiritual life is embedded in a relationship between people and God, it is easy to develop the misunderstanding that my spiritual life is something personal between God and me—a private thing to be nurtured by prayers and singing, spiritual readings that comfort and inspire, and worship with like-minded friends. If we think this way for very long, we will assume that the way we treat the people we don’t like or who don’t like us has nothing to do with God.
That’s when the prophets step in and interrupt us, insisting, ‘Everything you do or think or feel has to do with God. Every person you meet has to do with God.’ We live in a vast world of interconnectedness, and the connections have consequences, either in things or in people—and all the consequences come together in God. The biblical phrase for the coming together of the consequences is Judgement Day.
We can’t be reminded too often or too forcefully of this reckoning. Zephaniah’s voice in the choir of prophets sustains the intensity, the urgency.” –Eugene Peterson, Introduction to Zephaniah, The Message.
It’s all about God. Our money can’t buy God or His love. Our accumulated things do not give pleasure to God. Our offerings given of obligation without obedience breaks the heart of God. We cannot buy our way to God or buy our way out of what God will do when God does what He says He will do. We might spend all we have on a religion that inspires us but what we have at the end of time is only a religion without a relationship with God.
It’s all about God. Real Life is our connection to God and to other people He has created and then back to God. Full circle. Eternal life is God through Jesus His Son.
The prophet Zephaniah stands to speak God’s message with nothing held back…
Zephaniah 1, The Message
No Longer Giving God a Thought or a Prayer
1 God’s Message to Zephaniah son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah. It came during the reign of Josiah son of Amon, who was king of Judah:
2 “I’m going to make a clean sweep of the earth,
a thorough housecleaning.” God’s Decree.
3 “Men and women and animals,
including birds and fish—
Anything and everything that causes sin—will go,
but especially people.
* * *
4-6 “I’ll start with Judah
and everybody who lives in Jerusalem.
I’ll sweep the place clean of every trace
of the sex-and-religion Baal shrines and their priests.
I’ll get rid of the people who sneak up to their rooftops at night
to worship the star gods and goddesses;
Also those who continue to worship God
but cover their bases by worshiping other king-gods as well;
Not to mention those who’ve dumped God altogether,
no longer giving him a thought or offering a prayer.
* * *
7-13 “Quiet now!
Reverent silence before me, God, the Master!
Time’s up. My Judgment Day is near:
The Holy Day is all set, the invited guests made holy.
On the Holy Day, God’s Judgment Day,
I will punish the leaders and the royal sons;
I will punish those who dress up like foreign priests and priestesses,
Who introduce pagan prayers and practices;
And I’ll punish all who import pagan superstitions
that turn holy places into hellholes.
Judgment Day!” God’s Decree!
“Cries of panic from the city’s Fish Gate,
Cries of terror from the city’s Second Quarter,
sounds of great crashing from the hills!
Wail, you shopkeepers on Market Street!
Moneymaking has had its day. The god Money is dead.
On Judgment Day,
I’ll search through every closet and alley in Jerusalem.
I’ll find and punish those who are sitting it out, fat and lazy,
amusing themselves and taking it easy,
Who think, ‘God doesn’t do anything, good or bad.
He isn’t involved, so neither are we.’
But just wait. They’ll lose everything they have,
money and house and land.
They’ll build a house and never move in.
They’ll plant vineyards and never taste the wine.
A Day of Darkness at Noon
14-18 “The Great Judgment Day of God is almost here.
It’s countdown time: . . . seven, six, five, four . . .
Bitter and noisy cries on my Judgment Day,
even strong men screaming for help.
Judgment Day is payday—my anger paid out:
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of catastrophic doom,
a day of darkness at noon,
a day of black storm clouds,
a day of bloodcurdling war cries,
as forts are assaulted,
as defenses are smashed.
I’ll make things so bad they won’t know what hit them.
They’ll walk around groping like the blind.
They’ve sinned against God!
Their blood will be poured out like old dishwater,
their guts shoveled into slop buckets.
Don’t plan on buying your way out.
Your money is worthless for this.
This is the Day of God’s Judgment—my wrath!
I care about sin with fiery passion—
A fire to burn up the corrupted world,
a wildfire finish to the corrupting people.”
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
Love God back with all our hearts, minds, and souls.
All that He created us to be is involved in our growing relationship with God.
Money can’t buy it. Realize the depth of love God has for us that is relentless, unshakable, unchanging, and unconditional. Then love others like He loves us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Micah told us simply what is required by God for living our daily lives, “to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God”. (Micah 6:8 NLT) Why? Because God loves us with grace and mercy. He give us more than we deserve every single day—all because of Jesus. We can’t buy or work for it. To walk humbly with God is to be so close that we hear what God says with a readiness to obey the One we love back.
God gives because God so loves…He gives us the abilities to love generously.
Continue to teach us through your prophets who stood up to tell a empire-seeking, money-hungry, power-grabbing world that what you want most is a relationship with your created that is displayed in our connection from you to each other. Oh Lord, how we mess daily in our mission to love when our arrogant, judgy selves steps up to the front, leaving you behind. Forgive us. Keep me focused on You and your love. Then help me see others around me through your eyes of love and love like you love me. Unconditionally.
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen