Devotional thoughts on Zephaniah 1:4-6, 14-16; 2:3
By Alan Dowd
It may be easy to dismiss Zephaniah’s words. After all, none of us worship Baal or Molek or go up to the roof to praise the moon and stars. But how often do we place other things—money, the world, self—ahead of the one true God? How often do we count on these little gods for our security and protection? How often do we live, as C. S. Lewis wrote, in a “contentedly fallen and godless condition” captivated by created things rather than the Creator?
God is serious about being first in our lives. Zephaniah 1:4, 5 is a reflection of the first and second commandments: “I am the Lord your God . . . You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:2-5).
Only the God of creation deserves our adoration. Only he deserves to be first. Anything that gets in the way of him in our lives is an idol. If we do not find the humility to admit that and to remove those false gods, he will find us guilty. And he will find a way to remove them.
He’s too good, too perfect, too holy, and he loves us too much to allow his people to be content with toys and trinkets and created things.
The world’s defense is that they do not know him. But what is ours? Are we too familiar with the one who stooped low to call us “friend” to notice that he is perfectly pure? He’s so holy that our ancestors dared not pronounce or write his name. His law is so perfect that we cannot even keep the letter of it, let alone approach the spirit of it.
Zephaniah’s solution to our problem is to “seek the Lord,” to encounter the Holy One. This is what changed Moses and David, Peter and Paul, the thief on the cross and the woman at the well, Zacchaeus and Nicodemus. By encountering him we start to grasp his holiness and our sinfulness. And in this we realize there is no other place for him than first.
Alan W. Dowd is a freelance writer in Fishers, Indiana.