Woe to her who is rebellious and polluted, to the oppressing city! She has not obeyed His voice, she has not received correction; she has not trusted in the Lord, she has not drawn near to her God. (Zephaniah 3:1-2)
Four Pillars Of Apostasy
The nation of Israel reached a point in its history there would be no turning back from the wrath of God against the depravity of immorality that consumed the people. Manasseh had led the children of God to destruction and the Lord pronounced an irreversible sentence upon the holy nation of God. Men like Zephaniah and Habakkuk pleaded with the people to return to the Lord but to no avail. They were rebellious and polluted with idolatry. Zephaniah describes four things that contributed to the sad condition of the nation of Israel. God had warned in the Law of Moses that if Israel refused to obey His voice, they would be destroyed. The voice of the Lord was clear and demonstrative with the voice of the prophets and the written law. There would be no reason the people could not understand the will of the Lord but they chose not to hear the voice of God. The carnal mind turned its heart away from listening to the voice of righteousness and truth. Like a rebellious and stubborn child, nobody could tell Israel anything. The kings thought they knew what was best for the nation and the people adhered to the will of those who did what they wanted. Through the prophets, the word of God was plainly delivered but the people did not want to hear. They made their minds up to serve idols and nothing the prophets said would change their minds. Israel did not obey the voice of God.
During the time of Israel’s plunge into apostasy, the Lord sent plagues, wars, famines and pestilence to bring the heart of the people back to Him. In the Law of Moses, God had promised if Israel disobeyed Him He would bring great calamity upon them. The purpose of these judgments was to bring the hearts of the people back to the one true God. Israel did not receive the correction sent by the hand of God. It refused all the admonitions of the Lord against Israel as if it was nothing. In time the judgments became so common the people could not recognize the wrath of God from everyday occurrences. The prophets warned of impending doom but their message fell on deaf ears. Judah would receive the heavier judgment because she saw what happened to her northern sister Israel when the Assyrians came and destroyed them. While the kingdom lasts for a short time, in time Israel rebelled against the discipline of God and fell into apostasy. Israel did not receive correction.
The reason for Israel’s apostasy and fall into idolatry is their mistrust of God. Faith assures the heart to trust in the word of the Lord and to live with the hope of God’s promises. As the people became law to themselves they began to trust the Lord less and less and began to rely upon their own wisdom and the military might of other nations. The fundamental character of apostasy is found when the heart of man believes he is greater than God. Trust in the Lord is the basis of faith and without that trust, there can be no faith. Israel fell out of love with the grace of God and decided the only way they could save themselves was by their own power. Although the Lord had delivered them from Egypt, saved them from untold armies, cared for them in the wilderness wanderings, conquered the land of Canaan for them and blessed the nation of Israel above all nations on the earth; the people of God did not trust Him. They fell in love with themselves and relied on their own power to save them and failed miserably. Israel did not trust in the Lord.
Finally, the people of God had turned their backs on the Lord. A man will either draw closer to the world or draw closer to God. He cannot do both. If one seeks the way of the world he moves further away from God but when one seeks the Lord he will draw further away from the world. Israel worshiped in vain because their heart was far from the will of God. They did not trust the Lord, they had not listened to the voice of God and they refused to learn from the discipline of God. If they had heeded the words of the prophets and learned to trust in the Lord, He would have drawn closer to Him as they drew near Him. The relationship of God to man has always required a man to draw near the Divine. Without this close bond of love, a man will lose all hope. Zephaniah warned the people that without a close personal relationship with the Father they could not and wold not find peace. Israel had not drawn near to her God.
The four pillars of apostasy are the same for every generation. It begins with refusing to follow the will of the Father without recognizing the hand of the Lord in their lives. When a man fails to trust in the Lord and becomes his own god, doom awaits. Without drawing near to God there can be no peace and no joy. The path to righteousness is found when a man hears the voice of God, accepts the hand of the Lord in their life, trusts emphatically the power of God and seeks every day to draw closer to God. This man will be blessed in all he does.