" If only..." is a haunting phrase. It implies that we have failed and that we wish we could go back and do things differently. As we dare to see the truth and accept responsibility for our lives, we may become sad and ashamed when we reflect on our past. We regret our irresponsible and destructive behaviors and wish we could erase past mistakes. This must have been how the people of Judah felt when they heard the prophetic words of Zephaniah. If only they had obeyed and trusted God!
God called Zephaniah during the days of king Josiah, the last of Judah's good kings. The prophet's condemnation of Judah's idol worship and self-centered living fit well with the early part of Josiah's reign, when his purges against idolatry were just beginning. Zephaniah's prophetic support of these purges would certainly have bosltered Josiah's efforts. However, the apostasy of Judah's previous kings, Manasseh and Amon, had left deep spiritual wounds in Judah. And despite Zephaniah's ministry and Josiah's noble reforms, scars remained visible in Judah even at the end of his reign.
The people of Judah were in need of some major changes. They had seen the northern kingdom of Israel exiled to Assyria, but they assumed that the presence of God in the Jerusalem Temple would protect them from foreign invaders. They needed to be shocked out of their spiritual indifference. Zephaniah warned the people that Judah would be destroyed fi they did not act right away. He also let them know that spiritual renewal was still possible. SPiritual awakening could still occur if they would admit their sins and trust in God. Josiah and the people listened to Zephaniah, responded, and experienced revival.
The Consequences of Inrresponsibility
Many of our troubles are direct consequences of our irresponsibility. Judah was irresponsible in her covenant relationship with God. She worshipped false gods and ignored God's laws, which were intended for her own good. Bu Zephaniah made it clear that their irresponsibility would carry heavy consequences. Encouraged by Zephaniah and led by Josiah, the peole of Judah confessed their sins, took responsibility for their lives and turned back to God. As a result they received substantial healing and restoration. When we are irresponsible in our relationships with God and others, our situations will grow progressively worse. But as we learn to live responsible lives, we begin to experience the blessings of God.
Complacency leads to a downfall
Prosperity and success often lead to complacency. Josiah's great grand father, Hezekiah had been one of Judah's greatest kings. He had led his people back to God, and God has greatly blessed them. However, Judah's next two kings, Manassseh and Amon, led their people into a period of spiritual complacency. And with time, the complacency led to sin and its consequences. Josiah followed in the footsteps of Hezekiah and helped lead the people back to God. Often our greatest failures follow our greatest victories. In order to prevent a downfall, we need to continually seek God and honestly reflect on our spiritual condition. We want to have hearts that are vulnerable dependent on God, regardless of how far we have progressed spiritually.
Spiritual Renewal leads to Joy
The process of spiritual renewal may start out painfully. When we confess the truth about ourselves, it can hurt. But as we begin to see the truth, speak the truth, and accept responsibility for our own lives, we discover the great relief and hope that God offers. s we beginto release whatever we are holding onto and redirect our course to follow God's will for us, we find joy. Then we can truly celebrate God's goodness as it filters into every area of our lives, bringing joy where there was onceonly sorrow and pain.
Letter # 16 (26. 4. 2010)