Zephaniah 1:5, “For they go up to their roofs and bow down to the sun, moon, and stars. They claim to follow the Lord, but then they worship Molech, too.” (NLT)
Minor Prophet. Major Message. Zephaniah was the great-grandson of a king, Hezekiah. Amos, another minor prophet we’ll read later, was a shepherd. In Scripture we see significant messages from God delivered by the least and the greatest. In one story we even see God speak through a donkey. Two big ideas here:
- No matter your status, station, power, prestige, position or influence, God can speak through you.
- Take time to listen. Because that statement is true of others as well.
God can speak to you through the most expected or unexpected of people. Don’t let arbitrary conditions affect your willingness to respect the wisdom of God simply because it wasn’t delivered in a way that matches your preconceived notion of who God should use to encourage, challenge or correct you.
Zephaniah is another prophet who predicts the coming fall of the nation of Judah and the city of Jerusalem. He gives a clear time frame for when he writes. It’s during reign of Amon, King of Judah. This would be somewhere around 640 – 610 b.c. Jerusalem fell somewhere between 610 – 580 b.c. That puts Zephaniah’s writing approximately 40 years from the fall. In Bible terms the number 40 represents a generation. So you can think of it like this – Zephaniah predicted that the next generation will suffer the fall and complete destruction of their nation.
Now let’s focus on verse 5, ““For they go up to their roofs and bow down to the sun, moon, and stars. They claim to follow the Lord, but then they worship Molech, too.”
We might be tempted to think that Jerusalem was taken against her will. And she was, but verse 5 tells something about the heart of the people. Idol worship was rampant throughout the nation of Judah at this time. One of the most popular gods to worship was Molech. He’s also known as Baal. Molech was a cruel god of the Babylonian pantheon. He had four eyes and two mouths. Babylonian mythology says the world was created when Molech and Tiamat, the evil 5-headed dragon, battled for control of the universe. Molech won the fight. When he crushed Tiamat under his foot the earth was formed. Molech went down to the earth to see if it was as evil as the creature from which it was made. In contempt for Tiamat, Molech spit on the ground. Everywhere he spat a man was formed. Everywhere man spat a woman was formed. Everywhere woman spat a tree was formed. And so, according to the Babylonians, the world began.
Because the world was created from something Molech considered evil the people formed from his contempt were required to offer sacrifices that would prove their loyalty to him. He required them to sacrifice their children in his name. This was a common practice in Judah at the time of Zephaniah.
I know this sounds crazy in our modern culture. We would never sacrifice our children in the name of some ancient myth. But we do find other reasons to sacrifice our children. Some woman, in the middle of one of the most difficult circumstance they have ever faced, will have to decide whether to keep the baby, give the baby life through adoption, or take the life of the baby through abortion. There’s nothing easy about this decision. But it’s a sacrifice that has taken the life of millions of children.
Some fathers will look their children in the eye this morning, hug and kiss them goodbye, walk out the door and leave them behind. They will trade their children for more time in the office, greater responsibility at work, and a bigger paycheck. They may even trade in those children for a new set because things with mom, ‘…just aren’t working out.’
We see it happen all the time. With the best of intentions or with the hope that our choices will ‘make things better’ we forever change the quality or quantity of life for our children. We don’t do this in the name of a strange-faced god. We do it for money, happiness, convenience, or simply because we don’t see any other possibility. We mortgage the future and our children pay with interest.
It’s interesting that more than a generation before Judah fell to the Babylonian Empire the people of Judah worshiped Babylonian gods. While the destruction of Judah was devastating it was the natural end of a desire the people of Judah had already expressed. They wanted to be like the Babylonians. They adopted their culture, sensibilities, and religion. All that was left was their government. One generation after Zephaniah this changed too. What happened by force was a mirror image of the lifestyle the nation of Judah had already adopted.
What parts of your life are shaped more by our culture than by your faith? How is your faith shaped by our culture? Do you pick and choose which parts of the Bible you apply to your own life based on what’s accepted as the cultural standard? What would it take for you to sacrifice your children? Under what conditions would you find it acceptable for someone else to sacrifice their children?
One generation. That’s all it takes for a nation to fall. One generation. That’s really all the time you have. It reminds me of a quote I recently heard, “If we don’t change the world…someone else will.”
Thank you for who you are and what you’ve done in my life. Help me see how my life measures up to your word. Am I living according to your will or according to the approval of the culture in which I live? Show me and give me the wisdom, strength, courage and endurance to change my choices to match your desires rather than my own. Better yet, change my desires to match your own. Forgive our nation for the ways we’ve sacrificed our children. May the next generation be blessed because of the choices I make today.
I love you, in Jesus name –