“She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the LORD; she drew not near to her God.”
Verse 1 of Zephaniah 3 reveals that this was said about Jerusalem. Like many of the prophets, Zephaniah was sent by the LORD to warn Israel against their idolatry, appealing to them to turn back to Him. While giving these warnings, God often pointed out the futility of turning away from Him. And in so doing, He revealed a heart for His people. He was not pointing these things out to harass them, but to get them to see that their best option really was to look to Him instead of their idols. Here were the things that showed the error of their ways.
First, they obeyed not the voice. In Exodus 19 and 20 the Lord told about Israel coming before Him at Mount Sinai. In chapter 20 is given what we know as the Ten Commandments. The people heard the voice of the LORD pronouncing His commandments. In chapter 19, they came near to Mount Sinai in preparation for meeting God. Verses 7 and 8 tell us, “And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.” The first commandment recorded in Exodus 20 was, “you shall have no other gods before thee.” They heard the voice of the LORD announce this commandment. But before long they were worshipping the golden calf. As Zephaniah put it, they obeyed not the voice.
Next, they received not correction. As noted, most of the prophets were sent to warn the people away from their idolatry. The LORD spoke in Amos 4:6,8,10, and 11 of the numerous trials He had brought their way, and in each of those verses He ended with, “… yet have ye not returned unto me.” Quoting from Proverbs 3:11, Hebrews 12:5-7 and 9 brings before us a principle, “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? …Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” God’s people should realize that their lives are always not in keeping with God’s ways. He desires to have His people live lives that please Him, which is the best possible outcome for them. His desire is that they turn to Him. So there are times when He sends trials into their lives to provide correction. According to Zephaniah, they didn’t accept His correction.
Then Zephaniah said that they trusted not in the LORD. Many examples could be mentioned. One of the first ones was after the LORD had defeated Egypt at the Red Sea. God lead them to a place called Marah where there was no water. They learned there that He would supply their needs. He provided water out of a rock for all of them to drink, as well as their animals. Then, in Exodus 16:1-3 we read, “And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: and the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” After what they had learned about water at Marah, they didn’t trust the LORD with their supply of food. In spite of His care for them in supplying water, and His provision of a pillar of a cloud and fire to direct them in the way they should go, they didn’t trust Him for their food.
Finally, “…she drew not near to her God.” As noted before in the book of Amos, the LORD appealed to Israel to turn to Him. God’s desire is for His people. He wants them to look to Him and lean on Him in the events of life. The books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zephaniah as well as other prophets all include appeals to Israel to turn to Him, and thus away from their idolatry. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” He also said in Matthew 6:31-33, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? …for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” These appeals from Jesus to turn to God are in keeping with His heart for His people.
As believers in Jesus Christ, do we obey His voice? Do we accept His correction? Do we trust Him? Do we draw near to our God? This is what He desires.
Out on the mountain, sad and forsaken,
Lost in its mazes, no light canst thou see;
Yet in His mercy, full of compassion,
Lo! the Good Shepherd is calling to thee.
Calling to thee, calling to thee;
Jesus is calling, Come unto Me;
Calling to thee, calling to thee,
Hear the Good Shepherd calling to thee.
Far on the mountain, why wilt thou wander?
Deeper in darkness thy pathway will be;
Turn from thy roaming, fly from its dangers,
While the Good Shepherd is calling to thee.
Flee from thy bondage, Jesus will help thee,
Only believe Him, and thou shalt be free;
Wonderful mercy, boundless compassion,
Still the Good Shepherd is calling to thee.
Refrain (Fanny Crosby)