“And them that are turned back from the Lord; and those that have not sought the Lord, nor enquired for Him.” ~ Zephaniah 1:6
Zephaniah 1:4-13 describes six (6) practices that led to God’s judgment of Judah when He sent them off to Babylon in captivity. We looked at the first sinful practice, idolatry, in a previous article. Now we will look at the second, pride.
Our text is actually the completion of the statement that started in Zephaniah 1:4. Accordingly, it could be considered as part of the judgment of idolatry. Nevertheless, there is a clear shift from rejecting God to serve idols, to just rejecting God. This change in emphasis highlights the fundamental issue that undergirds idolatry namely, pride.
Zephaniah explains pride in two ways:
- “Them that are turned back”
- “Those who have not sought The Lord, nor enquired for Him”
Firstly, “Them that are turned back” refers to persons who once sought The Lord, but decided that God’s way was not for them. To be clear, this does not describe ones who are backslidden or have fallen into sin like the prodigal Son of Luke 15. These individuals were at one point interested but never saved: Like King Agrippa, they were “almost persuaded”, but ultimately lost (Acts 26:28). They might have appeared to be Believers, but their rejection of God shows they never really were His:
“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”1 John 2:19
The crux of the problem is that, having looked at God’s way, they decided they could do better. That is the quintessential definition of pride.
“There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” ~ Proverbs 16:25
But this was not unique to Judah then, and it certainly isn’t now. Every day, though aware of God, though being taught the truth, individuals decide to go their own way. They decide that what the world has to offer is superior to God’s promises. They decide that their concept of life and their perception of truth is at least good enough that they can ignore God and go their own way.
Bizarrely, many also assume that God will be okay with their rejection of Him. Judah discovered the truth the hard way: God is not mocked and God does punish evil: God judges those who reject Him.
“He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”John 12:48
The second way in which pride is manifested is demonstrated by “Those who have not sought The Lord, nor enquired for Him”. The emphasis is on not desiring to KNOW The Lord personally or to look to Him for salvation, for guidance or for help. The individuals might have been diligent in keeping The Law, but the had no desire to relate to the God to which they made their sacrifices.
In the present day, we see this in evidence where God and His church are merely cultural institutions. A person goes to church when they are supposed to, but there is no real relationship with God. There is no real interest in knowing God, knowing His Word, seeking God’s guidance. The church is just something one attends and God is the guy they talk about, sometimes.
While this state of being might not be as open of a rejection of God as those who “turned back”, it still is rejection. The key issue here is that God isn’t worth knowing: He isn’t important enough to seek out and He doesn’t have anything I need.
“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” ~ Jeremiah 33:3
Sadly, our churches are full of those for whom God only “matters” for the few hours they spend in church each week. But God is only Lord of me if He is Lord of ALL of me ALL of the time.
If I can live without God some of the time, then I can live without Him all of the time: Therefore, I don’t need Him. That is, again, the exact definition of pride. If I don’t need God, then I am my own God.
“The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.”Psalm 10:4
God is available, God cares about us. The question is whether we care enough to seek Him.
“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”Jeremiah 29:13
In closing, it is often easier to identify those who reject God to worship something/someone else. However, God is also rejected by those who consciously, deliberately turn away from The Truth. And by those who live as if they don’t need Him, even if they profess otherwise.
God will not force Himself on us: He is not a bully. We can choose Him or reject Him, but we must expect to live with the consequences of our choice. Judah did.
“Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:
But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.”Jeremiah 9:23-24