Personal Devotion 

Zephaniah 1:5
“Those who worship the host of heaven on the housetops; those who worship and swear oaths by the Lord, but who also swear by Milcom”

Zephaniah was commissioned by the Lord to warn the people of coming judgment. In order to prepare the people for what was ahead, he explained the reason they were facing judgment. His message was both clear and simple, they must change their ways if they were to avoid what was ahead.

The first infraction the people were guilty of was worshipping the hosts of heavens on their rooftops. In ancient times rooftops were considered a part of the house and were used for family gatherings. It was on a rooftop where Bathsheba bathed, Peter rested and had a vision from heaven, where husbands are exhorted to flee from a contentious wife, and where the people of Judah were practicing idolatry.

Zepheniah’s ministry took place during the reign of King Josiah, who had brought about great reforms in the nations. Much of the idolatry that had plagued Judah for generations had been removed from the public sector. The problem was, while these idols had been removed publicly, they still remained in the private life of the people. God’s judgment would come because public reform was not affecting private living.

We are told the people continued to worship Baal, the sun, moon and stars, and Milcom, the false god of the Ammonites. Essentially, they were turning worship into syncretism by blending the worship of the true God with idols. Tragically, this is a common practice today. Many who claim to be followers of Christ, seem to pick and choose verses they like while ignoring others. By doing so, they are essentially creating a god of their liking, rather than submitting to the God of Scripture. This synchronistic idolatry ultimately caused Judah to turn back from following the Lord. When public commitment does not change private living, we will ultimately turn our backs on the Lord as well. It is in private where the real roots of the Christian life are developed.

What you do with your early mornings will chart the course for your entire day. Jesus rose a long while before daylight, departed from others, and spent time alone with the Father. His life was a pattern set for the rest of us to follow. It is important to begin each day with the Lord, in His Word, allowing Him to remove from your private life anything that does not belong.

Pastor Jim

 

Separation 

Joshua 22:26-27

“Therefore we said, ‘Let us now prepare to build ourselves an altar, not for burnt offering nor for sacrifice, but that it may be a witness between you and us and our generations after us, that we may perform the service of the Lord before Him with our burnt offerings, with our sacrifices, and with our peace offerings; that your descendants may not say to our descendants in time to come, “You have no part in the Lord.” ’”

 

The tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh chose to separate from the rest of Israel and live east of the Jordan River. Although the Jordan is not a large river, and crossing it during the dry season would not be a difficult endeavor, this division would prove to be very costly.  It is clear from the event recorded in Joshua 22, the effects of this separation were felt immediately.  Once they returned to their land, they attempted to create a connection with the rest of Israel by erecting an altar that resembled the one in Shiloh. In their minds, this would keep them connected to Israel, even when the Jordan separated them. Their actions were considered to be idolatrous by the other tribes, who pleaded with them, that rather than building an altar, why not cross the Jordan and join the nation. A religious symbol is not the solution for a wandering heart. 

 

Idolatry is strictly forbidden by the Lord, because erecting an image gives us a false sense of the presence of God. When we begin to drift from Jesus, we do not need to get a larger bible or wear a religious symbol around our necks. What we need is to get back to spending time with the Lord in the pages of His word, and putting what we read into practice. Jesus explained that the secret to success for the Christian is to abide in Christ. He said, just as a branch derives its life from being connected to the tree, so the Christian will have a constant source of life, when he remains connected to Him (John 15:5). 

 

It is important we do not let anything, no matter how small it may seem, create separation between us and the Lord. A little bit of compromise can have a large impact on our relationship with God. 

 

Pastor Jim