Zephaniah 1: (God said to his people by the prophet Zephaniah) 4 “I will stretch out my hand against Judah, and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off from this place every remnant of Baal and the name of the idolatrous priests; 5 those who bow down on the roofs to the host of the heavens; those who bow down and swear to the Lord, but also swear by Milcom; 6 those who have turned back from following the Lord, who have not sought the Lord or inquired of him.”
I have to admit I rarely read from the book of Zephaniah, a minor prophet whose writings are at the back of the Old Testament. This is one reason why I appreciate a bible reading plan that takes me through the entire bible, not just the parts I like or with which I am most familiar.
Like many other prophetic writings in scripture, Zephaniah is taking the people to task for worshipping other gods. One particular verse got my attention today, one that declares judgment on:
5 those who bow down on the roofs to the host of the heavens; those who bow down and swear to the Lord, but also swear by Milcom…
To worship the “host of the heavens” would be to worship the moon, stars, and constellations – as many other nations did. Milcom was a pagan god of the Ammonite people. But here’s the key part for me in this passage:
The people Israel worshipped pagan gods AND their own God at the same time. Our God is not okay with that.
“Syncretism” is a word that means “t0 mix religious systems”. This is the sin God is addressing here. The bible teaches us there is one true God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This kind of exclusive thinking is not much en vogue these days. Read below part of a blog post from a popular secular author and life coach:
Operating in the “both/and” universe is a response to years of our society operating in an “either/or” mentality. It is one of the major constructs of our automatic pilot reflex. But we do not have to live in the polarizing “either/or” paradigm. All around us is evidence of a both/and reality, reminding us that we live in a truly diverse, amazingly inclusive and paradoxically complex universe.
The period of modernity required us to choose one thing over another. One right choice, one wrong choice. Either/or. Post-modernity (the time in which we now live) resists this notion of exclusivity. Why? Because today’s culture has embraced diversity and inclusivity – the both/and. Why choose one when you can have many?
Post-modernity has also given rise to a strong ecumenical voice within the church. We don’t want to appear exclusive, closed-minded, or bigoted – so we embrace many religions as equally valid expressions of worshipping the divine. While I understand the sentiment here, and believe it applies in some areas of life, faith life is not one of them. The bible clearly teaches there is one God in three Persons. There is one baptism. There is one savior Jesus Christ. Sorry if this teaching offends, but the gospel has always been – and always will be – offensive to some.
Lord Jesus, give us grace to know you, for in knowing you we shall know the truth – and the truth shall set us free. Amen.