The prophets spend the vast majority of their time confronting idolatry. Idolatry is ultimately giving allegiance to people, powers, and things in the attempt to ensure security, freedom, and salvation. Zephaniah speaks against three idolatrous paths which Judah had been journeying down, and, by extension, challenges us to consider whether God is the only one to whom we are giving our ultimate allegiance.
First, Zephaniah speaks against the idol of false gods. Judah had turned to Molek, Baal, and the gods of foreign nations. Since God was standing in opposition to their sin, they wanted to find a god that would affirm their behavior while also guaranteeing a future of peace and prosperity. They wanted to give their allegiance to something they could control and did not demand any life transformation. Yet, in doing so, all they really did was increase God's judgment against them.
Second, Zephaniah speaks out against wealth. This is a far more common idol in America. People look to money as the ultimate form of salvation. We think enough money in the bank, solid stock investments, or a pension will lead to freedom from anxiety, worry or doubt. Yet money is a fickle god. It can do nothing to provide the security and life that we ultimately need. We can give our allegiance to it, but it gives nothing back.
Finally, Zephaniah speaks against the individual as an idol. In chapter 3, we are told that Judah had made themselves the final authority and power. They looked to themselves as the ultimate reality of life. If they did enough, accomplished enough, lived the right way, and did the right things; then everything would be fine. Though this is what the people thought; Judah, like us, make very poor gods. Our allegiance should not be given to ourselves, to material prosperity, or false gods, but to the one true God who gives life, salvation, and eternity.
Question of the day: Out of false gods, money, and yourself, which are you most prone to give your allegiance to over God? Why?
Father God, you alone are God. Help me to turn to you, trust in you, and look to you for life. Open my eyes to see things that I turn to as a substitute for you. Help me to repent of these actions and make you God over my life and longings. Amen.