Take a look Zephaniah’s words in Zephaniah 3:6 – 7 (ESV):
I have cut off nations;
their battlements are in ruins;
I have laid waste their streets
so that no one walks in them;
their cities have been made desolate,
without a man, without an inhabitant.
I said, ‘Surely you will fear me;
you will accept correction.
Then your dwelling would not be cut off
according to all that I have appointed against you.’
But all the more they were eager
to make all their deeds corrupt.
At this point in Israel’s history the people had already been punished for turning their backs on GOD several times. In Zephaniah 3:6, GOD essentially tells His people “I have tried and tried to show you a small dose of the punishment that awaits you if you continue to reject me! You would think that my warnings would be enough for you to change your ways! But no, they have only strengthened your resolve to rebel against me!”
Why would the Israelites reject a GOD who not only warned them of the dangers of their ways but also provided them with multiple opportunities to repent of those ways? Here’s why: because their hearts never truly turned to GOD. Isn’t that sad? It’s one of the saddest love stories of all time. GOD loved HIS people with a love deeper than we can imagine, and yet HIS own people did not love HIM back.
A few years after Zephaniah delivered GOD’s warning to the Israelites King Josiah tried to get the people to change and he was successful for a short time and in a small way. The idols were removed, the people could no longer offer public worship to any false god. But it was only temporary. Josiah’s reforms ultimately failed because the people were not dissuaded from following their gods, they were merely prohibited. The kind of reform that Israel needed was one that could not be mandated by the king. Judah needed a spiritual reform.
Christ calls all of us to make a real, spiritual reform. He does not call for us to simply remove the altars and change our practices from time to time. He calls us to change our very hearts. He calls us to seek after the LORD, to seek after righteousness, and to seek humility (Zephaniah 2:3). He calls us to a life that is changed from the inside out. It’s a matter of changing your heart, it’s a matter of spiritual reform.