For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces, and Judah has multiplied fortified cities; so I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour her strongholds.
We are so easily distracted from the worship of God. The human tendency is to feed an apathy that is kind of like a spiritual ADD. Our attention span lasts as long as a 60 minute Sunday worship service and then we get on with what we want. And these days we demand that hour on Sunday be flashy, polished, well-produced, and each niche in the church be tailored to my own needs and demands. We are forgetting God, even as we go through these motions.
Israel and Judah had the same problem with self-focus. They went through the motions of worship. But Israel did so in Samaria in front of a calf-idol. And Judah went through the same feigned attempts while also participating in all sorts of gross idolatry. They had reduced God down to what they wanted. They would not worship Him as He deserved or as He demanded.
The result was that they put all their efforts into self promotion. It showed up in grand palaces and fortified cities. They were obsessed with themselves and their own perceived accomplishments. There was a problem. All this could be taken away in an instant. And God was going to do just that. He would burn down the cities and strongholds until there was nothing left that could be an object of their selfish pride. He would do whatever it took to get His people focused on a life of worshipping God.
So there is a lesson here in the results of pride and selfish promotion. It involves the uncomfortable realization that God can tear down our idols and our own constructions to get to our hearts. And He will do whatever it takes to recapture us in love, worship, and obedient relationship again. This was not just Israel's problem. Every one of us struggles with our heart's ability to supplant the ruling, loving affection of our God with some sort of selfish agenda. That is why reminding ourselves of God's sovereign rulership through knowing His judgments in the prophets is a good thing. It puts our attention back on God.