The first reading is from the Prophet Zephaniah from the generation immediately preceding the Babylonian Captivity. The general morality of the people had sunk so low that God saw that the only remedy for them was to let them suffer at the hands of their enemies.
The prophet’s description of Jerusalem is most discouraging.
“Woe to the city, rebellious and polluted, to the tyrannical city! She hears no voice, accepts no correction. In the Lord she has not trusted, to her God she has not drawn near.”
In that same decade, Zephaniah’s contemporary, Jeremiah, gave us the sad indictment against the rich people of Jerusalem
When the common people could not pay their debts or their rents, they and their children were handed over to slavery. It even happened that the rich brought in their own relatives as house slaves.
Once, when the city was threatened by the Babylonian forces of Nebuchadnezzar, the city leaders asked Jeremiah if there was anything they could do to secure God’s protection. And, he told them God would save them if they released their enslaved kindred. They did free them; and Nebuchadnezzar moved away to hold off th forces of the Pharaoh.
The rich then, knowing they were safe, went out and rounded up those whom they had freed. At that time, Jeremiah told the population to resign themselves to being vanquished.
We cannot fool God by going on saying our little prayers, while committing our big sins.