A Beautiful Expression of Love in a Passage of Judgment – Zephaniah 3:17

What if you knew just how much God loves you? What would that mean to you; how would it change your life? In our post today, I would like to show you something spectacular.

The Setting

1. Zephaniah was a 7th century BC prophet related to the royal family of Judah (the southern kingdom). His message condemns Judah’s leadership (including his own relatives) and calls the people of Judah to repent before the arrival of God’s Day of Judgment.

2. The prophets delivered their messages by preaching and writing. Zephaniah, he must have been a terribly unpopular preacher; the first 75% of the book deals with judgment, destruction and the end of the world.

3. Things were bad in Judah; Zephaniah pronounces God’s judgment on the kingdom, its wicked political and religious leaders, and its wealthy citizens who exploited the poor. Things couldn’t get any worse; the people had abandoned God, rejecting his plan for their lives; they pursued their own interests with no regard for God at all.

4. We can imagine the people’s response to Zephaniah’s message of doom. Things were dismal until, at the end of his message, Zephaniah offers his listeners new hope: a reason to sing and to rejoice. Our interest in this post centers on this message of hope. After six “discourses of doom,” Zephaniah’s listeners are no doubt anxious for some good news.

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

Notice 5 Beautiful Expressions of God’s love to His people:

1. God is with you!The Lord your God is with you…” When you feel alone or abandoned, remember that God’s presence is with you. This literally means that God is “in the midst of you.” God is not just watching you; He is walking through life with you. He’s not just near you; He’s right in the midst of whatever you’re in the midst of. I love the words of Jesus in John 14:8: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Hebrews 13:5 says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” If you know Jesus through the new birth, He promises to be your constant companion.

2. God is for you! “…He is mighty to save…” God is a mighty warrior and He overcomes all odds to defeat the enemy so we can be free and safe. This word “save” is stated with an emphatic oomph. God is powerful and mighty and is for you! This should give us great assurance. I love John 10:28-29: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” Romans 8:31: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

3. God delights in you! “…He will take great delight in you…” The word delight means to be bright and cheerful. Some of us think that God frowns when He thinks of us. Instead of glaring at you; God is glad that He made you! The look crossing your Heavenly Father’s face when He thinks of you is joy. Max Lucado captures this thought well: “God is for you. Had He a calendar, your birthday would be circled. If He drove a car, your name would be on His bumper. If there’s a tree in heaven, He’s carved your name in the bark…”

4. God calms you! “…He will quiet you with His love…” This can be translated as “He will be at rest in His love.” The NASB puts it this way: “He will be quiet in His love.” Most often the love of the Lord is expressed as loyal love, stressing God’s unconditional commitment to us. The word “love” in this passage is an intimate love between a man and a woman. It is used of Jacob’s passionate love for Rachel (Genesis 29:20) and Song of Solomon 2:4,5-7

Isaiah 62:5: “As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” This is wedding imagery where God sweeps us off our feet and in the quiet rest of relationship we can cease striving. The idea here is that God contemplates His beloved with wordless adoration and perfect contentment. One commentator said that “The battle cry on the day of judgment will be replaced by the poignant hush of the reuniting of two lovers.”

I love the way some of the older commentators speak. Listen to what Albert Barnes has to say: “The soul, until it hath found God, is evermore seeking some love to fill it, and can find none, since the love of God alone can content it.”

5. God celebrates you! “…He will rejoice over you with singing.” God moves from the quiet rest of being in relationship with us to exuberant rejoicing. The Hebrew word for “rejoice” means “to spin around in joy with great gladness and glee.” When our kids were younger I used to spin them around and we’d giggle together. God is spinning around when He thinks of His sons and daughters as well. The word for singing refers to “a shout or shrill sound.” This is loud singing, not just mumbling or half-hearted lip synching. Do you picture God spinning and shouting in song when He thinks of you? Jared Anderson has written a cool song called “Amazed.” Here are some of the lyrics: “You dance over me while I am unaware. You sing all around, but I never hear the sound…”

Nehemiah 8:10: “…for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” This verse is commonly misunderstood to suggest that it’s our joy that gives us strength. Look closely. It’s God’s joy that gives us strength. When we picture Him as rejoicing, we can be rejuvenated.

Dennis Jernigan has written a translation of Zephaniah 3:17 from the Hebrew that captures the majesty of this verse: “The eternal self-existent God, the God who is three in one; He who dwells in the center of your being is a powerful and valiant warrior. He has come to set you free, to keep you safe, and to bring you victory. He is cheered, and He beams with exceeding joy and takes pleasure in your presence. He has engraved a place for Himself in you, and there He quietly rests in His love and affection for you. He cannot contain Himself at the thought of you and with the greatest of joy spins around wildly in anticipation over you…In fact, He shouts and sings in triumph, joyfully proclaiming the gladness of His heart in a song of rejoicing! All because of you!”

Bringing It Together

We need to hear the bad news in order for the Good News of the gospel to make sense. That’s why it’s important to use the 10 Commandments when witnessing because people need to see that they’re sinners before they’ll see their need for salvation. I have two steps in closing.

1. Repent of your sins. Zephaniah 3:11-12 describes the haughty and the humble. It’s only the humble who will repent. What’s it going to be? Will you face judgment or will you experience joy when the Day of the Lord comes? 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God “is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Yet 2 Peter 3:10 tells us that judgment will surely come: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

2. Receive the Savior. 3:9 refers to those who “call on the name of the Lord and serve Him shoulder to shoulder” with others. 3:13 describes the remnant and verse 15 says that “The Lord has taken away your punishment…” If you’ve never done what Romans 10:9 says, then do so today: “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Sure, the Bible has some bad news but the good news overshadows the bad. Here are the facts or promises we can hold on to.

* God’s presence – God is with you!

* God’s power – God is for you!

* God’s pleasure – God delights in you!

* God’s peace – God calms you!

* God’s praise – God celebrates you!



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About dkoop

Lead Pastor of Upwards Church: Leander & Jarrell, TX
This entry was posted in God & Justice - The Prophets and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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