Lectionary reading for 12/12/2021: Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18
Selected passage for reflection: Zephaniah 3:14-20
Zephaniah 3:14-20 (New Living Translation)
(14) Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! (15) For the Lord will remove his hand of judgment and will disperse the armies of your enemy. And the Lord himself, the King of Israel, will live among you! At last your troubles will be over, and you will never again fear disaster. (16) On that day the announcement of Jerusalem will be, ‘Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid!
(17) For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.’ (18) ‘I will gather you who mourn for the appointed festivals; you will be disgraced no more. (19) And I will deal severely with all who have oppressed you. I will save the weak and helpless ones; I will bring together those who were chased away. I will give glory and fame to my former exiles, wherever they have been mocked and shames. (20) On that day I will gather you together and bring you home again. I will give you a good name, a name of distinction, among all the nations of the earth, as I restore your fortunes before their very eyes. I, the Lord, have spoken!’
The Israelites lived through years of faith and obedience to God as well as times of great disobedience and worship of idols. There were always consequences for their years of disobedience. During one of these periods of disobedience they were captured and taken into exile in Babylon. This is the historical context for the book of Zephaniah, one of the minor prophets.
Most of the 4 chapters are written about the judgment to come for the Jewish people, but in Chapter 3 we come to the verses for today. Zephaniah tells the Israelites to sing aloud because God is going to remove His hand of judgment and “the Lord himself, the King of Israel, will live among you!” The Israelites were always waiting for the Messiah to appear.
Over 25 years ago, I was in a painful season of waiting. I was experiencing secondary infertility and was waiting, hoping God would work and I would be pregnant again. I remember wondering if God was punishing me or if I was a bad mother. It was during this time, as one day I sat crying out to God, I opened my Bible. I didn’t open to any specific passage, just whatever passage it opened to. And there on the page I noticed a verse I had underlined some time previously. No note was next to it. I had no idea when I had underlined it. If someone had asked if I knew the verse, I would have said I had never read it or heard anyone quote it. But there it was for me on that painful, tearful day.
Zephaniah 3:17. “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” I remember the tears as they flowed harder. I wrote in my Bible the date and these words. “I feel like I’ve just gotten a love letter from God.” I read that the Lord MY God was LIVING with me. He was a MIGHTY SAVIOR. He was taking DELIGHT in me with GLADNESS. And with His LOVE, He was CALMING my fears. He was REJOICING over me with JOYFUL SONGS. (capitals are my editing).
I wonder if when the Israelites heard these words, they felt much the same way that I did. God was living with them. He was also saying that He would come to save them. They were waiting for the coming Messiah who they believed would be their earthly King. We experience this wait as we look towards the annual celebration of His coming as an infant and wait for His return to take us to be with Him forever.
My wait didn’t end as I had prayed it would. More pain than I could imagine was still ahead. But even now, I continue to hold this verse very close to me. It is still a love letter from God to me. And it is still a love letter to anyone who is waiting to experience Him or to see Him work.
Where in your life might you need this verse now? Close your eyes and imagine that Jesus is sitting right next to you. Feel Him as your mighty Savior. Notice how He is taking delight in you with gladness. Feel His love, calming all of your fears. Hear Him rejoice over you with joyful songs.
Lord, waiting is so hard. But You Lord are ‘in the waiting’ with us. Be our mighty savior today, who delights in us with gladness, loves and calms our fears. Rejoice over us with your joyful songs until our wait is over.
About the Author
Ruth has recently retired from a position in church ministry. She is a Spiritual Director and Certified Enneagram Coach. She is a mom to one son, a daughter-in-love and Omi to two beautiful granddaughters. She loves to run, bike, swim, read and spend time mentoring women.