"The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy." Zephaniah 3:17 NASB
The book of Zephaniah is largely centered on the theme: “The Day of The Lord”.
In the introduction given in the ESV Study Bible, the Day of the Lord is said to have “two faces”. This will be a day in which the judgement, and blessing of The Lord will be clear. The nation of Judah is refusing to turn back to God, and falling into the perpetual pattern of Israel’s history of sin. They have not learned from seeing how sin, and idolatry has destroyed previous nations. God, through Zephaniah lays out the consequences of continuing to live a life apart from Him; and also the forgiveness that is available to them if they abandon their sinful ways, and return to Him.
As poetic as the book of Zephaniah appears to be written, it is packed with some serious punches for those who reject The Lord!
“I will bring distress on mankind, so that they shall walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the LORD; their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung.” 1:17
““Therefore wait for me,” declares the LORD, “for the day when I rise up to seize the prey. For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation, all my burning anger; for in the fire of my jealousy all the earth shall be consumed.” 3:8
However; there is hope for those who return to The Lord!
“Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” 3:14-17
Zephaniah 3:17 is found in the section of the book titled “Israel’s Joy and Restoration” in the ESV translation ~ Chapter 3:14-20. There is HOPE!!! Even though, at the time of Zephaniah’s prophecy, there seemed like there was very little for the people of Israel to exult over…they could. Why? Because salvation was coming! Restoration was coming! A time when they would be free from all suffering was coming! God was letting them know that He saw their pain and suffering and that He was among them.
We have nothing to fear, we do not need to lose heart…God will save us from “weak hands” (v16). He will “save the lame and gather the outcast and…change their shame into PRAISE and renown in all the earth.” (v19).
I LOVE the notes for this verse in the ESV Study Bible: “The previously weakened nation is in the presence of the mighty one, God himself, who, unlike human warriors and heroes, does NOT LOSE HEART.” This is the promise given to the Children of God at the conclusion of Zephaniah…hold onto it! Do not let the circumstances of life limit you…take JOY in the promised restoration, and live a #LimitlessLife!
Some Hebrew Insights…
WHO is with us??? “Yhvh” the Hebrew word that is the proper name of the God of Israel. This is the Name of God that is used more than any other in Scripture, and denotes the omnipotence of God – He is ALL POWERFUL!
This same word elsewhere in Scripture means that we can be sure that the God who is among us is the God who CREATED the universe (Genesis 2:4), the God who CREATED you and me (Genesis 2:7, 22), the God who appeared to Moses (Exodus 3:15), the God who parted the waters and led His people out of Egypt (Exodus 14:21), and spoke the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:2). It is the same God who is our shield (Psalm 3:3), our portion (Psalm 16:5), rock, salvation, stronghold (Psalm 18:2). His way is perfect, His Word is true (Psalm 18:30), and He sits enthroned forever (Psalm 9:7). THAT is the God who is in our midst!!!
There is another Name of God in Zephaniah 3:17 – “elohim” in Hebrew. This is the first name for God that appears in the Bible (Genesis 1:1). Elohim represents a transcendent God who exists apart from and not subject to the limitations of the material universe. Elohim is used a lot in Scripture in conjunction with Yhvh, as “LORD GOD”. The omnipotent God who created ALL things, shields, protects, comforts, provides for, and saves us, sits enthroned FOREVER, and not only exists apart from this world, but also makes His dwelling in our midst! WOW!!! As Derwin Gray would say: Marinate on THAT!
When I read “midst”, I picture being grouped together. The Hebrew word used here is “qereb” and has an INCREDIBLE meaning! It can be translated as “among” but also “inner thought, inside, inward feelings, inward part, inward thought, inwardly”. The Lord God is not just around us, or close to us…He is IN us!
“in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37
It brings me to my knees to think that the LORD GOD actually “sus or sis“: rejoices, takes great delight over me! It is God who brings forth the VICTORY. It is the LORD GOD who is the CHAMPION. Yet, He chooses to celebrate ME! The LORD GOD is “simchah” EXCEEDINGLY DELIGHTED with me. WHAT!?
Imagine the greatest day of your life, the best news you ever received…what was your response. If you were free to respond how ever you wanted, would you sit in silence; or would you jump up and down like a big kid and scream!!! The LORD GOD is so exceedingly delighted with you and me that He wants to “gil” CRY OUT with a “rinnah” RINGING CRY! I imagine church bells ringing! One of the things I loved about going to a wedding at a my old church in Scotland was the way they would sound the church bells to let the whole town know that there was a celebration going on! The church bells were ringing out with joy and delight over the wedding celebration. That is what the LORD GOD does over each one of us! He is celebrating our marriage with Christ, and He wants the whole world to know about it! He is proclaiming His JOY over us.
So What Now?
Let’s go back to the beginning of this verse…remember that the LORD GOD is IN us…so He is crying out from WITHIN us.
“out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45
Does the JOY of the Lord cry aloud in your life? Do the words that you speak reflect the delight that God has in you? Do they speak of the VICTORY that God has claimed over your life. The writer of Psalm 119 proclaims:
“Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11
I want to treasure the rejoicing that the LORD GOD is ringing aloud in my heart. I want His cry to be so loud that it is all that I hear! I long for the celebrating that is going on within me, through the LORD GOD, to burst forth in my life through my words and actions.
This week, I was reflecting on “words”, and I heard a song on the radio that included these lyrics:
Hawk Nelson: Words "Let my words be life Let my words be truth I don't wanna say a word Unless it points the world back to You"
Are the WORDS of the LORD GOD crying out from within you?