By Ellen Ceely
“Sing aloud, O daughter 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.’” - Zephaniah 3:14-17
Do you prefer hearing good news or bad news first? Honestly, I would always prefer to hear the bad news first. I want to know the worst that will happen in a situation so that when I hear what’s going right, I can feel a sense of relief. I don’t want to hold my breath while waiting for the bad news to hit. I would rather get punched in the gut before breathing in fresh air.
This is how Zephaniah works. God sent Zephaniah to prophesy against Israel, reminding them of all they’d done wrong and how their sin would bring his judgment upon them. But God doesn’t leave his people in despair or darkness. No matter how much they might deserve to die, God is the God of redemption and salvation. He will always find a way to make things right.
In three short chapters God details how he will judge Israel for their actions, then judge their enemies for equally evil actions. Then, here in Chapter 3, we see God’s redemption. Chapter 3 speaks of hope at the end of the dark tunnel. God’s people will face many horrible things because of how they’ve turned away from God and his will, but this judgment will not last forever.
One day, God will take the judgments away and remove all enemies. Even though they face judgment, still God is with them—he is in their midst! God’s presence invites his people to stop fearing disaster and look for him. He is a God of victory, a warrior who rejoices over his people with gladness and rescues them from evil and disaster.
Here’s the good news: no matter how horrible the bad news is, God will still show up. He will bring renewal with his love and rejoice over his people. God doesn’t just like his people; he’s downright giddy about them!
As we walk through this season of Advent, how do you think Israel was hoping for these verses to be fulfilled? Do you think they recognized the victory God brought to the world through Jesus? Do you? How have you seen God bring victory in your life? Do you view him as the God who “rejoices over you”? Do you seek to be renewed by his love day by day? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Let's face it, the Christian life is hard. Relationships take work. Christians forget. Sometimes it is tempting to go back to the days when God was not the center of our lives - to backslide. We are all faced with tremendous pressures to drift away from intimacy with Jesus and the community of the Church. However, the Lord invites us to pay attention, to move forward, to draw near, and to live lives of worship. Draw Near: Hebrews on Christian Worship is a small group Bible study on the Book of Hebrews intended to lead participants into a deeper intimacy with the living God in the context of New Testament worship. Draw nearer to God in authentic worship today!
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