“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.’”
The consistent theme of the prophets of Israel and Judah was their brutal descriptions of the judgments God would bring upon them because of their rebellious spirit. Their sins were worse than the Canaanites before them. Even the nations around them were appalled at their wickedness. Zephaniah described Judah’s religious leaders with these words: “Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city! She listens to no voice; she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord; she does not draw near to her God. Her officials within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves that leave nothing till the morning. Her prophets are fickle, treacherous men; her priests profane what is holy; they do violence to the law” (Zeph. 3:1-4).
God grieved over the nation. He put his prophets through severe trials to illustrate the pain he experienced in seeing their rejection. Hosea was told to marry a promiscuous woman who would cheat on him so he could deliver his message with the same pain God felt. Ezekiel, among other things, suffered the death of his wife to illustrate the shock that was coming when Jerusalem fell. And Jeremiah delivered his painful message as one who was not allowed to marry at all, and seems to not have had one happy day his whole life. Isaiah said, “In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit” (Isa. 63:9-10). Jesus displayed a similar reaction to those who accused him when he healed on the Sabbath: “He looked around at them in anger and deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts” (Mark 3:5).
We are accustomed to reading of God’s pain and disappointment over his creation. How can we not be reminded of the pain we have caused him? Yet, do we live more carefully with this knowledge? God loves, God is merciful, God is kind, God is tenderhearted, God has joy, God has anger, and God can hate that which is evil. God’s emotions remind us that he has placed the same feelings in us because they are an extension of him. We relate to these emotional swings as we raise our children. Our children can be our greatest joy, but they can also inflict on us our greatest hurt.
We have inflicted on God the greatest hurt. That hurt is quite evident when we look at the cross. The cross rightly shames us for what we have done. That is why Zephaniah’s words describing God rejoicing and loudly singing over us are so amazing and insightful. God had no intention of leaving us to our sins so that we became his greatest disappointment. The cross was not just forgiveness, the cross was intended to melt our hearts and change us (Ezek. 36:25-27). Zephaniah foretold God’s emotions once that change took place. I am deeply moved when I think of God rejoicing over you and me with gladness, quieting us with his love, and exulting over us with loud singing.
Did you know God is singing loudly as he sits on his throne? Just imagine the angels listening as God sings. “Lord, why are you singing?” they ask. “I am singing because my people have changed, I’m dwelling in their midst, and I’m so full of joy, I just have to sing.” And forever and ever, our God sings loudly over us, filling heaven with his beautiful voice. What a wonder.