[Jason Bandura works with the Glen Elm Church of Christ and hopes to increase the attention he gives to Advent in this, his second year of observing the season. Anything that rescues meaning from the madness of Christmas for him and his family–wife Shannon and two sweet daughters–has his attention!]
In your Bible, when did the pages of Zephaniah last get exposed to light?
Surely, on the list of “Bible books least read”, Zephaniah has to be one of the top contenders. Even long-time church-goers would be hard-pressed to quote (or even paraphrase) a single verse from this prophet’s account.
Today, we change that with Zephaniah 3:17:
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.
Some key images of God are put forth here, but they are hardly new.
- A God who is present: This is one of the most extensive descriptions of God across the biblical text.
- A mighty God: That one starts in Genesis and continues on right through Revelation.
- A God who saves: Yet another of Scripture’s most persistent portrayals of Yahweh.
Somehow most of these are easily grasped by most of us. Despite the logical challenges of understanding a Being so unlike us, we appear to possess sufficient flexibility and acceptance within mind and spirit to accept a God who is here as a mighty hero, willing to rescue those in need. We seem especially adept at grabbing these truths in relation to other people’s lives.
But Zephaniah hasn’t finished.
- God will delight with gladness because of us.
- In His love, He will calm us.
- With songs, He will rejoice over us.
These are unusually warm and affectionate phrases. These are gentle-father-with-small-sweet-children phrases.
And they are about YOU.
Christmas season brings with it the mystery of the Incarnation, the taking-on-flesh by a Being too large for skin. The birth of Christ is stuffed to overflowing with theological weight. It is, in the truest sense, one of the wonders of the world!
That said, Christ’s nature is not the only mystery we struggle with. More immediately personal, Zephaniah’s words confront us with things we struggle to believe about ourselves.
- Can it be true that God finds delight in me, as I do in children dear to my heart?
- Is it really so that God is eager to sooth my fears and worries, as a parent would sooth a frightened little one?
- Is it possible that Yahweh warmly sings over me, so great is the joy He derives from me?
Zephaniah, one of Judah’s prophets during the days of the child-king Josiah, would urge each of us to take on the position of unbelievably-loved child with the fullest of confidence.
If we do, we may even hear a heavenly song being sung delightfully overhead!