Do you ever imagine God celebrating who you are? Why or Why not?
Read Zephaniah 3:14-17
Background taken from (Youth Cartel, LLC; Viva 69, "Presence").
A little background on the Scripture for this week: Like many of the prophets, Zephaniah is filled with doom and gloom concerning “the day of the Lord” and a time when God will judge and punish the nations that have abandoned God. For Zephaniah, this included the people of Judah (aka the southern Kingdom of Isra- el). Though they were the chosen people of God, they were not immune to God’s punishment, and Zephani- ah talks about this tragic day with similar graphic horrors that are common to the prophets.
Despite all that, there is another common theme to many of the Jewish prophets, and that is the fact that almost all of them end their writings with a sense of hope, restoration, and celebration. Judgment wasn’t the end of the story, and even amidst everything that was going wrong, God was with the people of Judah and already celebrating the restoration that would come.
Verse 14 starts with an invitation to “sing” and to “shout” which carried a connotation of going into battle. In Jewish culture, a ram’s horn was typically blown before a confrontation, and it was accompanied by the songs and shouts of the people celebrating a victory before it even happened.
Verse 15 provides the reason for celebration: “The Lord has taken away your punishment,” and because of that forgiveness, “the Lord, the King of Israel, is with you.” Because of the presence of God, the people will never have to fear again what could happen to them. (See 1 John 4:18 – “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”)
Verse 16 describes a full-body impact of the restoration that is to come. Think about what someone who let’s their “hands hang limp” looks like. Slumped shoulders, sunken head, and eyes, limp arms that signify a lack of strength, etc. Yet, because the Lord is with them, celebrating in their midst, arms will now be lifted in celebration. (Think “Touchdown!!” or any other sports analogy of making the winning shot or the walk-off home run.)
Verse 17 again repeats the refrain that “the Lord your God is with you.” And instead of a sense of judgment and anger, Zephaniah paints a much different picture of God’s heart towards the people: one of a lover. At this moment, God takes “great delight” (emphasis added) in the people of Judah and that God will join in with the shouting and singing (ala verse 14) because of the immense amount of love that God has for the people.
Time for Reflection
Remember how you feel on your Birthday, when everyone is singing Happy Birthday over you. We sing Happy Birthday together because we all agree we want to celebrate that you are you, and you were a gift given to the world on this day. Have you ever imagined God singing Happy Birthday to celebrate you? Take a moment to imagine God as the proudest parent you could ever ask for! God is your greatest cheerleader, singing and rejoicing over you every single day! God tells everyone how amazing you are and how delighted God is that you are living. How does it feel to know that God loves to celebrate you everyday?
You all know I love to celebrate Birthdays and we can never have too many balloons or cupcakes. I mean who doesn't love a great party? It seems to easy to celebrate and be excited for someone else. What would it look like for you to purposefully celebrate other people in your life this week?