Loving God (Zephaniah 3:17)

“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

This is another of those verses that I grew up singing as a praise song. I am not certain that I ever bothered to wonder where it came from or what its context was. It described God and was consistent with all of the descriptions I was familiar with in The Bible, so that was enough for me.

The context of this verse is God speaking to Israel about future judgments. He has handed down the judgment that will be leveled against those who have failed to repent or seek God’s mercies. And the judgment is severe. God also hands down judgments against the nations that have caused Israel to trespass and those who have oppressed Israel. Again, the judgments are sever — just, but severe. After pronouncing judgments, God turns again to Israel and reminds them that a remnant will be left behind that He will have purified and kept for Himself. It is to this remnant that this verse is directed. That said, the promises given are for all of God’s children and this is corroborated by verses in the NT.

Promise number one: The LORD your God is in your midst. Jesus promised us that wherever two or more are gathered in His Name, He is there. Paul wrote that each believer, individually, is a temple of the Holy Spirit. We have God dwelling within us. God is very much in the midst of His people.

Promise number two: The LORD your God is … A victorious warrior. Modernity has devalued warriors. We should be ashamed of our peers who so do, but too often we applaud them. God is a victorious warrior. Sun Tzu wrote about the tactics and planning required to be a victorious warrior. So did von Clausewitz and dozens of other military strategists throughout history. The common thread amongst them all is that being consistently victorious requires superior everything. One may have superior equipment and lose due to inferior soldiery. The same holds true for all areas about which these men wrote. God is a victorious warrior. He does not lose. Ever. Since He does not lose, I can be confident that He will be victorious in those things which concern me. When Jesus was on the cross, He said “It is finished.” His victory was completed. After His resurrection, He told the disciples that He had the keys of death and Hades. He is victorious. More, Paul writes to the Romans that believers are more than conquerors in Christ.

Promise number three: He will exult over you with joy. God is not the sad sack as which people too often picture Him. The word exult is a too infrequently used word in English that means to jump with excitement. The idea is an excitement that literally cannot be contained and causes the body to bounce. God’s joy over us is so abundant that He cannot contain Himself. He bounces and jumps for the joy we inspire in Him. I suspect that we frequently picture God as this stodgy old man, sitting on an ornate chair with a disapproving scowl in His face. This promise to me is that He is not that guy. He is, instead, so enthused about me that He simply must bounce for the unbounded excitement within Him. There are verses in the NT that speak of all of Heaven rejoicing over one sinner who repents. I suspect that God’s rejoicing lasts longer than the rest of Heaven’s.

Promise number four: He will be quiet in His love. I find this oddly comforting. There are people who are obnoxiously loud about their love for someone. We all know these people. In the age of social media, they are the ones who are posting sappy, saccharine things about their snugglewumpus all over the blue nowhere. I am a rather private person, despite this rather public forum in which I write, and derive comfort from the knowledge that God will be quiet in His love for me. It will not be the loud, showy type of love, but the quiet, steady, warmth that upholds me in dark times. This is not the love that is popularized by movies and novels and the internet. The love that the internet lauds is the grandstanding, blaringly loud form of love that asks girls to events with song and dance numbers and leaves others trying to catch up. The love God is speaking of is the kind in which I can rest comfortably. The love He is describing is like an armchair: big enough to hold me, comfortable enough that I can settle in, and familiar enough that it is part and parcel of my life without needing to be ostentatious. There is much said about the love of God for the believer in the NT. Suffice it to say, it is the quiet sort of love that is described.

Promise number five: He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. I am a father. When my daughter does something of which I am proud, I will tell everyone. Her wrongs are less public. The endearing things; the accomplishments; the milestones are shared and shared again with others who love her. It is not just an expression of pleasure in the moment, but a repeated revisiting of those positives and sharing them with others. Why? Because I rejoice in my daughter. This morning, I am tired. We had a rough night. I knew going in that there would be rough nights. In the midst of the roughness are the tender moments when my daughter, seeking comfort, lays her head on her daddy’s chest and immediately settles.

These are great promises and bear reflection. By way of application, I ask myself the following questions. (1) Am I mindful that God lives within me and does my life reflect that truth? It is good to be reminded that God lives within me. It is also good to live according to that knowledge. (2) Am I trying to fight my own battles or taking them to the Victorious Warrior? God is a victorious warrior. While Paul wrote that we are more than conquerors, it is through Christ that we conquer. As was said to many OT kings: the battle belongs to the LORD. (3) Am I exultant over God? God exults over me. He is enthused about me. He cannot contain his excitement about me. The same should be true of me for Him. (4) Do I love God? Not the showy, grandstanding sort of love, but the quiet sort that is well contented in the knowledge that my God knows He is loved. It is not necessary that the world know that I love my wife. It is necessary that she know that I love her. Everyone else can think what they like. It is unnecessary that I trumpet my love for God to all and sundry. If I love Him, I will do as He bids me and the world will figure it out. (5) Do I rejoice about God; does the knowledge of Him and reminders of Him inspire joy in me? It should be true. Thoughts of my wife and children fill me with contentment and joy. Thoughts of God should do moreso.

Let today be a day wherein I get back in touch with the excitement and joy connected to knowing and loving my God.


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