When God Rejoices
From Merciless Judge to Rejoicing Creator
“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.”
The first two chapters of Zephaniah present God as the merciless judge who brings unrelenting wrath upon those who are wicked. Throughout scripture, we are reminded that God does not overlook sin and does not leave the sinner unpunished. The first part of the book focuses on the coming the Day of the Lord, referring to the time when God will bring final and complete judgment upon the nations for their sin. But even as humanity immerses itself in rebellion against God, idolatry, and injustice, God remains sovereign in the universe. God judges those who develop a lifestyle centered on self and not caring for others or God. This judgment will culminate in the coming Day of The Lord when God brings final judgment upon sin. This ultimately will be fulfilled at the end of the age, as prophesied in the book of Revelation.
Nevertheless, even as the book points to the coming judgment of God, there is hope and promise of redemption. Those who humble themselves before God and take refuge in the name of the Lord will be delivered. He withholds his judgment from them and instead offers his grace. Because of the outpouring of God’s grace, those that trust in God will no longer fear disaster, for God himself will “not let your hands fall limp (3:15-16). The symbolism of the “let your hands hang limp” is that of one who is overcome with a feeling of weakness or powerlessness and discouragement. When God empowers us, fear is banished.
In verse 17, though, we find a surprising statement. Considering our salvation, we would expect Zephaniah to proclaim that we will have joy and exult God. But Zephaniah states that it is God who exalts over us with joy. In three parallel lines, each containing three phrases, God expresses the tenderness of his love for us. This he does by affirming the joy and satisfaction God experiences in his love for his people. It is incomprehensible to think that the God of the Universe, the one who is eternal in his existence, holy in his character, and self-sufficient in his being, would experience ecstasy over those who were sinners. It is hard for us to imagine that the God of the universe shouts for joy and rejoices over us! The very people who rejected him are not the objects of his love. Instead, he gives them “renown and praise” (vs. 20).
When we accept the salvation of Christ, Jesus states that “there is rejoicing in the presence of angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). When we read this verse, we often think of angels themselves rejoicing over our salvation. But if few look closely, it is not the angels rejoicing but someone in the presence of angels—God himself. God rejoices and shouts for joy when we surrender our lives to him and accept the offer of salvation. If God experiences delight and fun when we get the forgiveness he offers, how much more will he delight when we walk in obedience to him?