I am no expert on gems, but apparently, when you display diamonds it is best to place them on black velvet [P] – the luster and brightness are best appreciated against the contrasting dark background that absorbs all the light. The gleam and brightness is seen in all its glory. And we come to a real gem here in God’s Word today – but the brightness of this gem is only truly appreciated against the context of the dark background. Turn to Zephaniah chapter 3. We tend not to be that familiar with the Minor Prophets – in fact, if you are like me, there is probably only one verse you know from the book of Zephaniah. We know it for good reason – it is a wonderful message from יְהוָה, also because it was set to music, we sing it, or used to. [P] I remember vividly the first time I came across this verse. It was back in the 70’s, those heady days when the Spirit of God was doing a wonderful work in NZ. There was a renewed interest in the things of God; people were into God’s Word, excited about it and putting it into song – what became known as Scripture in Song. It has been called the Charismatic movement but there were people who had been going along to church for years and suddenly they had a new and fresh interest in the things of God, it wasn’t just religion, it was real and vital. Of course the Penties had known about it for years. But there were people from traditional churches going along to places where there were these Pentecostal preachers doing all sorts of weird and wonderful things, wanting to find out what was happening – curious and, I think, thirsty. Well, our family was attending a little Assembly at the time and Dad and Mum went along to what was known as the “Wild Life Centre” – do you remember it? – meeting in the old Horticultural hall in Cambridge terrace? They went, and we kids were dragged along too. I had no interest, I didn’t want to go, but in those days children did as their parents wanted. Well, what a culture shock! I was used to a service with hymns sung from a book, you stood up, sang (or mouthed the words), sat down – 15 minutes singing, 20 max. Well, these people never sat down! And the singing went on for over an hour! We would sing 4 or 5 hymns (with no music) they had loud band and they only sang one song! Not even a hymn with verses! One chorus sung over and over again! I mean I’d got the words and tune by the second time through and certainly had it memorized by the fourth time through! They had hardly started! If we sang it once, we must have sung it 2 dozen times! Over and over again they sang this one song, me standing interminably, looking at the pillars, wondering when they were going to stop! I can look back and laugh now. God’s got a sense of humour too, because He knew that some years on I’d be there singing in the Spirit with the rest of them as part of a Pentecostal fellowship. But there is something about that repetition, the Word of God getting written deep within – meditating upon it. And what was this song that they were singing over and over, that I had never heard before? It was this verse from [P] [Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in his love, He will joy over thee with singing.] – word for word from the King James Version. So let’s have a look at these final verses in the book of Zephaniah [P]. But let me first lay down the black velvet and remind you of the context we have looked at over these last months: The major theme of Zephaniah is the Day of יְהוָה [P] – a coming judgement [P], where יְהוָה will gather the nations; the fire of His wrath will be unleashed and bring the destruction of all things [P]. Last time we looked at the hopeless state of Jerusalem, יְהוָה’s people who refused to respond to Him. But יְהוָה’s plans will not be thwarted, He remains righteous and just and will not fail – He will save and preserve a remnant, [P] a humble lowly people who trust in Him alone to save them. So there is a remnant in Jerusalem, in Zion, who escape the terrible judgement, wrath and destruction that destroys the world. What a relief, what a joy to come through all that unscathed! Here is the response to this great and almighty deliverance. The greatest escape and rescue ever! [Zephaniah 3:14-20 Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! יְהוָה has taken away His judgments against you, He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, יְהוָה, is in your midst; you will fear disaster no more. In that day it will be said to Jerusalem: “Do not be afraid, O Zion; do not let your hands fall limp. “יְהוָה 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. “I will gather those who grieve about the appointed feasts — they came from you, O Zion; the reproach of exile is a burden on them. “Behold, I am going to deal at that time with all your oppressors, I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will turn their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. “At that time I will bring you in, even at the time when I gather you together; indeed, I will give you renown and praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes,” says יְהוָה.]
“In that day” (Zeph 3:16); “At that time” (Zeph 3:19 1x, Zeph 3:20 2x) – It is speaking about a specific time – the prophecy is talking about the day of יְהוָה [P]. As much as we love the verse and apply it to ourselves – primarily it is speaking, in context, about the day of the LORD.
Zephaniah 3:14 [P] Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! – It will be a wonderful time! “Zion”; “Israel”; “Jerusalem” – it is clear who the prophecy is about. But look at Jerusalem in (Zeph 3:1-4)! She is rebellious, tyrannical, defiled, unresponsive, far from God. But now יְהוָה is in her midst! Hallelujah! (Zeph 3:15; Zeph 3:17). Now she is called: "Daughter of Zion" "Daughter of Jerusalem" – indicating relationship, nearness – יְהוָה is her Father, tenderly caring for one delicate and beautiful. Evil and pride have been destroyed; peace, prosperity, security, righteousness and justice established for the faithful remnant who make יְהוָה their refuge. Praise will pour forth from them for the wonderful things that יְהוָה has accomplished – it is all His doing. All praise and glory to His Name! He has come to reign, defeated all those that have gathered together in united battle against Jerusalem. Praise is the character of the Messianic Kingdom! Hallelujah! It is a time of great joy and exultant praise under Jesus’ rule! It is whole-hearted joy. It pours forth spontaneously, unreservedly! Long the poor and weak have suffered, now their joy has come! The contrast is so wonderful! It is the shout of triumph – the final victory over all her enemies. Having been down-trodden for so long, so many wars (cf. Israel’s history), now there is true peace, true security, the full inheritance in the land promised so long ago has come! Jesus has done it! The Messiah rules! There is none to oppress them any longer. Suffering is over, joy is complete! (cf. Rev 22:3; 21:3-7). The call goes out for the daughters of Zion to rejoice! Why? Because her King has come! Hallelujah! (cf. Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.). It is a noisy time! As shouts and cries of joy go up! You know, we can be so restrained and dignified (“praise the Lord”). But when you are on the verge of destruction at the hand of the united nations of the world, when you are doomed, and suddenly, miraculously Jesus comes and wipes them out with the breath of His coming! You are alive! You are saved! Jesus has come! God has done it! You rejoice! You shout and you don’t care! Some of you may be old enough to remember the street celebration of VE day – the war was over! There was exuberant celebration; great rejoicing that couldn’t be contained. But the victory then is nothing compared to the victory that יְהוָה has won! Hallelujah! All His foes are defeated! The opposition of man is ended. And behind that war of men gathered against Jerusalem, is the spiritual opposition of satan and his demons. They have been vanquished! They rejoice with all their heart! It is Zion, Israel and Jerusalem – יְהוָה has not forgotten His people – He has restored their fortunes, their suffering is over! Praise God! [cf. Isaiah 40:1-2 “Comfort, O comfort My people,” says your God. “Speak kindly to Jerusalem; and call out to her, that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity has been removed, that she has received of יְהוָה’s hand double for all her sins.”]. יְהוָה has kept His promise that He made long ago to Abraham! (Gen 12:1-3) Hallelujah! It is a time of great joy and the loud expression of it – Shout! Shout for joy! Jesus reigns! (Revelation 19:6-7 Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him.”)
Zephaniah 3:15 [P] יְהוָה has taken away His judgments against you, He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, יְהוָה, is in your midst; you will fear disaster no more. – Jesus reigns! His Messianic rule of righteousness, justice, peace, security and plenty has been established. The proud and the wicked have been destroyed; the poor and the lowly, the humble and the oppressed have been exalted. Praise and glory to יְהוָה who has done it all! He has taken away His judgement and cleared away their enemies! All the nations gather against Jerusalem but יְהוָה defeats them in an instant. Hallelujah! [Zechariah 14:2-3 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. Then יְהוָה will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. Zechariah 14:9 And יְהוָה will be king over all the earth; in that day יְהוָה will be the only one, and His name the only one.] Israel is restored! The long awaited King has come! יְהוָה Himself is in the midst of Israel! Hallelujah! That is all we need! That is the most wonderful thing – to have יְהוָה with you, dwelling among you. יְהוָה is the King of Israel. He will reign with mercy – the judgements due to Israel have been taken away – taken away in the person of Jesus – He Himself bore them in His body on the cross! Praise His Name! She has been justified. יְהוָה has removed Israel’s enemies from her – those who seek to attack her and take her land. Because יְהוָה is reigning there is no need to fear for He is mighty on Israel’s behalf. With her judgements taken away there is no longer any punishment, hence there is no fear (cf. 1 John 4:18; Isaiah 54:14). Disaster will never come to Israel again, her time of punishment is over (cf. Isaiah 40:2; Psalm 91:10). Hallelujah! Evil will not befall His people again! Bless His Name! (Ezek 37:22-28).
Zephaniah 3:16 [P] In that day it will be said to Jerusalem: “Do not be afraid, O Zion; do not let your hands fall limp. – Zion will be comforted and encouraged (Isaiah 40:1,2) in that day, the day of יְהוָה. She has suffered so long, any promised relief proved so transient and illusory that she will have to be told not to fear, not to be dejected and depressed – this time it is for real! Your warfare is over, your punishment, the oppression, is no more! Don’t fear! Don’t be down-cast! There is no more cause for them to be afraid ever again – their enemies are vanquished forever!
Zephaniah 3:17 [P] יְהוָה 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 message is for Israel – for "Jerusalem", to "Zion" What is the reason for Israel to take heart, for fear and despondency to flee? (Zech 3:16) – Because יְהוָה is in her midst! Not in anger but in love, with joy and comfort – rejoicing and taking delight in His chosen people – His own precious possession whom He has redeemed for Himself! Hallelujah! יְהוָה Himself rejoices! He is overjoyed with His own people! That amazes me! – I get discouraged with myself, disgusted with my own worldliness, pettiness, lack of love, just how far I am from who Jesus is. How can God rejoice in His people? But here they are: purified, justified, sanctified – perfect, spotless, blameless! Fit for the King of kings! Hallelujah! (cf. Isaiah 35:3,4). יְהוָה is dwelling with His people, they are His people and He is their God! The long promised and hoped for dream fulfilled! God has accomplished His purpose! Israel is His people and He is their God! There is communion, relationship, closeness! (cf. Revelation 21:3 Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them! Ezek 37:23, 27; 2 Cor 6:16; Ex 29:45; Lev 26:12; Zech 2:10). God is in Israel’s midst! Now! Note the repeated emphasis on this (cf. Zeph 3:5, 15, 17). Dwelling among His people! The tabernacle is with men – in reality and in truth! He will show Himself mighty on His People’s behalf – a Hero, a victorious warrior! Literally “a warrior who saves”! It is the word from which we get “Jesus”! He has fought their enemies, been to war and delivered them! Hallelujah! A deliverer, a Saviour! Jesus! Jesus who is strong, valiant on her behalf! He is delighted with His people who He has redeemed! Isn’t that wonderful?! – Jesus delighting in His people?! How they have grieved Him, but now He is exultant! Overflowing with joy! God Himself bursts into song over His precious possession in whom He delights! Hallelujah! Rejoicing with shouts of joy! His great plan has come to fulfilment, His purpose has not failed! His people are His own! His vast and infinite love is toward His people Israel, toward Jerusalem, His city which He loves! There are also the quiet moments, just resting in His love, just being together – close and intimate, delighting in each other. The tumult of war is over forever – there is peace! Now יְהוָה and His people are so close – together in oneness, harmony, true fellowship as He intended it from the beginning (cf. Gen 1:26 3:8,9; John 17:20-26; Rev 21:3). Can you picture it? יְהוָה singing for joy over His people?! It is His people who are the cause of His joy - cf. Eph 1:18). Oh what exultation and joy there will be in that day!! (note repeated emphasis: on joy and rejoicing) It is loud, active – shouting and singing. יְהוָה is thrilled! How wonderful! יְהוָה’s heart satisfied! (cf. Isaiah 53:11,12). His plan of redemption accomplished! He has redeemed His own precious possession! Why are they a delight, because they are pure, righteous, spotless, complete – and it is all Jesus’ doing. He has made them to be like this. This is His new creation! All the pain and suffering, the mighty cost, has paid off. He has received the reward, the recompense, for His work. The Divine plan is accomplished!! Hallelujah! Oh what joy! The consummation of His plan, perfect oneness with His people.
Zephaniah 3:18 [P] I will gather those who grieve about the appointed feasts — they came from you, O Zion; the reproach of exile is a burden on them. There are those of God’s people who have been scattered from the land, yet they have clung to the traditions, they remembered יְהוָה in His appointed festivals. There are Jews who are happy in exile, they don’t want to return to the land – but there others whose heart is in Zion. They mourn because they cannot celebrate them in Jerusalem as יְהוָה instructed them to do. This failing grieves them – it is no light thing but dear to their very soul (a burden). To be outside the land is a burden to them, they feel the shame of it. These are not Jews in the Diaspora for convenience, Zion is in their heart, they long to be there and worship יְהוָה. These ones יְהוָה Himself will personally gather back to the land, the shame will be removed and they will be able to worship יְהוָה as they have longed to do. They will be restored to their land, יְהוָה will gather them back to Himself for they are truly His. Now they can truly worship יְהוָה as they long to because they are there in His presence in Jerusalem. That is where they long to be – do you? (Psalm 84:5-7 How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion! Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring; the early rain also covers it with blessings. They go from strength to strength, every one of them appears before God in Zion. Mal 3:16-17). They will enter into the joy of יְהוָה that is filling that place.
Zephaniah 3:19 [P] Behold, I am going to deal at that time with all your oppressors, I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will turn their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. Notice יְהוָה says “I will”! יְהוָה is going to act! It is a time of recompense, restoration, a turning of tables in Divine justice. יְהוָה will personally intervene on behalf of Israel, His people. He will act, deal with those who have oppressed and humiliated her. Long has Israel been oppressed by the nations, she will be humbled no more. יְהוָה will lift her up, removed her shame. He will turn it to praise. Israel will have renown – a name, known and respected in all the earth. יְהוָה himself acts on behalf of the weak and oppressed – it is the humble that He saves, the weak, the outcast, the fugitive – those who have been forced to flee from their home. He will gather them. Instead of disgrace and weakness, an object of reproach, despised in all the earth; the Jew will be respected and praised. The tables are completely turned when יְהוָה comes, when יְהוָה acts! Hallelujah! It is the proud that are destroyed in that day, the weak, humble and oppressed that are saved. It is the big turn around! Yet we seek to get ahead, to succeed, to be top, important! Paul said he gloried in his weakness – that is the guarantee of salvation, the strong and mighty are not going to be saved!
Zephaniah 3:20 [P] At that time I will bring you in, even at the time when I gather you together; indeed, I will give you renown and praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes,” Says יְהוָה. יְהוָה has spoken! – spoken to His people. Look how many times יְהוָה says “I will” It is all His doing! Praise His Name! He is no longer distant from His people, but near. There is a season in which יְהוָה will act – an appointed time. Men mock and say: “Where is God, what is He doing?” But יְהוָה will act! He Himself, personally, will bring His people in. "I will bring ..." "I will gather ..." " I will give you ..." "I will restore ..." (4 "I wills" in this verse and 4 in the previous verse). Again יְהוָה reiterates (this time addressing them personally) that He will gather them and give them a name in all the earth (cf. Zech 3:19), cause them to be praised among all the peoples of the earth. Israel, your shame, your reproach, your oppression IS OVER! Hallelujah! For centuries the Jews have been despised and hated, maltreated, discriminated against and killed. The scorn of all the earth now has become the praise of all the peoples of the earth. How things will be turned around when Jesus reigns from mount Zion! Come Lord Jesus! Come! יְהוָה Himself will restore Israel’s fortunes before her very eyes. They would not believe it if their own eyes hadn’t seen it, so long have they been trodden down. יְהוָה has spoken! Thus it will come to pass! Hallelujah! This is the certain and sure word of יְהוָה!
There is that gem in its context [P] – the day of יְהוָה, the restoration of Israel, the saving of Jerusalem in the final battle. יְהוָה shows Himself mighty [P] as He vanquishes all her foes. He shows that He not afar off but in her midst [P]. They know it for sure because He has saved them [P], delivered them from an overwhelming foe. No wonder that there is a response of rejoicing [P] – both from them and from יְהוָה Himself at the consummation of His plan that He has been working out throughout the entire history of man! יְהוָה has done it Hallelujah! So it is talking about Jerusalem and the day of יְהוָה. Yet we sing this song [P] – we take it to ourselves as if it refers to us! But, hallelujah! It does!! יְהוָה is still the same – He is MIGHTY! [P] We have had a glimpse of a portion of that power when He shifted the province of Canterbury 4 metres. But that is nothing to the power He shows every day when He causes the sun to rise. Maybe you are facing a situation now – you are weak, powerless – but He is Mighty! Hallelujah! Not only mighty but ALMIGHTY! He calls the stars by name [Isaiah 40:26-27 Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, “My way is hidden from יְהוָה, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”?]. Not only is He mighty – awesome impersonal power. He is in our midst! [P] He is not afar off, removed from us. He is there with us in that quake. Has He not promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us, that He dwells in us?! That where we are gathered together, He is there in the midst?! If He is amongst us, and all-powerful – who or what can prevail against us?! More than anything else we need God with us – Moses wouldn’t go on unless He had יְהוָה’s presence with him [Exodus 33:15 He said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.]. It is His presence we need – and that is His Name: “God with us”. God’s power is awesome but terrifying – but to have that One in our midst is great assurance and comfort. But not only with us, He is in our midst to save us – to act on our behalf to preserve us. Has He not saved us?! [P] Not just preserve our lives through a 7.1 quake, not just from the amassed armies of the world, but from sin, death, judgement, from satan himself! The greatest enemy ever! We have even more reason to rejoice! [P] And, wonder of wonders, יְהוָה Himself takes delight in us, He rejoices over us – because He sees His work as it will be when it is complete. We perfect, righteous, without spot or blemish, in His presence, like Him as a result of seeing Him as He is! It is His wondrous work from beginning to end – we are His workmanship. He has made us His own people and He rejoices and sings over us with joy! Rejoicing over the wonderful work He has accomplished in vessels of flesh. Yes, spoken of Jerusalem but true of us as well. To God be the glory great things He has done!