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March 4, 2014

The LORD your God is with you (in your midst). He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with His love. He will rejoice over you with singing.–Zephaniah 3:17NIV

Spurgeon writes that “there never was any poem composed by human intellect which could match for a moment, in the sweetness of its notes, the succession of precious promises which God here proclaims in the ears of His chosen ones!” O Palmer Robertson adds that Zephaniah 3:17 moves into “the “holy of holies” by a rapturous description of the love of God for His people. This verse is the John 3:16 of the OT. The love of God for His own people is not a soft, sentimental emotion that has no strength to act on behalf of its object. For this God Who loves is Yahweh…,”the “God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty and the awesome God.” (Dt 10:17). That Almighty God should derive delight from his own creation is significant in itself. But that the Holy One should experience ecstasy over the sinner is incomprehensible.  God breaking out in singing! God joyful with delight! All because of you!” Surely we have to say with the psalmist “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. It is too high. I cannot attain to it.” (Ps 139:6note)

And so while these words were originally addressed to Israel in a time of great distress (the future Day of the LORD’s wrath poured out on the unbelieving world – see Zeph 3:8note, cf Revelation 6-19), God’s promises to Israel in the future are applicable in the present to every blood bought, heaven bound child of God. Perhaps you too are experiencing a day or even a season of adversity and distress which evokes a continual gnawing in your stomach from endless fear and wearisome worry. If so, I understand, for that is the season in which I find myself. In these times of great oppression with no end in sight, we need to recall Peter’s words that our manifold trials (1Peter 1:6note – manifold in Gk = poikilos =  trials of various “shapes and sizes”) are always accompanied by God’s “manifold grace” (again poikilos = grace just the “right shape and size”)” (1Peter 4:10note). So let us read Jehovah’s precious promises as personally addressed to us! Indeed, though we may be downcast and in despair because of our trials, in faith like the psalmist we can “Put our hope in God and again praise Him for the help of His presence” (Ps 42:5note), confidently declaring that “The LORD MY God is in MY midst. He is the Mighty One Who will save ME. He will take great delight in ME. He will quiet ME with His love. He will rejoice over ME with singing!”

F B Meyer says “Well would it be if each Christian were to devote some portion, however brief, in each day, to meditation upon this marvelous fact. “The mighty God, the King, is in the midst of me. I am God-tenanted, God-possessed. The High and Holy One Who inhabits eternity (Isa 57:15KJVnote) has taken up His abode in my heart.” Indeed, God’s people are at the heart of God’s heart. As His people, He is ever in our midst and thus we live in His presence, always on holy ground. Everything we do is sacred. Everything we do should be designed for His glory.

C H Spurgeon remarks “What a word is this! Jehovah God in the center of His people in all the majesty of His power! This presence alone suffices to inspire us with peace and hope (cf Ro 15:13Jn 16:33). Treasures of boundless might are stored in our Jehovah, and He dwells in His people (now = Col 1:27bnote1Cor 6:19note1Jn 4:4, and forever = Rev 21:3note). Therefore may His people shout for joy (Ps 32:11notePs 71:23note). We not only have His presence (Ps 95:2note), but He is engaged upon His choice work of salvation. “He is MIGHTY TO SAVE.” He is always saving: He takes His Name Jesus from it (Yeshua ~ “Jehovah saves”, Mt 1:21). Let us not fear any danger, for He is MIGHTY TO SAVE (Dt 31:8). Nor is this all. He abides evermore the same (Heb 13:8note); He loves, He finds rest in loving, and He will not cease to love (Jer 31:3). His love gives Him joy. He even finds a theme for song in His beloved (1Th 1:4note). This is exceedingly wonderful. When God wrought creation He did not sing, but simply said, “It is very good.” (Ge 1:31) But when He came to redemption, then the sacred Trinity felt a joy to be expressed in song. Think of it and be astonished! Jehovah Jesus sings a marriage song over His chosen bride (cf Rev 19:7noteIsa 62:5), as a Bridegroom rejoices over his Bride. Beloved, we are to Him His love, His joy, His rest, His song. O Lord Jesus, by Thine immeasurable love to us (Eph 3:18-19note), teach us to love Thee, to rejoice in Thee, and to sing unto Thee our Life-psalm.” As Matthew Henry once said “The great God not only loves His saints, but He loves to love them!”

Adrian Rogers tells a story of passengers on a ship in a severe storm and in danger of sinking. The passengers were whispering “Are we going down? Are we safe?” One passenger said, “I’ve got to find out,” so he made his way topside across the heaving decks, to the pilot house, where the pilot of the ship had his hand firmly on the wheel. The pilot turned and saw the fear in the passenger’s face and just smiled at him, not even speaking a word. On arriving below the once fearful passenger exclaimed “We’re going be all right. I’ve seen the face of the pilot, and he smiled at me.” What we need to do when we are crippled by fear caused by difficult circumstances or difficult people is look away from the “stormy waves” and into the serene face of our Jesus, the One Who is always MIGHTY TO SAVE (cf Heb 12:2noteIsa 45:22KJV).

Perhaps you feel like King Jehoshaphat who was afraid when he received the news of a “great multitude” coming against him (2Chr 20:2-3) but instead of focusing on his fear, he made the conscious choice to turn “his attention to seek the LORD” acknowledging “we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but OUR EYES ARE ON YOU.” God answered through a prophet exhorting him  ‘Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s.” (2Chr 20:15) He alone is MIGHTY TO SAVE! There are times in all of our lives when we feel overwhelmed by “the multitude who are coming against us” and it is in those times we especially need to imitate King Jehoshaphat’s faith (Heb 6:12note) and say “OUR EYES ARE ON YOU” Mighty Warrior. It is in those times we need to sense the reassuring presence of our Jesus Who is MIGHTY TO SAVE, Who Alone is powerful enough to calm the storm in our heart by speaking the words “Peace, be still!” (Mk 4:39KJV) But remember that while our Jesus is always mighty to save and may calm the storm around us, often He calms the storm within us, even while the storm around us continues to rage (cf Jn 14:27)! Indeed “He is able” (Heb 7:25note), for He has sailed rougher seas than the storm we are in now! “O soul, sinking down ’neath sin’s merciless wave, The strong arm of our Captain is MIGHTY TO SAVE; Then trust Him today, no longer delay, Board the old ship of Zion, and shout on your way: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Shout and sing on your way: Jesus saves!” Amen (M J Cartwright)

Fanny Crosby recalls addressing a group in 1869 and throughout her talk “the thought kept forcing itself upon my mind that some mother’s boy must be rescued that very night or perhaps not at all. So I requested that if there was any boy present, who had wandered away from mother’s teaching, he would come to the platform at the conclusion of the service. A young man of 18 came forward and said, “Did you mean me? I have promised my mother to meet her in heaven; but, as I am now living, that will be impossible.” We prayed for him and he arose with a new light in his eyes and exclaimed triumphantly, “Now, I can meet mother in heaven, for I have found her God.” Stirred by this event Fanny went home that night and wrote these great words “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave, Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen, Tell them of Jesus the MIGHTY TO SAVE.” Some 35 years later she was speaking at a YMCA and described the incident that led her to write “Rescue the Perishing,” after which a man came up and introduced himself, saying “Miss Crosby, I was the boy who told you more than thirty-five years ago that I had wandered from my mother’s God. The evening that you spoke at the mission I sought and found peace, and I have tried to live a consistent Christian life ever since.”  May Fanny Crosby’s story that led her to pen the hymn “Rescue the Perishing” encourage us to pray for the lost and “Tell them of Jesus who rose from the grave, Tell them of Jesus the MIGHTY TO SAVE; Plenteous salvation in Him does abound, Cleansing and healing in Jesus are found.” (Entwisle) 

When our world seems to be unraveling at the seams, we do well to recall that the One Mighty to rescue the perishing, is also MIGHTY TO SAVE us daily (sanctifying us by the enabling power of His Spirit – 1Pe 1:2note1Th 5:23note).  In those days when we don’t have a song in our heart, we need to meditate on the truth that the One MIGHTY TO SAVE is also the One Who “will rejoice over us with singing.” Many of us cannot imagine that we could bring pleasure to the heart of God (“You don’t know what I’ve done,” “I have too much guilt and shame for God to rejoice over me,” etc), but this text assures us that God definitely thinks differently. Spurgeon says “When your face is blurred with tears, your eyes red with weeping, and your heart heavy with sorrow for sin, the great Father is rejoicing over you. We are questioning, doubting, sorrowing, trembling, and all the while, He Who sees the end from the beginning knows what will come out of the present disquietude (anxiety, agitation, uneasiness), and therefore rejoices. Let us rise in faith to share the joy of God! Let no man’s heart fail him because of the taunts of the enemy (cf Rev 12:10). Rather, let the chosen of God rouse themselves to courage, and participate in the that joy of God which never ceases. Shall we not rejoice in Him when He, in His boundless condescension, designs to rejoice in us?” O what a liberating truth!

John Piper encourages us to ponder this passage asking “Can you imagine what it would be like if you could hear God singing? Remember that it was merely a spoken word that brought the universe into existence (Heb 11:3noteJn 1:1-3). What would happen if God lifted up his voice and not only spoke but sang?…When I think of the voice of God singing, I hear the booming of Niagara Falls mingled with the trickle of a mossy mountain stream. I hear the blast of Mt. St. Helens mingled with a kitten’s purr. I hear the power of an East Coast hurricane and the barely audible puff of a night snow in the woods. And I hear the unimaginable roar of the sun…but I hear this unimaginable roar mingled with the tender, warm crackling of the living room logs on a cozy winter’s night. And when I hear this singing I stand dumbfounded, staggered, speechless that He is singing over ME! He is rejoicing over MY good with all HIS heart and with all HIS soul (cf. Jer 32:41Dt 30:9)!”

A GOD Who is always near ME. A GOD Who is mighty to save ME. A GOD Who takes great delight in ME. A GOD Who quiets ME with His love. A GOD Who rejoices over ME with loud singing. It’s hard to imagine, difficult to believe, but it is true! How do I know? Because the last words of Zephaniah’s prophecy are “YAHWEH HAS SPOKEN.” (Zeph 3:20HCSBnote) Beloved child of God, Jehovah the Self-existent One, the Unchangeable One, the Ever-living One has said it and He will do it! Amen!

Now He has triumphed o’er death and the grave,
He lives our Redeemer, and MIGHTY TO SAVE;
To Him Who exalted forever shall live,
All honor, dominion, and glory we give.”

Play Fanny Crosby’s powerful hymn Rescue The Perishing
May the Father grant you manifold opportunities to tell others that Jesus is Mighty to Save. Amen

Zephaniah 3:17 In Depth Commentary
Zephaniah 3:17 The Savior Resting in His Love – C H Spurgeon
Zephaniah 3:14, 17 Zion’s Joys and God’s – Alexander Maclaren
Zephaniah 3:17 The Pleasure of God in the Good of His People – John Piper

From → The Names of God

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