"For the Lord your God is with you. 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
This is one of my favorite verses. I first became familiar with it from a bible study by Kathy Troccoli and Dee Brestin called Falling In Love With Jesus. Oh, how I loved that study and how my heart's cry was (is) to fall in love with this precious Jesus. I wanted (WANT) to be head over heals in love with Him; to have a living, breathing, on-fire relationship with Him. I want to love Him more and more and see Him more and more. Like the song, "I Want to Know You," I want to hear Your voice, I want to touch You, I want to see Your face, I want to know You more..."
It has been really neat because I have seen so many bloggers use this same verse in the past couple of weeks. In fact, it was the winner for last week's Word-Filled Wednesday....
Imagine my reaction when I recently opened a journal from 2005 and discovered that I had written about Zephaniah 3:17! OK, God, are you trying to get my attention here? So, I decided that I needed to study this verse a little more in depth. This is one thing I need to be careful of.....I sometimes meditate on favorite verses and don't always take the time to study the context and allow God to teach me more and get in "deeper." So, this is what I found in Zephaniah.....
If you would like to read a little more about the history of Judah and dig a little deeper, or if you feel like you need some background, scroll down to the bottom of the post after the prayer for some bible study.
What I wrote in my journal:
The people of Judah chose NOT to obey God and to worship idols. My summary says, "they were materially prosperous and saw no need to repent of their sins in order to please God."
(It made me think of us today......materially prosperous with no need of repentance or the desire to obey God.......)
My bible says the purpose of the book of Zephaniah was "to shake the people of Judah out of complacency and urge them to return to God." Hmmmm.......I believe we need a good shaking, too! Oh, Lord, how we need to return to You in repentance!
Zeph. 1:6, "They no longer ask for the Lord's guidance or seek His blessing (inquire of Him)."
How many times, Lord, have I been guilty in just "barrelling ahead" in my own ways, doing my own "thing," not seeking You first- Your guidance or getting Your "blessing"~ just stopping to ask You if it's OK!
The Lords says in verse 12, "I will search with lanterns in Jerusalem's darkest corners to find and punish those who sit contented in their sins, indifferent to the Lord, thinking He will do nothing to them." How often have I sat in the dark, content in my selfish sin indifferent to God and taking obedience "lightly"? Have we done this as a Church?
"(Jerusalem) proudly refuses to listen to even the voice of the Lord. No one can tell it anything; it refuses all correction. It does not trust in the Lord or draw near to its God."
Lord, I confess I have been stubborn at times, refusing Your correction. I have trusted in the worldly things of life when I should have trusted You and I know there have been times when You have called to me to draw near to You, but I have sought out other things instead- food, TV, friendship, activities.......
God then calls Judah (and US) to repentance!
"Gather together and PRAY, you shameless nation. Gather while there is still time, before judgement begins and your opportunity is blown away like chaff. Act now before the fierce fury of the Lord falls and the terrible day of the Lord's anger begins. Beg the Lord to save you- all you who are humble, all you who uphold justice. Walk humbly and do right. Perhaps even yet the LORD will protect you from His anger on that day of destruction." (verses 2:1-3)
My reference says, "Wrath and mercy, severity and kindness, cannot be separated in the character of God.....Judah is polluted with idolatrous priests who promote the worship of Baal and nature, and her officials and her princes are completely corrupt. Therefore the Day of the Lord is imminent; and it will be characterized by terror, desolation, and distress. HOWEVER, by His grace, God appeals to His people to repent and humble themselves to avert the coming disaster before it is too late."
It made me think of the today and how similar we are to Judah. And, how God's heart appeals to us to turn to HIM! He doesn't want us to be confused with all of the other religions mixing with Christianity. He doesn't want us to worship idols~ money, food, body image, activities, work, praise of man...... He simply asks us to turn to Him. To seek Him. To humble ourselves and pray.
Lord, I pray that You "purify my lips so that I will be able to worship the Lord." 3:9
Lord, help me to be "lowly and humble"- never proud! "Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD's anger." (2:3)
But, look how precious God's heart is toward us! As we continue to read in Zephaniah, the tone changes.
"Cheer up, Zion! Don't be afraid. For the Lord your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty savior. (Can't you see JESUS?????) He will rejoice over you with great gladness. With love, He will calm your fears. He will exult over you by singing a happy song......you will be disgraced no more....I will save the weak and helpless ones; I will bring together those who were chased away. I will give glory and renown to my former exiles, who have been mocked and shamed. On that day I will bring you home again. I will give you a good name, a name of distinction among all the nations on earth....." (3:16-20)
Our God is so tenderhearted towards us. He loves us so much. It is His desire that we return to Him! He lives to take away our shame. He longs to bring honor to our name. He is so good. So loving, so forgiving..... He just asks that we love HIM completely....that we don't turn to the world for our help. He wants to be our Help. He wants us to be enthralled with HIM, as He is enthralled by us. He desires us to seek Him with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind, all of our strength. He wants to be the center of our lives. He loves us more than we will ever know or imagine. He rejoices over us with singing.
Father God, You are glorious. You are so good. Holy. Perfect. You are so tenderhearted and merciful. Lord, as I see myself, my Church, my generation in the people of Judah, I fall down on my knees in repentance, begging for Your forgiveness and mercy. I do come humbly before Your throne, worshiping You, placing You BACK on the throne to my heart. I am sorry I have turned to the "world", to other things in idolatry. I am sorry that when I felt overwhelmed about the party last week, I DID turn to food to comfort me. Lord, haven't I learned by now that FOOD will never satisfy me....never comfort me....never help me? Only You, precious Savior can do that. Lord, I thank You that only YOU are mighty to save. I thank You that You quiet my restless spirit with Your love. I thank You that rejoice over me with singing. I love You Lord. I love You, precious Jesus. In the name above all names, Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.
Zephaniah was a prophet during the "dark period" of Judah's history. 2 Kings 21 tells of the history. Israel (northern kingdom) had already been led into captivity due to idolatry and the people of Judah (southern kingdom) were following down the same path. Judah had been ruled by the wicked king, Manasseh. This king had "done evil in the Lord's sight." I mean EVIL! He worshipped many other gods, including Molech, who demanded human sacrifice of children. He rebuilt the high places (alters on the mountain to worship foreign gods) that his father, Hezekiah had destroyed. He built alters to Baal and built an Asherah pole to worship. Asherah was a fertility goddess and the pole was believed to have her deity within it. The Lord said of him, "Manasseh king of Judah has committed these detestable sins" and God tells of the destruction Judah will reap because of them. His son, Amon, succeeded him and also did evil in the eyes of the Lord. The Bible says, "He walked in the ways of his father; he worshiped the idols his father had worshiped, and bowed down to them. He forsook the LORD, the God of is fathers, and did not walk in the way of the LORD." These were God's people~ people who had such promise, who belonged to the Living God, who were the apple of God's eye, precious to Him. I can understand why it was referred to as "the dark days" of Judah. How God's heart must have broken as these people turned to the ways of the world- worshiping nature- the trees, the moon and the sun, stars and constellations and the gods and goddesses of the world around them. How sickened He must have been as they worshiped with shrine prostitutes and sacrificed their own children to heathen gods. King Josiah, a godly king, reigns next and tries to reform Judah.
So, enter, Zephaniah.... Early in Josiah's reign, Zephaniah brings the people a message of judgement on Judah and the world. He prophesies about a coming devastating day of the Lord. But he promises a wonderful future to those who humble themselves, seek the Lord, and live righteously.