14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil.
16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
17 The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
Do you ever sing out loud? Ever put on some favorite music and just belt it out? In the shower? In the car?
Do you ever rejoice with all your heart over God? Maybe in church (or now your living room)?
But how can we rejoice in such dark days? How can we sing loud when our hearts are broken? Because we know that God is still rejoicing and singing loud over us.
Like most of the prophets, Zephaniah’s message for Jerusalem begins in the darkness. The “Holy City,” Jerusalem, is full of sin and wickedness. The great and terrible day of the Lord is coming for Jerusalem just as it is for her enemies. Listen to Zephaniah’s warning in chapter 1:
2 “I will utterly sweep away everything
from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
4 “I will stretch out my hand against Judah
and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
14 The great day of the Lord is near,
near and hastening fast;
the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter;
the mighty man cries aloud there.
15 A day of wrath is that day,
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
There’s no singing here, only crying. Zephaniah’s message of the “burning anger” of the Lord continues through chapter 2 and into chapter 3, coming to a head in 3:8.
“Therefore wait for me,” declares the Lord,
“for the day when I rise up to seize the prey.
For my decision is to gather nations,
to assemble kingdoms,
to pour out upon them my indignation,
all my burning anger;
for in the fire of my jealousy
all the earth shall be consumed.
But praise God Zephaniah’s prophecy does not end here. Keep reading. Hear these words of grace that gush forth from the prophet’s mouth – The Lord has taken away the judgments against you. He will rejoice over you with gladness; he will exult over you with loud singing.
How? How does God go from saying, from the fire of my jealousy all the earth shall be consumed to saying, the Lord has taken away the judgments against you? How does he go from darkness and gloom to rejoicing, gladness and salvation? How is such a turn possible?
The answer is of course our Savior, Jesus Christ. In Christ’s cross he has taken the wrath of God against Judah, their distress and anguish, their ruin and devastation, their darkness and gloom, and now, because of the cries of the Mighty Man (1:14), God can sing over Jerusalem (3:17).
And, if you are in Christ, God is singing over you too.
The incarnation of Christ is his union with Judah and with us. Jesus took our place here on earth. He succeeded where we failed. He lived a life of faithful obedience before God. Therefore, by his righteousness he can be the substitute for Judah, Israel, and all mankind. By experiencing the day of the Lord on the cross, he has taken the wrath that we deserve. But, because of the cross, the Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies.
Now only one “work” remains for the people of God – Sing aloud! Rejoice and exult with all your heart! Worship. Praise. The work is done! We are free of all judgment and clear of all enemies. We shall never again fear evil. The Lord God is in our midst, and he is singing over us with gladness. Jesus has turned the day of the Lord, and therefore every day of our lives, from reeling into rejoicing. This rejoicing is “to live is Christ.” This exultation is our union with Christ. This song is our salvation.
Yes, it’s dark around us. And yes, waiting is full of sorrow. But it is that sorrow that makes our song of rejoicing all the more necessary as an act of faith. Yes, it is noisy all around us, but Christ has quieted our hearts. And if your still enough today in your spirit, you might just hear the loud singing of the Lord our God rejoicing over you with gladness.
Are you able to rejoice today? What makes it difficult?
You in Christ
How does knowing that in Christ, God is rejoicing over you allow you to rejoice over him?
Christ in you
What is one way you can express the light of joy in a dark world today?
Playlist: Songs of rejoicing.