Summary: This song of rejoicing is not only one in which the people of the LORD are exhorted to raise their voices, but also one in which the LORD Himself participates.
A CALL TO REJOICE
Eight out of the nine oracles in the little book of Zephaniah announce God’s just judgment of all the earth (Zephaniah 1:2-3; Zephaniah 3:8); and the just judgment of the LORD their covenant God against Judah and Jerusalem in particular (Zephaniah 1:4).
However, in the ninth oracle (Zephaniah 3:14-20), we discover that the God of justice and judgment is also the God of forgiveness and hope. He is our King, the LORD in the midst of us (Zephaniah 3:15). He is our incarnate Saviour who, in His love, rejoices over us (Zephaniah 3:17).
This song of rejoicing is not only one in which the people of the LORD are exhorted to raise their voices (Zephaniah 3:14), but also one in which the LORD Himself participates. The covenant LORD “rejoices” over the remnant of His people “with joy”; He “joys” over them “with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).
The cause of this rejoicing is, yet again, the reversal which the LORD has brought about (Zephaniah 3:15). This is not something which even the so-called ‘faithful remnant’ (cf. Malachi 3:16-18) had brought about by themselves. Rather, it is the work of God in His grace and mercy toward His own covenant people (cf. Zechariah 4:6; Ephesians 2:8-9).
The LORD speaks of a day in which evil will no longer be seen (Zephaniah 3:15). This reaches beyond the immanent Babylonian captivity to speak of our own deliverance from the bondage of sin and death (Romans 6:16) – centred as it is on the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Matthew 1:21).
“Fear not,” encourages the LORD – not for the first time, nor for the last. Lift up your weak hands, He continues. The LORD is mighty to save (Zephaniah 3:16-17).
The beautiful picture of the LORD removing our sorrows (cf. Zephaniah 3:18) resonates throughout the Bible (e.g. Isaiah 35:10). It reaches its climax toward the end, when God wipes away all tears, and there shall be no more pain, sorrows or death (Revelation 21:4).
The return of the exiles (Zephaniah 3:20) prefigured something greater that was yet to dawn, and which in some measure remains unfulfilled even for us who live between the two advents of Jesus (read Hebrews 9:28). May we continue to live in constant hope and expectation of His return!
The book ends as it had begun:
‘The word of the LORD…’ (Zephaniah 1:1);
“...says the LORD” (Zephaniah 3:20).