Summary: 1) Rejoicing in the Prophecy (Zephaniah 3:14), 2) Reasons for the Prophecy (Zephaniah 3:15–17), 3) Realizing the Prophecy (Zephaniah 3:18-20)
27 people, including 20 children, were killed on Friday when a shooter opened fire at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. As one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history, it comes after a series of shooting rampages in the United States this year. Sandy Hook Elementary School teaches children from kindergarten through fourth grade - roughly ages 5 to 10. “It was horrendous,” said parent Brenda Lebinski, who rushed to the school where her daughter is in the third grade. “Everyone was in hysterics - parents, students. There were kids coming out of the school bloodied. I don’t know if they were shot, but they were bloodied.”. (http://www.parisstaronline.com/2012/12/14/newtown-connecticut-schools-locked-down-following-shooting-report)
For the people to whom Zephaniah spoke, there was little peace. They were a divided nation under continued hostility. But there was a special prophecy that Zephaniah would proclaim that would amaze the people. The prophecy would revolve around the gathering together of the people of God. Peace would come and one of the most amazing elements of the prophecy is the coming of God Himself: He Himself would rejoice over His people.
How do we rejoice when there is so much hunger, violence, war and terror? It almost seems inappropiate and insensitive. But this is exactly what God calls for, for a very good reason. It is not because of difficulties that we are to rejoice. It is because of the one who is soverign over these difficulties. Faith is believing in God and His promises especially when it seems dark. He calls us to look beyond the difficulties of today, to the coming of the Messiah: An era of righteousness and peace
In Zephaniah 3:14-20, the prophet wants people of all time to long for the peace of the presence of God. He calls us to see the 1) Rejoicing in the Prophecy (Zephaniah 3:14), 2) Reasons for the Prophecy (Zephaniah 3:15–17), 3) Realizing the Prophecy (Zephaniah 3:18-20)
1) Rejoicing in the Prophecy (Zephaniah 3:14)
Zephaniah 3:14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!
The first thing that the people of God are called upon to do is to sing in triumphant song. Indeed, they are to ‘Sing … shout… rejoice and exult.’ In a tripartite example of synonymous parallelism, where the same idea is repeated three times in different words (Baker, D. W. (1988). Vol. 27: Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (116). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.)
‘Sing’ is often translated ‘sing for joy’ as an outpouring of emotion at the realization of all God is and has done (Pss. 92:4; 96:12; 145:7; Isa. 12:6) (MacKay, J. L. (1998). Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah. Focus on the Bible Commentary (399). Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications.).
The term shout (hārîʿû) is frequently associated with the ringing outcry of a battle’s commencement. When Israel entered into battle, the trumpet blast was to be accompanied with a “shout” (Num. 10:9). The cry is one given at the beginning of a battle (cf. Num. 10:9; Josh. 6:10; 1 Sam. 17:20; 2 Chr. 13:12, 15), the outcome of which is not believed to be in doubt (Robertson, O. P. (1990). The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (336). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).
• It is easy to doubt in regards to God’s prophecy on the future. We must battle this doubt like any other destructive enemy. Having this enemy get a foothold allows for the deterioration of our relationship with God and neuters our effectiveness for Him.
The opening verse of this section contains an unrestrained summons to rejoice. The command to rejoice apparently was used by town heralds calling the city to rejoice when messengers from the battlefield brought good news of victory and deliverance (Barker, K. L. (1999). Vol. 20: Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah. The New American Commentary (493). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.).
‘By piling up every available expression for joy, the prophet leaps across the vale of gloom into the realm of grace-beyond-devastation.’ After all that Zephaniah said about judgement, it might well have been thought that sadness and depression were a far more appropriate response to the announcements that have been made. But the prophet is looking beyond all this and urging God’s chosen people to do the same (Palmer Robertson, The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, p.336.).
Please turn to Isaiah 12 (p.576)
When the destruction of Jerusalem occurred, its population was deported to Babylon (2 Kin. 24, 25). These verses refer to a remnant of dispersed and afflicted people whom God would bring back from Babylon to Jerusalem after 70 years of exile. This restoration began in 539 B.C. when Cyrus issued his decree that allowed the Jews to return to their homeland. The return of the Jews to Judah in fulfillment of Zephaniah’s prophecy foreshadows the final redemption of the earth (Thomas Nelson, I. (1995). The Woman’s Study Bible (Zep 3:18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.).