Summary: We can rejoice because God calms us with the promise that he is with us to save us.
“Calm” is probably the last word that would characterize these few days before Christmas. This is especially true for children. I remember when I was a child – waiting for Christmas seemed to be an eternity. And the closer the holiday came, the more excited I would become. Sometimes, moms and dads have to tell their thrilled children to settle down, to be patient and calm.
Even for adults, these days before Christmas are anything but calm. The pressures of deadlines and last minute planning can cause a lot of stress. Too often the season of Advent is not calm, nor are the places we find ourselves. Frequently, our lives more often resemble the chaos of holiday traffic.
We all know we could use some calming down, so does the Lord. That is why the words of Zephaniah settle on our ears today. As we meditate on this section of God’s Word, it becomes obvious that the calm we desire is not something we can obtain for ourselves. The calm and silence we need in order to rightly prepare our hearts for Christmas can only be the result of God’s doing. So, relax, sit back, and listen to: HOW GOD CALMS HIS CHILDREN. 1) He Sweeps Away Our Enemies, and 2) He Lulls Us In His Arms.
1) He Sweeps Away Our Enemies
It’s difficult to calm an anxious heart. If you’ve ever been aroused from sleep by a tender child, and commissioned to fight the monsters and ghouls who dwell in that netherworld of dark bedroom closets or underneath beds, then you know just how hard it can be to calm an anxious heart. Similar fear and anxiety gripped the hearts of God’s people in Zephaniah’s day. This was a time of storm and stress when the doom of entire nations – including Judah itself – would be sealed. The whole world seemed to be often pawns in the hands of such imperial monsters as Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon.
In addition to the political and military unrest, rampant idolatry infected the nation of Israel. The people toyed with such monsters as Baal and Molech, and were even involved in the nightmarish practice of sacrificing their children to such foreign gods. Worship of the Most High God was at an all time low. It was difficult for the average Israelite to remain calm. There were physical and spiritual monsters on the loose. All the while, God warned his people not to pursue such things. The prophets warned them of the nightmares if they toyed around. God said that he would purge his people of their unfaithfulness. Prophet after prophet announced God’s impending judgment. Then there were those false prophets who proclaimed peace to this rebellious people. God’s prophets were to be ignored: “Don’t pay attention! Trust in our leaders, their policies and coalitions.”
Tensions ran high. Hearts were filled with anxiety. Calmness was a highly sought-after commodity that could not be found. Yet, Zephaniah managed to pronounce a message of hope and calmness in a time of unprecedented stress. Even though the prophet had to tell the people that their land and lives would be devastated because of sin – the monsters would seem all too real – yet the Lord would still rescue them from destruction. God would sweep away his people’s enemies. He would put himself into the fight even though his people didn’t deserve it. So the prophet says, “Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem!” God would kick open the closet door. He would peer under the bed. The Lord would turn the known world on its head, as he would purge Israel and Judah of their fears. Just as a parent forces a timid child to look into the empty closet or under the bed to prove all monsters have vanished, so God would force his people to face Babylon and Assyria by leading them into those nations as captives and leading them out again. They’d see firsthand that all those false gods are nothing more than stone and wood. The Lord almighty would lead his people to see that he is the great “monster slayer”; he is the one, true God.
It’s obvious that God will give his people every reason to sing, in the face of fear, sin, and failure. In fact, the Holy Spirit led Zephaniah to refer to the people in an intimate way: “Daughter of Zion, and Daughter of Jerusalem.” Zion was the hill on which the temple stood. Jerusalem was the city where the king lived. Here the prophet is painting a picture of God’s royalty who are his through faith. This is a picture of you and me, and all believers. The Lord is talking about that spiritual remnant, his faithful, who would be saved from the fiercest enemies.