Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: The coming of Christ as the Father’s Love from Above is exemplified through: 1) The Rejoicing of Love (Zephaniah 3:14), 2) The Reasons for Love (Zephaniah 3:15), and finally 3) The Results of Love (Zephaniah 3:16–17).

For those who love Christmas music, there is a wide range of preferences. Some prefer fast paced simple tunes that raise their spirits. Others prefer more obscure tunes that may have a tie to a particular event or family tradition. Some look primarily for theological accuracy while others like peaceful, tranquil tunes that help people relax. I tend to prefer carols written in minor keys with descant. They tend to deal with times of difficulty and the love of God in such situations.

One such situation occurred to the people of God during the reign of Josiah. According to Zephaniah 1:1, the prophet Zephaniah delivered the Word of the Lord during the reign of Josiah, king of Judah. Josiah reigned from 637 to 608 BC. So his reign came to an end just 20 years before Jerusalem was sacked by the Babylonians and Israel was taken into captivity. Josiah is the king, you recall, who found the long-lost book of the law in the temple and tried to reform the people who had drifted so far into idolatry and wickedness. Zephaniah, then, was a part of this effort to call Judah, and especially Jerusalem, back to God. (Piper, J. (2007). Sermons from John Piper (1980–1989). Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God.). To mutually delight in the presence of God, to experience His Love from Above.

We properly sing and praise God when we recognize Him in our midst. That is what Christmas is all about. We have been created to join with the saints before us and the heavenly host in praising God for Emmanuel, God is with us through the person of Christ. While we are on this earth, we can sing these praises, not because all our difficulties have ceased, but because God is with us. In the coming of Christ this Christmas eve, we praise God for sending His Love from Above. We celebrate Christ with us, the one beloved by the Father, and the one who gives and shows us His love for us.

The coming of Christ as the Father’s Love from Above is exemplified through: 1) The Rejoicing of Love (Zephaniah 3:14), 2) The Reasons for Love (Zephaniah 3:15), and finally 3) The Results of Love (Zephaniah 3:16–17)

The coming of Christ as the Father’s Love from Above is exemplified through:

1) The Rejoicing of Love (Zephaniah 3:14)

Zephaniah 3:14 14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! (ESV)

The opening verse of this section contains an unrestrained summons to rejoice. By piling up every available expression for joy, the prophet leaps across the vale of gloom into the realm of grace-beyond-devastation (O Palmer Robertson). He starts with the direction to have a triumphant song. Indeed, they are to ‘Sing aloud… shout … Rejoice and exult/be glad. The term that is used for ‘shout’ is one that is often used in Scripture in connection with the cry 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. Coupled as it is with gladness and rejoicing, it is also reasonable to assume that these people are being called upon to rouse their faith and, as we shall go on to see, they have every good reason for doing so. Moreover, the kind of rejoicing that is expected is not half-hearted. Each person is told to rejoice ‘with all your heart’. They are to shake off all sense of reserve and doubt. They are to rejoice as though the victory had already been won, even though its reality is still some way off. With all their emotions the people should rejoice and exult/be glad (Barker, K. L. (1999). Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (Vol. 20, p. 494). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.). True praise of God can never be less than an exercise of the whole person (Ps. 103:1).( MacKay, J. L. (1998). Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah (p. 400). Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications.)

• Why do we come together to celebrate God’s love? In the midst of difficulty in our lives, alone we are tempted to doubt that He loves us. But when we come together in corporate worship we recount all that He has done and promises to do. The sending of His Son is the greatest gift of love and even though the consummation of His love seems far off, our worship is an expression of faith in the fulfillment of His promises.

Who is it that is to rejoice in this way? It is the people of God: ‘O daughter of Zion … O Israel … O daughter of Jerusalem!’ The very mention of these names—two geographical (Zion, Jerusalem) and one ethnic (Israel)—would have brought back wonderful memories of God’s gracious dealings with his people in the past. But it is not just, or even primarily, the past that is in this prophet’s mind now. He is concerned with both the present and a most glorious future that is in store for these people. He refers to the city as ‘daughter’—the simple explanation being that the Hebrew word for ‘city’ is feminine. This daughter is, however, the reassembled remnant of Israel. As such she has a special relationship with her Lord and therefore she is entitled to the confidence that goes with such a relationship. When these people sing and shout and rejoice, it is because they know something of who God is, what He is like and what He can do. Their rejoicing is based upon the certainty of the promises of one whose word will never fail. His word is the expression of His love to His people and the fulfillment of that word is evidence of that love.

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