The Book of Zephaniah starts out pretty grim. It is a smiting book. It is about how God is going to smite everyone. It is doom and gloom and the End is Near. Then, the book takes an unexpected turn toward the end. There in the midst of all of this judgment and wrath we find this stunning image of God.
“The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17
Who knew the book would end this way? Who knew it would end so full of love and joy? Who knew Zephaniah would be breaking joyful in the end?
Maybe I can describe it this way;
A soldier makes his way down a narrow street in Iraq. There has been gunfire, a small skirmish just ended (if you can call any skirmish small.) He hears the cry of a small child. He goes there to find an infant alone, scared, crying. Another soldier tells him the place is clear.
“What’s with the child?”
“I don’t know. He seems to be alone.”
He decides to stay with the child while the others look for the parents. He kneels down and takes the infant in his arms. The child is afraid. He continues to cry. He is so very tired. The soldier is also a father. He has two small children at home. He takes the infant in his arms, holds him gently against his Kevlar and rocks back and forth. And then he sings, he sings the song he remembered his mother singing to him when he was small and afraid, the song he sings to his own children back home.
“Sleep my child and peace attend thee,
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee,
All through the night
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and dale in slumber sleeping
I my loving vigil keeping,
All through the night.
He looked down and the infant was asleep. He was safe in his arms.
Did you hear what Zephaniah said, “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
God, our mighty warrior, who takes us in his arms in the midst of our fear and the danger of our world and holds us and sings over us. He celebrates us and loves us more than we can imagine. That is the picture of God I want you to carry with you today. The Almighty God, holding you, in love with you, singing over you.
This is the only place in the entire Bible that says that God sings over us. What a tender, beautiful picture. Who would have thought that old hard shell Zephaniah would be the one to give it to us