Zephaniah 3:17 paints a beautiful picture of how the Father tenderly receives us: “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” The LORD made this promise to the nation of Israel during a time of intense rebellion and military oppression. This passage portrays God as a “mighty one” which conveys the image of a powerful warrior who will conquer all of our enemies. Poetically, this verse gives three ways in which God shows his fatherly compassion to his people: by rejoicing, quieting, and singing! One commentator makes this statement: “To consider Almighty God sinking in contemplations of love over a once-wretched human being can hardly be absorbed by the human mind.”
Can you genuinely fathom how the Creator of the universe rejoices over you as his child? Do you find bedrock assurance in the truth that our Father will quiet you by his love? This Hebrew word for “quiet” can also mean that God will “renew” you with strength by granting you a sense of peace that passes understanding!
This verse may be the only incident in the Bible where God himself is said actually to sing, and he bursts into joyous singing over his children!
The writings of John Owen have profoundly influenced my understanding of this Trinitarian identity. One paragraph in his book, Communion with God: Fellowship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, had a dramatic impact on me when I first read it many years ago, and it continues to resonate with me:
“So much as we see the love of God, so much shall we delight in him, and no more . . . but if the heart be once much taken up with this eminence of the Father’s love, it cannot choose but to be overpowered, conquered, and endeared to him . . . Exercise your thoughts upon the eternal, free, and fruitful love of the Father, and when you do this, you will find that your heart is wrapped up in delight for him . . . Sit down a little at the fountain, and you will quickly discover the sweetness of the streams. You who have run from him, will not be able to keep a distance from him for a moment.”
I love his imagery! He calls us to sit down with God by spending quality time in his presence to be overwhelmed by his love. Draw near to him, and he will draw near to you! And when you draw near and sit at the fountain of his love, you experience a sweetness in his presence. You won’t want to run away anymore. You won’t want to hide from God, become distracted by the world, or experience feelings of guilt and defeat. You will not be able to keep your distance from him at all because his love has overpowered your heart and you desperately want to bask in his breathtaking affection for you in Christ.
This is the greatest mystery in the universe, that the sovereign God in all of his blazing holiness, perfect righteousness, and sovereign power would dare save sinners such as you and me! This love is grace unknown. It is unthinkable. It is unimaginable. It is a love beyond degree.