Study 9 ZEPHANIAH: THE MIGHTY GOD IN THE MIDST
STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS
by Francis Dixon
(Key-verse: Zephaniah 3:17)
Most of Zephaniah’s prophesying was of judgment, but he did not only prophesy of judgment, for while God hates sin, because He is holy and just, He loves sinners, especially His covenant people Israel. For this reason we find Zephaniah speaking, in chapter 3, of a time of great blessing that will yet come upon the earth, a time of millennial glory – referred to in Revelation 20:1-6.
In our key-verse we see the nature, the dignity and the resources of the Christian life. Here pictured for us is a glorious illustration of what it means to be a Christian:-
1. A Christian is someone who has been brought into a personal relationship with God.
Zephaniah speaks of “The Lord your God…” He is ‘a’ God and He is ‘the’ God, but here we are told something much more wonderful than this. Every Christian can say, “He is my God. He is mine!” – for every Christian has been brought into a personal relationship with the Lord Himself. This great truth of the redeemed sinner being brought into this relationship is emphasized over and over again throughout the Bible. For instance, look up and compare Genesis 28:21; Exodus 15:2; Ruth 1:16; Nehemiah 5:19 (and be careful to look for the personal pronoun ‘my’ in every case). Then go through the Psalms and notice Psalms 31:14; 38:21; 89:26; 118:28 – all summed up in Psalm 23:1 (first five words with emphasis on the fourth!). Now look at Daniel 6:22 and Romans 1:8, and compare John 17:3 which sums up the whole matter. Is this God, this great God, the living God, your God? Can you say, “He is my God?” If so, there is still something more wonderful revealed in this verse:-
2. A Christian is someone who is actually indwelt by God
Our key-verse reads: “The Lord your God is with you…” This is the distinctive and exclusive experience of the Christian – the Lord God dwells in the heart of every Christian! This is one reason why Christianity is unique from and superior to every other religion. Our God indwells those who know Him and belong to Him. No Buddhist and no Muslim can say that, but every Christian can. In Old Testament times God was with His people – as indicated, for example, in Joshua 1:9; but now, in this Day of Grace, the Lord is in His people. Look up and compare the following references: John 1:12; 14:17; 14:23; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27; 2:6; and (for an illustration of this truth), Revelation 3:20. A Christian, then, is someone in whom the living God dwells. Do lay hold of this amazing truth and make sure that it is really your experience.
3. A Christian is someone indwelt by a mighty God: the God who dwells in the Christian is mighty!
Zephaniah 3:17 reads, “The Lord your God…is mighty…” How great is your God? What is your conception of the God to whom you belong and who dwells within you? He is in fact the mighty God, for the word “Lord” is really the word “Jehovah” – the self-existent One, the unchangeable One, the everlasting and all-powerful God. He is in you, Christian! Just lay hold of that glorious fact! What then does He do for us? He exercises four gracious ministries:-
- 1. HE SAVES US. Zephaniah 3:17 says, “He is mighty to save…” He saves us from the guilt of sin by virtue of His death on the Cross (Romans 5:9); He saves us from the power of sin by virtue of the fact that He is our Risen Lord, now exalted at the right hand of the Father(Romans 5:10); and He will yet save us from the presence of sin at His second coming (Philippians 3:20-21). Ours is a three-fold salvation – deliverance from the penalty of sin, from the power of sin and from the presence of sin, and Christ is the One who lives within us.
- 2. HE TAKES GREAT DELIGHT IN US. Surely it humbles us greatly that our mighty, holy God should condescend to make us His own and then be so delighted in His fellowship with us! Why is this so? How is it that God can rejoice over us? It is because with His most precious Blood He has bought us and made us His own (and ultimately we shall be perfect and live with Him eternally). So He looks upon us and calls us ‘Hephzibah’ (Isaiah 62:4), meaning “all my delight is in her”.
- 3. HE LOVES US WITH TENDER LOVE. Zephaniah 3:17 declares, “He will quiet you with his love.” These words are capable of several renderings, but at any rate they mean that His love for us is such that it brings to His loving heart a deep satisfaction. Lovers do not need to talk; all they need is just to be together, that is enough, for together they enjoy a deep intimacy of fellowship even when no words are spoken. That is what the Lord desires to enjoy with each one of us, and what He wants us to enjoy with Him. That is how much He loves us! Do we love Him much in return?
- 4. HE SINGS A FESTIVAL SONG OVER US. Zephaniah 3:17 concludes, “He will rejoice over you with singing.” How amazing this is – Deity breaking out into song, the Holy Trio of Heaven singing for sheer joy that a company of unworthy sinners have been saved by grace! Surely there is a prophetic note of anticipation here. In the East a certain song is sung by the bridegroom when he receives his bride; it is intended to declare his joy in her and in the fact that his marriage has come. Here the God of love is pictured as married to His Church and rejoicing over her with singing. This is an anticipation of such glorious truths as we read in Ephesians 5:27; Jude 24; Revelation 15:2-3. What a great God and what a great salvation!