Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies.
The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak.” (Zephaniah 3:14-16)
Can you imagine how this message might be received by a nation that felt it was being terrorized by outside forces, forces that sought to destroy it? I am actually talking about Jerusalem and the Hebrew nation and not the current global nations. While the book of Zephaniah is meant to be a warning and a corrective for a nation that has wandered from God, this passage of Zephaniah seeks to reassure the reader that the Lord has a plan to save it and redeem it. And that God has not utterly abandoned it. But how might it or could it be received by current nations? Would it be “good news”?
“The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival.” (Verses 17-18a)
Maybe the message of relief would be well received; but not that it was a judgment against the nation. Although there are some instances, for some events and occurrences, that some people (please note all the qualifiers!) believe are the judgments of an “angry” God.
“I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it.” (Verse 18b)
And there would be naysayers who would say that disaster has NOT been removed. And others would say that those who have who have suffered should have never been thought to be deserving of it. Applying Old Testament thinking to modern times is not easy, and often not applicable. But it is thought provoking.
“I will deal with all your oppressors at that time.” (Verse 19a)
It is also interesting to consider who exactly are the oppressed . . . and who are the oppressors. Just as it is tricky to apply Old Testament verses and thinking, it is tricky to try to figure out who is who.
“And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord.” (Verses 19b – 20)
The thing is, beloved reader, to God anyone who is oppressed is worthy of being saved; and anyone who oppresses is worthy of being punished. Here, in Zephaniah, Jerusalem and Israel are the victims and who will be saved by God. But who in our modern times needs to be rescued from whom? Tricky questions . . . especially during the season of Advent when peace and joy and good will to all people is supposed to be assured. But then . . . we have not had much peace and joy and good will to all people lately have we?
May your Advent season be all the the Lord intends for God’s beloved. Selah!