Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The LORD has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
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.
I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival,
so that you will no longer suffer reproach.
Behold, at that time I will deal
with all your oppressors.
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 in,
at the time when I gather you together;
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.
My son and I find ourselves at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital about once a month. He’s 14 and has a serious autoimmune disease. We seek medical answers and physical relief, but God has been working on our hearts along the way, too.
One day an unexpected gift unfolded before us in the cafeteria. Among the hubbub of the next Starbucks order and rushed lunchtime exchanges, our eyes were drawn to a scene in the far corner of the room. A father and son were also waiting, maybe there to seek answers and relief as well. We watched as the father leaned over his young son whose body, neck and head were supported by a specialized wheelchair. His son responded and strained to lean in toward his father. The smiling father gently stroked the boy’s hair and then we realized he was tenderly singing to his boy. He was singing over him. One moment we were in our own hard spot and the next we were undone by this intimacy and love.
In today’s passage, Zephaniah delivers some encouraging words and reminders of God’s intimate love. The words may have been especially sweet — an unexpected gift for the people at the time — since such harsh warning preceded them. They had become spiritually stagnant, complacent, indifferent about God and pursuing sin in every possible way, so the first two and a half chapters are a burning rebuke. But then Zephaniah delivers the promise that we all need: God will be in their midst. God will restore them. And then in amazing grace, God will even sing over them, rejoicing. He is a loving father and his way is to come to us in our brokenness.
In this time of Advent, in this time of waiting, lean in toward the Father. He is already leaning in over you, waiting to quiet you with his love and singing. The message of Advent and the message of God is always one of hope and restoration. So on this day, ponder these comforts: God himself is in your midst. He loves you, he delights in you, and he is singing over you.
Jill Nelson is the chaplain of small groups.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.