17 The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.”
Ah yes, Zephaniah 3:17, the sort of bible verse that is cross-stitched and framed in the homes of elderly women all across America. There’s a chance that your grandmother has this in her hallway, right next to a framed print of Jesus, the one with the erie eyes that follow you around. And if not your grandmother, then your mom probably has a nice little magnet with this verse stuck on the refrigerator, holding a picture of you – it’s probably embarrassing and she probably loves it.
It’s the sort of verse that used to make me nervous. As a young man, I wasn’t sure I wanted God to quiet me with his love, and I certainly didn’t want him to rejoice over me with singing. It reminded me of when my family would sing ‘happy birthday’ to me – the most awkward 30 seconds of an entire year.
But now, as a slightly older man, with a wife and three children, I’ve had a change of heart. I’m crazy about my kids and I frequently ‘take great delight’ in them – it’s the natural inclination of a father’s heart, and as a father, who is also a son, a son of the very best father, the Father of lights, I’ve decided not to be the squirmy, child who pulls away from the Father’s embrace. I’m beginning to learn that all that he does is for my good, even his song.
Four random thoughts:
1) Everyone is familiar with the saving God, far fewer know the God who takes great delight.
That’s sad, and I wonder if the depth to which salvation is able to illuminate my cold, dark heart isn’t directly related to my experience of his love. For too many of us salvation is an intellectual experience, purely academic. (thank you enlightenment)
2) Apparently God sings!
Who knew? I thought He just ‘spoke’! I mean we all sort of know that people sing to Him, or at least should sing to Him, but how many of us have ever heard His song over us?
3) If God is singing, then worship is a two way conversation.
We love because He first loved us. All worship is a response to the love of God – again, I wonder if one of the reasons that our corporate worship gatherings, as well as our private times of devotion, sputter along with an empty tank of effort is because we haven’t heard Him sing His song of love? Also, how many times have I been in gathered worship when there hasn’t been an opportunity for God to add His own melody, His own song to the set. (And by the way, I’m not talking about that weird, 1970’s deal where at any moment of silence someone speaks in tongues and then someone else ‘interprets’, usually beginning with “my people, my people”. Pass.)
4) If God is singing then… We sing when words alone are not enough.
We sing when speech fails us. We sing because some truth is simply too big for the spoken or written word, it must be sung. Melody is a kind of truth all its own – and if God is singing, the unlimited, infinitely articulate, creator of the universe – it can only mean that His love for us is bigger that most of us have ever imagined!