A few weeks back I had to attend a legal hearing. Not only did I have to be there, I was going to be asked to testify. I was none too excited about this. The closer we got to the courthouse that morning, the more the butterflies in my stomach were starting to feel like vampire bats jostling for position as they erupted from their cave into the night sky. My heart raced as my mind frantically spat out monosyllabic prayers. Truth be told, I was a nervous wreck.
Then it happened. Holy Spirit brought to mind one of my very favorite Scriptures, Zephaniah 3:17. I won’t say that I was totally chilled out, but there was an incredible sense of calm. My breathing settled down and I could think more clearly. In that moment, God impressed upon me five truths contained within this one verse. Let’s take a look at this verse, phrase by phrase.
The Lord your God is with you
- We have His Presence
One of my favorite things about God is that He promises never to leave us or forsake us. Sometimes our circumstances may cause us to wonder if He really is anywhere to be found. But even when He is silent, He is present. This does not in any way mean that our lives will be perfect. We live in a fallen world. People around us make mistakes. We ourselves make mistakes. There are often repercussions as a result. Still, through the good times and the bad, God is there. Always.
He is mighty to save
- We have His Protection
It is easy to focus only on the kind and compassionate nature of Jesus and portray Him as a cosmic Mr. Rogers, with a soothing voice and a little song to ease your pain. Jesus absolutely is kind and compassionate. But that is a tiny tip of a very large iceberg. He is more, so much more, than that. God is a mighty warrior. The full power of the universe is at His command. He is the one who spoke that very universe into existence. And He strongly supports those whose hearts are completely His. Sometimes this means deliverance from the storm. Other times this means deliverance through the storm. Because He is more concerned about our character than our comfort, the protection God offers may not look like the storybook picture we create in our minds. However, with a bit of time and perspective, we see that the provision God offered was exactly what we needed.
He will take great delight in you
- We bring Him Pleasure
This is the one phrase that caught me off guard when I first started meditating on this verse. I mean, WOW, the Almighty God, the Holy One delights in me…ME! That’s a lot to wrap my head around. My relationship with my father was rocky at best. Growing up it seemed like the only time my dad spoke to me was when he was yelling at me about something. The relationship with my earthly father has definitely colored my relationship with my heavenly Father. I have caught myself in a time of prayer when I would think through my words very carefully – like a witness being cross-examined by a ruthless attorney – so as not to create any kind of loophole where He could use my words against me. I’m embarrassed to even say that. Once I realized I was doing this, it opened the door for deeper relationship when I confessed my difficulty and asked God to teach me how to love Him as Father. That is a request He has been more than happy to honor.
A few years back I heard a great quote by Eric Liddell that at the time I simply could not understand. He was the Olympic runner whose life story was the inspiration for the movie “Chariots of Fire.” Liddell said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” Doing what we are created to do makes God smile. Everyone is good at something. Whether that means designing great works of art, or helping the sick, or cleaning up after a natural disaster, or writing down the impressions He makes upon our hearts, whenever we do what we are wired to do, God is delighted. No matter if to everyone else our creation looks like a masterpiece or a lopsided, child-like stick figure, our Father will still proudly display it on His refrigerator door. It brings Him pleasure.
He will quiet you with His love
- He brings us Peace
Sometimes I get anxious. I’m one of those people whose natural tendency is to wig out for a few minutes, calculate the worst-case scenario, and proceed straight to panic mode. Fortunately, over the years I’ve learned how to manage this impulse and mostly keep it to myself. I’ve learned to take a deep breath and pull up scripture from my internal rolodex to remind myself of the goodness of God. Practicing the promises of God settles me. It helps me get my eyes off of the monster before me and onto the Spirit Who lives within me. Scripture clearly tells us that trusting in God is the pathway to peace (see Isaiah 26:3; Romans 15:13).
He will rejoice over you with singing
- God Parents us
This statement creates a beautiful mental picture. I can just imagine God, the ultimate Father, singing to His children. In times of trouble, that might look like quiet songs of comfort. In times of joy, it could be exuberant songs of celebration…or maybe even a war cry as He rushes in to defend His precious child.
When my daughter was a baby, and a very grumpy one at that, one of the things that quieted her was being sung to, and the radio simply did not cut it. One day my husband was driving somewhere with her in the car. She started squawling and would not stop in spite of his best efforts. In desperation, he called and asked me what to do. I told him to sing to her. “What should I sing?” he frantically inquired. “It doesn’t matter. Just sing to her,” I replied. He couldn’t think of any good calm-down-your-howling-baby songs, so he sang the only song that came to mind: I’d Be Better Off in a Pine Box. This still cracks me up years later. But you know what? It worked. She heard her dad’s voice (and he’s not exactly Sinatra!) and immediately calmed down. In times of distress, she needed to hear the sound of her parents’ voices.
The fact that this phrase goes a step further blows my mind. Not only does God sing over us, He rejoices over us. Just let that sink in. God loves you so much – YOU – that He bursts into songs of rejoicing. You make the Lord of Hosts, the Creator God, the One True King, sing out in absolute joy. The very idea makes my heart swell in response to His great Love!
Memorizing scripture is so important. When life gets tough, it gives us material for rehearsing the goodness of God, for remembering Who He is and who He says we are. It calms our anxious thoughts. It destroys fear with absolute Truth. When we hide God’s Word in our hearts, He pulls it into our consciousness at just the right moment to remind us that we are His, and we are held, not just for today but for all of our tomorrows.