Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
ZION’S JOY AND GOD’S
Zephaniah 3:14, Zephaniah 3:17.
What a wonderful rush of exuberant gladness there is in these words! The swift, short clauses, the triple invocation in the former verse, the triple promise in the latter, the heaped together synonyms, all help the impression. The very words seem to dance with joy. But more remarkable than this is the parallelism between the two verses. Zion is called to rejoice in God because God rejoices in her. She is to shout for joy and sing because God’s joy too has a voice, and breaks out into singing. For every throb of joy in man’s heart, there is a wave of gladness in God’s. The notes of our praise are at once the echoes and the occasions of His. We are to be glad because He is glad: He is glad because we are so. We sing for joy, and He joys over us with singing because we do.
I. God’s joy over Zion.
It is to be noticed that the former verse of our text is followed by the assurance: ‘The Lord is in the midst of thee’; and that the latter verse is preceded by the same assurance. So, then, intimate fellowship and communion between God and Israel lies at the root both of God’s joy in man and man’s joy in God.
We are solemnly warned by ‘profound thinkers’ of letting the shadow of our emotions fall upon God. No doubt there is a real danger there; but there is a worse danger, that of conceiving of a God who has no life and heart; and it is better to hold fast by this-that in Him is that which corresponds to what in us is gladness. We are often told, too, that the Jehovah of the Old Testament is a stern and repellent God, and the religion of the Old Testament is gloomy and servile. But such a misconception is hard to maintain in the face of such words as these. Zephaniah, of whom we know little, and whose words are mainly forecasts of judgments and woes pronounced against Zion that was rebellious and polluted, ends his prophecy with these companion pictures, like a gleam of sunshine which often streams out at the close of a dark winter’s day. To him the judgments which he prophesied were no contradiction of the love and gladness of God. The thought of a glad God might be a very awful thought; such an insight as this prophet had gives a blessed meaning to it. We may think of the joy that belongs to the divine nature as coming from the completeness of His being, which is raised far above all that makes of sorrow. But it is not in Himself alone that He is glad; but it is because He loves. The exercise of love is ever blessedness. His joy is in self-impartation; His delights are in the sons of men: ‘As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.’ His gladness is in His children when they let Him love them, and do not throw back His love on itself. As in man’s physical frame it is pain to have secretions dammed up, so when God’s love is forced back upon itself and prevented from flowing out in blessing, some shadow of suffering cannot but pass across that calm sky. He is glad when His face is mirrored in ours, and the rays from Him are reflected from us.
But there is another wonderfully bold and beautiful thought in this representation of the gladness of God. Note the double form which it assumes: ‘He will rest’-literally, be silent-’in His love; He will joy over thee with singing.’ As to the former, loving hearts on earth know that the deepest love knows no utterance, and can find none. A heart full of love rests as having attained its desire and accomplished its purpose. It keeps a perpetual Sabbath, and is content to be silent.
But side by side with this picture of the repose of God’s joy is set with great poetic insight the precisely opposite image of a love which delights in expression, and rejoices over its object with singing. The combination of the two helps to express the depth and intensity of the one love, which like a song-bird rises with quivering delight and pours out as it rises an ever louder and more joyous note, and then drops, composed and still, to its nest upon the dewy ground.
II. Zion’s joy in God.
To the Prophet, the fact that ‘the Lord is in the midst of thee’ was the guarantee for the confident assurance ‘Thou shalt not fear any more’; and this assurance was to be the occasion of exuberant gladness, which ripples over in the very words of our first text. That great thought of ‘God dwelling in the midst’ is rightly a pain and a terror to rebellious wills and alienated hearts. It needs some preparation of mind and spirit to be glad because God is near; and they who find their satisfaction in earthly sources, and those who seek for it in these, see no word of good news, but rather a ‘fearful looking for of judgment’ in the thought that God is in their midst. The word rendered ‘rejoices’ in the first verse of our text is not the same as that so translated in the second. The latter means literally, to move in a circle; while the former literally means, to leap for joy. Thus the gladness of God is thought of as expressing itself in dignified, calm movements, whilst Zion’s joy is likened in its expression to the more violent movements of the dance. True human joy is like God’s, in that He delights in us and we in Him, and in that both He and we delight in the exercise of love. But we are never to forget that the differences are real as the resemblances, and that it is reserved for the higher form of our experiences in a future life to ‘enter into the joy of the Lord.’
It becomes us to see to it that our religion is a religion of joy. Our text is an authoritative command as well as a joyful exhortation, and we do not fairly represent the facts of Christian faith if we do not ‘rejoice in the Lord always.’ In all the sadness and troubles which necessarily accompany us, as they do all men, we ought by the effort of faith to set the Lord always before us that we be not moved. The secret of stable and perpetual joy still lies where Zephaniah found it-in the assurance that the Lord is with us, and in the vision of His love resting upon us, and rejoicing over us with singing. If thus our love clasps His, and His joy finds its way into our hearts, it will remain with us that our ‘joy may be full’; and being guarded by Him whilst still there is fear of stumbling, He will set us at last ‘before the presence of His glory without blemish in exceeding joy.Zephaniah 3:14-15. Sing, O daughter of Zion — At that time, O daughter of Zion, thou shalt break forth into loud and joyful praises to Jehovah, for his goodness toward thee; and thou mayest even now do it, for thou shalt certainly enjoy this prosperous state. The injunction here to Zion, to be thankful and joyful, is trebled, sing, shout, and rejoice, as it is elsewhere in both Testaments; and it is a sin for the people of God not to rejoice, as well as not to repent. Thus, after the promises to take away sin, here follow promises of the taking away of trouble; for when the cause is removed, the effect will cease. What makes a people holy, will make them happy of course. But the precious promises here made to God’s purified people, although in some measure fulfilled to the Jews at their return from captivity, yet, in their full propriety of meaning, belong to the times of the gospel, and have their full accomplishment only in the comforts and joyful hopes of future felicity, which are the portion of the true disciples of the Lord Jesus. The Lord hath taken away thy judgments — That is, thy punishments. The prophet speaks of what was future, as though it were already past; of what God certainly would do, as if it were done already. He hath cast out thine enemy — Hath taken away the power of hurting thee from those who were before injurious to thee; or, hath removed thine enemies, who were the instruments of his vengeance. The King of Israel, &c., is in the midst of thee — He is returned to redeem and save thee, and gives manifest tokens of his presence in thee, and protection over thee. Thou shalt not see evil any more — While thy conduct is as becomes my presence with thee, thou shalt neither feel, nor have cause to fear, such evils as thou hast formerly suffered.
(1) they shall "not do iniquity,"
(2) "nor speak lies,"
(3) "neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth."
Threefold their blessedness; They shall:
(2) "lie down,"
(3) "none make them afraid."
Threefold the exhortation to joy here. (Rup.): "Sing to God the Father; 'shout' to God the Son; 'be glad and rejoice' in God the Holy Spirit, which Holy Trinity is One God, from whom thou hast received it that thou art:
(1) 'the daughter of Zion'
(3) 'the daughter of Jerusalem'
The daughter of Zion' by faith, 'Israel' by hope, 'Jerusalem' by charity." And this hidden teaching of that holy mystery is continued; "The Lord," God the Father, "hath taken away thy judgments; He God" the Son, "hath cast out (cleared quite away) thine enemy; the king of Israel, the Lord," the Holy Spirit, "is in the midst of thee!" Zephaniah 3:15. The promise is threefold:
(1) "thou shalt not see evil anymore"
Sing, shout, and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, Israel, and daughter of Jerusalem: the same persons, the same duty, but differently expressed, but the whole heart required in all.
shout, O Israel; the ten tribes, as Kimchi and Ben Melech interpret it; which shall now return, and all Israel shall be saved, Romans 11:26 and therefore just cause of shouting, and of keeping a jubilee on that account:
be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem; the metropolis of the two tribes; for now the children of Israel and of Judah shall be together, and seek the Lord their God, and the true Messiah, and find him; and shall embrace him, profess and serve him; which will be matter of great joy; and this will be sincere and hearty, and devoid of all hypocrisy. Several terms are used, describing the people of the Jews, to comprehend them all; and several words to express their joy, in order to set forth the greatness of it, as their happy case would require; as follows:Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)14. Sing, O daughter of Zion] Isaiah 54:1.
14–20. The Joy of the Redeemed People in the Lord’s Presence among them
The prophet looks forward to the time when all Zion’s afflictions shall be over, when she shall be redeemed and all her captive children restored, when the end contemplated by the Covenant, and towards which her history has been moving, even the Lord’s full presence in the midst of her, shall have been reached. In those days Zion shall sing and shout for joy, for her name shall be The Lord is there (Ezekiel 48:35).Verse 14. - in view of the coming blessing, the prophet bursts forth in exultation, yet with a vein of prophecy running through all the canticle. After the late denunciation of woe and judgment, he soothes the faithful with the promise of the grace and peace which the time of Messiah shall bring. Sing, O daughter of Zion (Isaiah 1:8; Zechariah 2:14; 9:9). He calls on the restored remnant of Judah to show its joy by outward tokens. O Israel. All the tribes are to unite in praising God. This is one of the passages where "Israel" is supposed to have been written by mistake for "Jerusalem." So Jeremiah 23:6. The LXX. gives, θύγατερ Ἱερουσαλήμ, "daughter of Jerusalem" (see note on Zechariah 1:19). The prophet enjoins a triple note of exultation in order to confirm the universal joy. (On the use of the number "three" in this passage, see Dr. Pusey's note, p. 480.) Habakkuk 1:1 : "Massa never occurs in the title, except when it is evidently grave and full of weight and labour." On the other hand, the lxx have generally rendered it λῆμμα in the headings to the oracles, or even ὅρασις, ὅραμα, ῥῆμα (Isaiah 13ff., Isaiah 30:6); and most of the modern commentators since Cocceius and Vitringa, following this example, have attributed to the word the meaning of "utterance," and derived it from נשׂא, effari. But נשׂא has no more this meaning than נשׂא קול can mean to utter the voice, either in Exodus 20:7 and Exodus 23:1, to which Hupfeld appeals in support of it, or in 2 Kings 9:25, to which others appeal. The same may be said of משּׂא, which never means effatum, utterance, and is never placed before simple announcements of salvation, but only before oracles of a threatening nature. Zechariah 9:1 and Zechariah 12:1 form no exception to this rule. Delitzsch (on Isaiah 13:1) observes, with regard to the latter passage, that the promise has at least a dark foil, and in Nahum 9:1ff. the heathen nations of the Persian and Macedonian world-monarchy are threatened with a divine judgment which will break in pieces their imperial glory, and through which they are to be brought to conversion to Jehovah; "and it is just in this that the burden consists, which the word of God lays upon these nations, that they may be brought to conversion through such a judgment from God" (Kliefoth). Even in Proverbs 30:1 and Proverbs 31:1 Massâ' does not mean utterance. The words of Agur in Proverbs 30:1 are a heavy burden, which is rolled upon the natural and conceited reason; they are punitive in their character, reproving human forwardness in the strongest terms; and in Proverbs 31:1 Massâ' is the discourse with which king Lemuel reproved his mother. For the thorough vindication of this meaning of Massâ', by an exposition of all the passages which have been adduced in support of the rendering "utterance," see Hengstenberg, Christology, on Zechariah 9:1, and O. Strauss on this passage. For Nineveh, see the comm. on Jonah 1:2. The burden, i.e., the threatening words, concerning Nineveh are defined in the second clause as sēpher châzōn, book of the seeing (or of the seen) of Nahum, i.e., of that which Nahum saw in spirit and prophesied concerning Nineveh. The unusual combination of sēpher and châzōn, which only occurs here, is probably intended to show that Nahum simply committed his prophecy concerning Nineveh to writing, and did not first of all announce it orally before the people. On hâ'elqōshı̄ (the Elkoshite), see the Introduction.
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