Zephaniah 3:17
The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.
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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.

3:14-20 After the promises of taking away sin, follow promises of taking away trouble. When the cause is removed, the effect will cease. What makes a people holy, will make them happy. The precious promises made to the purified people, were to have full accomplishment in the gospel. These verses appear chiefly to relate to the future conversion and restoration of Israel, and the glorious times which are to follow. They show the abundant peace, comfort, and prosperity of the church, in the happy times yet to come. He will save; he will be Jesus; he will answer the name, for he will save his people from their sins. Before the glorious times foretold, believers would be sorrowful, and objects of reproach. But the Lord will save the weakest believer, and cause true Christians to be greatly honoured where they had been treated with contempt. One act of mercy and grace shall serve, both to gather Israel out of their dispersions and to lead them to their own land. Then will God's Israel be made a name and a praise to eternity. The events alone can fully answer the language of this prophecy. Many are the troubles of the righteous, but they may rejoice in God's love. Surely our hearts should honour the Lord, and rejoice in him, when we hear such words of condescension and grace. If now kept from his ordinances, it is our trial and grief; but in due time we shall be gathered into his temple above. The glory and happiness of the believer will be perfect, unchangeable, and eternal, when he is freed from earthly sorrows, and brought to heavenly bliss.The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save - What can He then not do for thee, since He is Almighty? What will He not do for thee, since "He will save?" whom then should we fear? "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31. But then was He especially "in the midst of" us, when God "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us; and we beheld His Glory, the Glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and Truth" John 1:14. Thenceforth He ever is in the midst of His own. He with the Father and the Holy Spirit "come unto them and make Their abode with them" John 14:23, so that they are "the temple of God. He will save," as He saith, "My Father is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand. I and My Father are One" John 10:29-30. Of the same time of the Christ, Isaiah saith almost in the same words; "Strengthen ye the weak hands and confirm the feeble knees, Say to them that are of a feeble heart, Be strong, fear not, behold your God will come, He will come and save you" Isaiah 35:3-4; and of the Holy Trinity, "He will save us" Isaiah 33:22.

He will rejoice, over thee with joy - Love, joy, peace in man are shadows of that which is in God, by whom they are created in man. Only in God they exist undivided, uncreated. Hence, God speaks after the manner of men, of that which truly is in God. God joyeth "with an uncreated joy" over the works of His Hands or the objects of His Love, as man joyeth over the object of "his" love. So Isaiah saith, "As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee" Isaiah 62:5. As with uncreated love the Father resteth in good pleasure in His well-beloved Son, so "God is well-pleased with the sacrifices of loving deeds" Hebrews 13:16. and, "the Lord delighteth in thee" Isaiah 62:4; and, "I will rejoice in Jerusalem and joy in My people" Isaiah 65:19; and, "the Lord will again rejoice over thee for good" Deuteronomy 30:9. And so in a two-fold way God meeteth the longing of the heart of man.

The soul, until it hath found God, is evermore seeking some love to fill it, and can find none, since the love of God Alone can content it. Then too it longeth to be loved, even as it loveth. God tells it, that every feeling and expression of human love may be found in Him, whom if any love, he only "loveth Him, because He first loved us" 1 John 4:19. Every inward and outward expression or token of love are heaped together, to express the love of Him who broodeth and as it were yearneth "over" (it is twice repeated) His own whom He loveth. Then too He loveth thee as He biddeth thee to love Him; and since the love of man cannot be like the love of the Infinite God, He here pictures His own love in the words of man's love, to convey to his soul the oneness wherewith love unites her unto God. He here echoes in a manner the joy of the Church, to which He had called her 1 John 4:14, in words the self-same or meaning the same.

We have "joy" here for "joy" there; "singing" or the unuttered unutterable jubilee of the heart, which cannot utter in words its joy and love, and joys and loves the more in its inmost depths because it cannot utter it. A shadow of the unutterable, because Infinite Love of God, and this repeated thrice; as being the eternal love of the Everblessed Trinity. This love and joy the prophet speaks of, as an exuberant joy, one which boundeth within the inmost self, and again is wholly "silent in His love," as the deepest, tenderest, most yearning love broods over the object of its love, yet is held still in silence by the very depth of its love; and then, again, breaks forth in outward motion, and leaps for joy, and uttereth what it cannot form in words, for truly the love of God in its unspeakable love and joy is past belief, past utterance, past thought. Rup.: "Truly that joy wherewith 'He will be silent in His love,' that exultation wherewith 'He will joy over thee with singing, 'Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man' 1 Corinthians 2:9."

The Hebrew word also contains the meaning, "He in His love shall make no mention of past sins, He shall not bring them up against thee, shall not upbraid thee, yea, shall not remember them" Jeremiah 31:34; Jeremiah 33:8; Micah 7:18. It also may express the still, unvarying love of the Unchangeable God. And again trow the very silence of God, when He seemeth not to hear, as He did not seem to hear Paul, is a very fruit of His love. Yet that entire forgiveness of sins, and that seeming absence are but ways of showing His love. Hence, God speaks of His very love itself, "He will be silent in His love," as, before and after, "He will rejoice, He will joy over thee."

In the next few verses Zephaniah 3:18-21 still continuing the number "three," the prophecy closes with the final reversal of all which, in this imperfect state of things, seems turned upside down, when those who now mourn shall be comforted, they who now bear reproach and shame shall have glory, and those who now afflict the people of God shall be undone.

17. he will rest in his love—content with it as His supreme delight (compare Lu 15:7, 10) [Calvin], (Isa 62:5; 65:19). Or, He shall be silent, namely as to thy faults, not imputing them to thee [Maurer] (Ps 32:2; Eze 33:16). I prefer explaining it of that calm silent joy in the possession of the object of one's love, too great for words to express: just as God after the six days of creation rested with silent satisfaction in His work, for "behold it was very good" (Ge 1:31; 2:2). So the parallel clause by contrast expresses the joy, not kept silent as this, but uttered in "singing." The Lord; the everlasting One, who changeth not.

Thy God; thine in covenant, never to be forgotten or repealed. Is mighty; can do all he will, can restrain and destroy enemies, can support and defend his own people. He will save, from thy fears, and thine enemies’ rage.

Will rejoice over thee with joy; will greatly rejoice in thee. Will rest in his love; will take content and satisfaction in this his love. The love he showeth to thee shall be rest to him; not thy loveliness, but his own love shall satisfy him.

Will joy over thee with singing; will show greatest love and joy in most affectionate manner: all expressions borrowed from the entirest love of man toward dearest relations, Psalm 103:11,13 Isa 62:5.

The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty,.... Every word carries in it something very encouraging to the church and people of God; and is an antidote against those fears and faintings they are subject to; Christ "is in the midst of" them; near at hand to support and supply them, to assist and strengthen them, to protect and defend them; he is not only near by his essential presence, which is everywhere; and by his providential presence, which is concerned with all his creatures; but by his gracious presence, peculiar to his church and people; and which gives them unspeakable joy, and is a sufficient security from all fears and dismayings; see Isaiah 41:10 and he, who is in the midst of them, is the Lord, Jehovah, the Being of beings, eternal, immutable, and all sufficient, possessed of all divine perfections; and their "God", God in their nature, "Immanuel", God with us; and who is "mighty", the Almighty God, the mighty Mediator, who has all power in heaven and earth; and, as man, the man of God's right hand, made strong for himself, and so able to save his people to the uttermost; to deliver them out of the hands of every enemy; to raise up his interest when ever so low, and to maintain and support it; to help and assist his people in every duty and service he calls them to:

he will save; he is as willing to save as he is able; he readily undertook in counsel and covenant to save the chosen ones; he came in the fulness of time to seek and to save that which was lost; he has wrought out salvation for them, and sees that it is applied unto them, and will come again to put them into the full possession of it: he saves them freely, fully, and everlastingly; he saves them from sin, Satan, the law, hell and wrath, and every spiritual enemy; nor has the church of Christ anything to fear from any temporal enemy; the converted Jews will have no reason to fear the Turk that will come against them with a vast army; for Christ, who will be in the midst of them, and at the head of them, will save them from him; to which salvation this passage has chiefly a respect;

he will rejoice over thee with joy; with exceeding great joy, not to be conceived of, or expressed; as a bridegroom rejoiceth over his bride: this will be the time of the open marriage of the Lamb with the Jewish church; and there will be strong expressions of joy on this occasion; Christ will rejoice over them to do them good; and there will be such singular instances of his goodness to them as will abundantly show the joy he will have in them:

he will rest in his love; continue in his love, without any variation or change; nothing shall separate from it; it shall always remain the same; he will take up his contentment and satisfaction in it; he will solace himself with it; it will be a pleasing thing to him to love his people, and to show it to them; he will take the utmost complacency and delight in expressing his love by words and deeds unto them: or, as some render it, "he will be silent because of his love" (r); and not upbraid them with their sins; or reprove, correct, and chastise them in his hot displeasure; or say one word in a way of vindictive wrath: and he "will make" all others "silent"; every enemy, or whatever is contrary to them; such is his great love to them (s); he will forgive their iniquities, and cover their sins, and in love to them cast them behind his back: or, "will be dumb" (t); and not speak; as sometimes persons, when their affections are strong, and their hearts are filled with love at the sight of one they bear a great regard unto, are not able to speak a word. The phrase expresses the greatness of Christ's love to his people; the strength, fulness, and continuance of it: words seem to be wanted, and more are added:

he will joy over thee with singing; there is a pleonasm of joy in Christ's heart towards his people, and so a redundancy in his expression of it; he rejoices with joy, and joys with singing; which shows how delighted he is with his people, as they are his chosen, redeemed, and called ones; as they have his own righteousness upon them, and his own grace in them; they are his "Hephzibah", in whom he delights; his "Beulah", to whom he is married; and it is his love of complacency and delight, which is the source of all the grace and glory he bestows upon them; see Isaiah 62:3.

(r) "silebit", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus, Calvin; so Ben Melech; "tacebit", Munster, Cocceius. (s) So Burkius. (t) "Obmutescet", so some in Drusius.

The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in {n} his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

(n) Signifying, that God delights to show his love and great affection toward his Church.

17. Render with R.V., The LORD thy God is in the midst of thee, a mighty one who will save.

he will rejoice over thee] Comp. Isaiah 62:5; Isaiah 65:19.

He will rest in his love] Or, he will be silent. The words seem to mean that God’s love will be so strong and deep as to hush motion or speech; it will be a silent ecstasy. The Sept. rendering, he will renew thee (reading d for r), offers no acceptable alternative.

Verse 17. - In the midst of thee; better, is in the midst of thee (see note on ver. 15). Is mighty; he will says; rather, a Mighty One who will save; LXX., Ὀ δυνατὸς σώσει σε, "The Mighty One shall save thee." This is the real ground of confidence: the Lord wills their salvation. He will rejoice over thee with joy, now that thy iniquity is purged, and thou art united again to him, as a chaste and comely bride (Isaiah 52:5; Jeremiah 32:41; Hosea 2:19). He will rest (Hebrew, be silent) in his love. This is a human expression, denoting that perfect love which needs no outward demonstration. For the very greatness of his love God rests, as it were, in quiet enjoyment of it. Some take it to mean that in his love for his people he is silent about, makes no mention of, past sins; but this seems less suitable, as this clause is merely an expansion of the preceding one. The Septuagint and Syriac Versions render, "He will renew thee in his love;" and Ewald has proposed to alter the present reading to, "He will do a new thing." But there is no sufficient reason for making the change. With singing. Again he gives to his ineffable love outward expression. The LXX. paraphrases accurately, "He will rejoice over thee with delight as on a day of festival" (Isaiah 65:19). Zephaniah 3:17"Exult, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! rejoice and exult with all the heart, O daughter Jerusalem. Zephaniah 3:15. Jehovah has removed thy judgments, cleared away thine enemy; the King of Israel, Jehovah, is in the midst of thee: thou wilt see evil no more. Zephaniah 3:16. In that day will men say to Jerusalem, Fear not, O Zion; let not thy hands drop. Zephaniah 3:17. Jehovah thy God is in the midst of thee, a hero who helps: He rejoices over thee in delight, He is silent in His love, exults over thee with rejoicing." The daughter Zion, i.e., the reassembled remnant of Israel, is to exult and shout at the fulness of the salvation prepared for it. The fulness is indicated in the heaping up of words for exulting and rejoicing. The greater the exultation, the greater must the object be over which men exult. הריעוּ, to break out into a cry of joy, is a plural, because the Israel addressed is a plurality. The re-establishment of the covenant of grace assigns the reason for the exultation. God has removed the judgments, and cleared away the enemies, who served as the executors of His judgments. Pinnâh, piel, to put in order (sc., a house), by clearing away what is lying about in disorder (Genesis 24:31; Leviticus 14:36), hence to sweep away or remove. 'Oyēbh: with indefinite generality, every enemy. Now is Jehovah once more in the midst of the daughter Zion as King of Israel, whereas, so long as Israel was given up to the power of the enemy, He had ceased to be its King. Yehōvâh is in apposition to melekj Yisrâ'ēl, which is placed first for the sake of emphasis, and not a predicate. The predicate is merely בּקרבּך (in the midst of thee). The accent lies upon the fact that Jehovah is in the midst of His congregation as King of Israel (cf. Zephaniah 3:17). Because this is the case, she will no more see, i.e., experience, evil (ראה as in Jeremiah 5:12; Isaiah 44:16, etc.), and need not therefore any longer fear and despair. This is stated in Zephaniah 3:16 : They will say to Jerusalem, Fear not. She will have so little fear, that men will be able to call her the fearless one. ציּון is a vocative of address. It is simpler to assume this than to supply ל from the previous clause. The falling of the hands is a sign of despair through alarm and anxiety (cf. Isaiah 13:7). This thought is still further explained in Zephaniah 3:17. Jehovah, the God of Zion, is within her, and is a hero who helps or saves; He has inward joy in His rescued and blessed people (cf. Isaiah 62:5; Isaiah 65:19). יחרישׁ בּאחבתו appears unsuitable, since we cannot think of it as indicating silence as to sins that may occur (cf. Psalm 50:21; Isaiah 22:14), inasmuch as, according to Zephaniah 3:13, the remnant of Israel commits no sin. Ewald and Hitzig would therefore read yachădı̄sh; and Ewald renders it "he will grow young again," which Hitzig rejects as at variance with the language, because we should then have יתחדּשׁ. He therefore takes yachădı̄sh as synonymous with יעשׂה חדשׁות, he will do a new thing (Isaiah 43:19). But this rendering cannot be justified by the usage of the language, and does not even yield a thought in harmony with the context. Silence in His love is an expression used to denote love deeply felt, which is absorbed in its object with thoughtfulness and admiration,

(Note: "He assumes the person of a mortal man, because, unless He stammers in this manner, He cannot sufficiently show how much He loves us. Thy God will therefore be quiet in His love, i.e., this will be the greatest delight of thy God, this His chief pleasure, when He shall cherish thee. As a man caresses his dearest wife, so will God then quietly repose in thy love." - Calvin.)

and forms the correlate to rejoicing with exultation, i.e., to the loud demonstration of one's love. The two clauses contain simply a description, drawn from man's mode of showing love, and transferred to God, to set forth the great satisfaction which the Lord has in His redeemed people, and are merely a poetical filling up of the expression, "He will rejoice over thee with joy." This joy of His love will the Lord extend to all who are troubled and pine in misery.

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