Stronghold 9: Zephaniah 3 (The God who delights in you).
“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” (3:17)
Sometimes verses surprise you. Everyone knows that God is mighty, but few know that He takes delight in us. Far more people know of God’s strength than of His tenderness. The amazing and surprising truth of this verse is that God is both, and that both benefit us.
I don’t know why this verse should surprise us, but we seem to think that someone can’t be both strong and sensitive. The strong hero who comes to rescue you won’t also be the one who sings lovingly over you. Our cultural stereotypes seem to pigeonhole men as being either strong and uncaring, or loving but weak. It’s absurd and we need to forget it. The truth is that we (men and women) can be both. That’s because the God who made us in His image is both.
This verse tells us that God is with us and that He’s mighty to save. But it also tells us that He delights in us, that He will quiet us with His love and that He rejoices over us with singing. That’s remarkable. Both that these amazing characteristics can be found in the same verse and in the same person. God is not a conquering warlord who is always angry and never affectionate; nor is He a lovesick weakling unable to deliver you from the troubles you face. He is a divine blend of love and strength in equal measure. Our God is amazing – He does all things well and can be all things to us.
Maybe you don’t struggle with the idea of God’s strength – maybe it’s obvious and easy to you that He’s strong and can deliver you. Maybe what you struggle with is the idea of Him delighting in you. Maybe you don’t think you’re worth it or that God would never bother to spend time singing over you. This verse should be your stronghold, because it tells you otherwise. It tells you that He has all the time in the world for you, and thinks the world of you.
Maybe like the Israelites Zephaniah was prophesying to in this book you think you’ve sinned too much for God to still love you, or that you’ve forfeited His delight by wandering too far. Maybe you don’t feel like He’s there. Again this verse should tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. It assures us that He is with us, no matter what we’ve done or how we’ve failed. It speaks of grace after failure, rejoicing after rebuking and love that doesn’t give up. The Israelites had to go through one heck of a rebuke from God before they could get back to that place of delight, but Jesus has taken all our rebuke for us. The punishment went on Him so that the peace could be on us. This verse is for you if you’re in Him. If Jesus is your Saviour then God is both your deliverer and the loving father singing over you. Infinite strength and devoted attention – that’s what you have in and from God.
Or maybe you’re in a place where you need deliverance from specific and overwhelming troubles. Maybe you delight in God and have no trouble picturing Him singing over you, the problem is Him coming through for you. The songs and the prayers and the hugs are all very nice, but nothing seems to change, the breakthrough doesn’t come or the opposition won’t go away. If you’re in that place, you too need to hear this verse and make it your stronghold. You need to be reminded of God’s mighty power. He is strong to save. He will save you from what you’re facing. He will come through for you.
The ways in which this verse can be a stronghold for us are as varied as the different kinds of people who need to seek refuge in it. Struggling with a problem you can’t beat on your own? Come here and take strength in the God’s mighty power. Never forget how big He is in your corner. Can’t seem to find that intimacy with God? Come here and let Him quiet you with His love. Just let Him sing over you. If you’re quiet enough you’ll hear it. Think that you’ve lost God or exhausted His forgiveness? Don’t be silly – He’s been here all along and He delights in you more than ever. Let go of that burden and that lie and take hold of this promise: He is with you, He will delight in you, He will rejoice over you.
Zephaniah 3:17 is a stronghold for you and for me. Take hold of it and be strong.