God’s song (June 25, 2023)

A lesson for June 25, 2023, about Zephaniah 3:14-20 — God's song of blessing and love over God's people.

Outlook Standard Lesson for June 25, 2023
Scripture passage and lesson focus: Zephaniah 3:14-20

Our journey through the prophets has included a picture of beautiful feet declaring the reign of God, an image of God’s promised new creation and a promise of God to unify God’s people. Each of these stories of hope deepen our understanding of God’s righteousness and reign. In this week’s text, we enter a melody of love and rejoicing in Zephaniah 3:14-20, a song about God’s righteousness and unconditional love for God’s people.

A song of hope

How does worship music shape your life of faith? What kind of music brings you close with God?? The sounds of worship taken together with lyrics can make for a powerful faith experience. Now, imagine not only singing in harmony with other believers, but God’s own voice singing over you with delight. Can you imagine what God’s singing voice sounds like? How would it feel to have the God of the universe singing a song over you?

The book of Zephaniah does not begin with a story of hope and song — rather, it begins with a searing prophecy of judgment against Judah: “I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth, says the Lord … I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Zephaniah 1:2, 4). And yet, despite the impending judgment, Zephaniah concludes his book with a song of hope. A song reminding God’s people that no matter how far Judah falls, and fall they will, God is not done with God’s people. This same message is for us: no matter how far we fall, God’s grace is there to pick us up.

Zephaniah’s song in today’s passage looks ahead to God’s future renewal and restoration (v. 16-20). It calls Israel to rejoice (v. 14), knowing that God will remove judgment and their enemies from them (v. 16), free them from disaster (v. 18), deal with those who oppress them, save the lame and outcast (v. 19), bring them home and restore their fortunes (v. 20). They are called to hear God’s words and respond.

God’s song

As glorious as God’s promises are, it is God’s emotion that I find striking in this passage. God promises to rejoice over Israel with gladness, with “loud singing” (v. 17). We often read in Scripture of angels singing and rejoicing, but it is amazing, perhaps even incomprehensible for me, to think about God’s own anthem. And it’s not just any anthem, but a melody born out of God’s undying love and joy for God’s people. Can you imagine it?

As God sings over God’s people and delights in them, the hearts of God’s people are transformed from shame into songs of praise (v. 19). Just sit with that for a moment. The shame of judgment over Judah, which will lead to captivity in Babylon, has been transformed into praise of God. The very sound of God’s melodic voice is enough to turn our hearts from shame to open praise. God’s voice transforms us. It not only reveals the areas we have fallen short but it guides us past guilt towards confidence and awe. How do you hear God’s song of delight?

I’ve asked myself this question and wondered what song God might sing over me. Using inspiration from one of my favorite hymns, “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” by Isaac Waats, I imagine God singing over me:

I am your help in ages past,
your hope for years to come,
your shelter from the stormy blast,
and your eternal home

Knowing that God has sung a song of help, hope and shelter over my life, how could I not respond in praise?

Before the hills in order stood,
or earth received its frame,
from everlasting you are God,
to endless years the same.

While Zephaniah gives strong words of judgment, our text for today reminds us God’s plan doesn’t end there. Not only does God promise a restoration of Israel, but God also passionately rejoices, loves and sings over Israel. God rejoices and delights in God’s people. God rejoices and delights in you.

Questions for discussion

  1. Will you open your heart to God, who rejoices over you with song?
  2. What song might God sing over your life, your church, your family, your community? And what would be your song of praise in return?

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