Stories, thoughts and reflections on the Bible from the WSFC Staff.
“Jerusalem will be told: “Don’t be afraid. Dear Zion, don’t despair. Your God is present among you, a strong Warrior there to save you. Happy to have you back, he’ll calm you with his love and delight you with his songs. * * *”
Zephaniah 3:16-17 MSG
Often my wife and I will remind our son, “Nothing you can do will make us love you more, and nothing you can do will make us love you less. We just love you.” Our hope is that (a) if we can drive that point in before he has done something rebellious, he will remember it when he is in trouble and (b) that before he attempts to achieve something good (a good grade, winning a game, learning a new skill), he would know that he can do that outside of the attempt to win our approval. He has it already.
God had been telling something similar to Israel for centuries. But now, once again, they found themselves in rebellion. So God sent a messenger, Zephaniah, to remind them that the welcoming arms of God, the Father, are still open to them – even if they see the effects of their poor choices all around them.
And what does that welcome look like?
First, a reminder that their actions does not remove His love for them. What will be stronger than the presence of their consequences is the presence of His love – a love that will drive out all their fear of His abandonment.
Next, an invitation to hope again. Failure can rob us of hope for a better tomorrow. But as we return to the Father’s arms, He will remove the blinders that failure can put on our vision and let us see what He has in store for us.
Then there is a reminder than His presence never left us. And in the times when we find ourselves trapped in the consequences of our decisions, He is present as a warrior – a warrior who not only saves us from the attacks of Satan, but from our own un-submitted sin nature and from the culture of this world that tries to enslave us into wrong ideologies.
God ends this invitation, given through Zephaniah, with a call away from trying to express some sort of performative repentance. He calls us to receive ministry from Him. It’s a call to rest as He reminds us of how much He loves you. It’s a call to sit while He sings over us. It’s a call to allow Him to quiet and calm us through His expressions of love toward us.
Most of us will find this last invitation difficult. Because of the culture we swim in, which says we have to earn every ounce of attention by our performance, would respond much like Peter, when Jesus asks to wash his feet – with an uncomfortable resistance toward an unconditional love and selfless service.
“We are the rebels returning to YOU,” we may say, “But you want to minister to US?!”
But that is the God that we serve. A God who cares first about reassuring us that we are loved before He carries on with the disciple that is needed (which, remember, is also an extension of that love).
If you say to yourself, “I’m not in rebellion now.” Great! Drive the revelation of God’s love for you deep into your heart. It will sustain you in your righteous path just as much as it will remind you to return in your rebellion.
If you are far from Him right now, return. He is welcoming you back with open arms and, as the prophet said, He is happy to have you back. He will quiet you with His love and save you from your oppression.
Pastor Cris Buck