From David’s organization of the Levitical musicians (1 Chron. 25) to the book of Psalms to the song of the redeemed in Revelation 19:1–5, Scripture has much to say about the music of the covenant and its importance in worship. What we might often forget, however, is that the Lord Himself participates in this music. This is one of the points of today’s passage.
The prophet Zephaniah spent much of his ministry speaking about the day of the Lord, a day on which unfaithful Judah and the enemies of God’s people would suffer His wrath (1:1–3:8). Much of this prophecy was fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem and exile of Judah in 586 BC, although there remains a final day of the Lord in which all people will receive final judgment (Rev. 20:11–15). Nevertheless, Zephaniah’s prophecy is not only about judgment, for he concludes his book by looking at the future salvation of men and women from the Gentile nations and from Israel (3:9–20).
Remarkably, while the redeemed most certainly rejoice in their liberation from sin and evil, Zephaniah tells us that the very God of the universe also sings with joy at the moment of His people’s salvation. The same Hebrew word for rejoicing is found both in 3:14 and 17; the former describes the joy of the people and the latter describes the joy of the Lord. God Himself will sing and make music as He brings His children into the kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy.
Such joy points to the deep affection our Father feels for His children, not on account of our worthiness but because of the simple fact that God has chosen to set His love on us (Deut. 7:6–8). It is in our Lord’s nature to love His children; this is who He is. O. Palmer Robertson comments, “Delight, joy, and singing on God’s part underscore the mutuality of emotional experience felt by God and the redeemed” (The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, p. 339).
God is described in Zephaniah 3:17 as the “mighty one,” language that echoes the description of the son of David in Isaiah (Isa. 9:1–7). Here, it is hinted that the creator God and covenant Lord would enter into humanity, through David’s lineage, in order to accomplish redemption. This has been done in Christ Jesus, who sings over us and leads us in singing songs of praise to our Father in heaven.