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Zephaniah 3:14–20

“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (v. 17).

God’s sovereignty in salvation is one of the most comforting truths revealed to us in Scripture. If our justification is due ultimately to the Lord alone, then we need not fear that those whom He has accounted righteous in Christ will ever be counted as unrighteous and cut off from the hope of glory. As we conclude our study of Zephaniah today, we read a beautiful declaration of the sovereignty of God in redemption.

Zephaniah 3, in attributing the certainty of salvation through the day of judgment to the work of our Creator, gives us reason not to fear His wrath when we come before Him in Christ Jesus. Note the first-person references in verses 9–13. The Lord says of Himself: “I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech”; “I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones”; and “I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly.” Such references continue in verses 14–20: “I will gather those of you who mourn”; “I will save the lame and gather the outcast”; “I will bring you in”; “I gather you together”; “I will make you renowned and praised”; and “I restore your fortunes.” Yes, we must believe in order to be saved, and we cannot please God unless we trust Him (Eph. 2:8–9; Heb. 11:6). Yet even our faith is given to us by the Lord. We can conclude nothing else from God’s repeated assertion that He Himself saves His people.

Several third-person references to the Lord in today’s passage confirm divine sovereignty in salvation and therefore our assurance. For instance, Zephaniah writes, “The LORD has taken away the judgments against you” (v. 15). What are these judgments but the condemnation we incur from God for breaking His law? We cannot escape this condemnation ourselves, but our Father in heaven can remove it. Ultimately, He does this through His Son, the Suffering Servant, who makes “many to be accounted righteous” because He bears “their iniquities” (Isa. 53:11). God cancels “the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” by “nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:13–15).

Our Father does this because it glorifies Him, but also because it makes Him glad to show mercy to His people and to love them with an eternal, effectual love (Zeph. 3:17b). In fact, the Lord takes such pleasure in saving us that it leads Him to burst into song over His people (v. 17c). It is an amazing thing, indeed, to realize that God takes more delight in our salvation than even we do when we turn to Him (Luke 15:7, 10).

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

John Calvin comments on today’s passage that “it is not without reason that God labors so much to persuade us of his love, because we are not only prone by nature to unbelief, but exposed to the deceits of Satan, and are also inconstant and easily drawn away from his word.” God’s love is great for us indeed, for not only does He save His people but He also assures us of His tremendous love for us. God rejoices to save us, to shower His love upon His children.

For Further Study
  • Psalm 35:27–28
  • Isaiah 62:5

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From the May 2013 Issue
May 2013 Issue