Zephaniah is one of those under-read and under-appreciated prophets. He kicks things off with a brutally honest reminder to the children of Israel of their need to turn away from the other earthly “gods” they’ve been going after and to say goodbye to the other signs of success they’ve been striving for. If they fail to do so, Zephaniah says, one day all the temporary joys they’ve been chasing will fade away, and it will be time for a nasty but necessary day of judgment.
But in the closing words of his God-given message, Zephaniah offers an incredible picture, a beautiful glimpse of real, biblical, God-style joy. He speaks of a day when God no longer has to deal harshly with his people. He speaks of a day when the judgment for pursuing false joys is no longer held against those who have been made right with God through the grace of God. He writes of a day when a new King of the people will have entered the midst of the people and through his righteous rule taken away all their fears. Zephaniah speaks of a day when people’s greatest shame will be transformed into shouts of praise because every sin they ever committed against God, every issue in their past that they once thought separated them from God, will have been dealt with and remembered no more by God.
There will be a day, there will be a time, Zephaniah says, when men and women will “sing aloud” and “shout,” where they will “be glad and rejoice” with all their hearts. This true, authentic joy will well up not as a result of piling up enough money or achieving certain levels of success. No, this lasting joy will flow from the fact that God has found his joy in us, in you!
Real joy, biblical joy, comes from knowing without fail or falter that “The Lord your God is with you” and that “he is mighty to save.” It comes from knowing that God himself delights in you and that “he will rejoice over you” — yes, little old, corrupted you and me — “with singing."