Last April was my first encounter with the Lifegate Women’s Bible study, although I came, as a pastor’s son recently said, “looking for a reason not to come back.” It was a step of faith based on a wonderful friend’s kind and persistent invitation, but she never knew how scared I was. The table I joined was surrounded by ladies of different backgrounds and experiences yet the same seeking hearts. I was blown away, not expecting this sense of safety among strangers that had always been missing in large gatherings. Even more of a surprise, by the end of May I was looking forward to our new year together. What had happened? He was answering a prayer from several years ago.
The book of Zephaniah and I have a long history. For many years I read Zephaniah 3:17 wanting, but doubting, it could ever apply to me. I’d grown up believing one had to be “good” to be loved, and I’d applied it to God as well. In time repentance and forgiveness brought freedom, and I renewed my prayer for His complete control over my life, wanting to be a woman after His own heart. He gently began the journey by slowly deconstructing the walls I’d built. Among His plans was a long prayer session with a Christian counselor that revealed a generational spirit which was systematically removed leaving light where darkness had been. Later that day, the counselor called with a verse she said the Lord had given her for me: Zephaniah 3:17. I can still remember the laughter, tears and gratitude of those moments after her call, realizing for the first time that the verse was truly mine.
Another gift from last season’s meetings was a talk that also referenced a key word study Bible, a treasure I had missed. Armed with my new Bible and a Webster’s from 1828, I began delving into this amazing word from a long-ago prophet and am excited to share what I’ve discovered. When we dissect key words, deeper meaning is revealed:
- midst: involved in, surrounded, in the midst of affliction, troubles or cares
- Mighty One: having great strength, physical power, valiant, eminent in intellect
- will save: to help, deliver, defend; bring to a place of safety, rescue from enemies, compassionate aid in time of need; the salvation that only comes from God.
- will rejoice: bright, cheerful, very glad
- over: above in authority, from beginning to end, covering from above
- gladness: great joy
- will quiet: engrave, conceal, be still
- love: powerful love between friends, God’s love for His people, forming a covenant, loyalty
- will rejoice: spin around under the influence of very violent emotion; delight, rejoice, shriek
- singing: celebrating in song
Notice that there are two phrases translated as “will rejoice” in English, but the Hebrew had more to say.
Here’s my own take on what I’ve learned about this wonderful verse.
The Lord your God is in your midst
The One who is all majesty, and power, and perfect love, the One who spoke creation into being is with you. It’s not just a physical and spiritual presence. This isn’t just about His location but His involvement. He’s in the middle of where you are in every sense – whether you’re surrounded by holiness or evil, by truth or deception, in confidence or in need, in battle or in peace. He is there. You’re never alone.
The Mighty One will save
He is all strength, all power, but He is El Gibbor, the Rock – a refuge, not a hammer. As Mr. Webster put it, He is “the salvation that only comes from God.”
He will rejoice over you with gladness
No matter where you are, He’s so glad you’re His!
He will quiet you with His love
Regardless of our age, we may sometimes approach Him with a child’s fearful heart believing that there may be anger instead of compassion, a recounting of failure instead of comfort. The Ancient of Days is not so. He has engraved you on His hand, and He will draw you to Him in a still, loving embrace. He is in covenant with you, and the love that represents will never fail, will never end.
He will rejoice over you with singing
We don’t wound His heart when we fail. We wound Him when we pull away. This “rejoice” expresses a totally different image. Have you ever seen Jewish men dance? Arms in the air, spinning around, a look of absolute joy on their faces? This is our Lord in this verse – dancing over us, dancing because of us, spinning and singing because we’re running to Him, because we’re His.
What a love song this passage is! Now there’s a joyous release and, just for the sheer joy of it, the desire to do something that will inspire Him to dance.
- If you’re able, take a moment to listen to “Dance with Me” by Paul Wilbur, and let Him dance with you. Purposely remember that He rejoices over you even in the midst of laundry, diapers, loneliness or deadlines. You can never have too much of Him, and the reality is He can never have too much of you, either!
- Is there a part of your day, a particular task or time that seems to take you further away from Him? Invite Him there for a slow dance. Bringing Him closer will make Him smile, and forever change that particular bump in your schedule.