Longing for Joy
Updated: Dec 9, 2022
Zephaniah 3:14-20 NIV
Sing, Daughter Zion; shout aloud, Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice you with singing.”
“I will remove from you all who mourn over the loss of your appointed festivals, which is a burden and reproach for you. At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you. I will rescue the lame; I will gather the exiles. I will give them praise and honour in every land where they have suffered shame. At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honour and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes.” Says the LORD.
Israel found themselves in exile, taken far away from the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The land was to be their everlasting possession, but they had squandered it. They were to live on the land as an alternate humanity, living as a blessing to the nations. Instead, they lived in such a way that they brought a curse on the land and those on it. They had been unfaithful to God, had enslaved others, and had not given the land a rest. So, God removed them from it. No longer in the promised land, they were now in Babylon, a land of darkness and confusion.
As they sat in exile in another land, we read of their misery:
“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:1-4)
“Do not let your hands hang limp,” is Zephaniah’s word. The people’s misery is so great that they can’t bring themselves to reach for joy, to remember better days, to hope. They can only bring themselves to sit and weep - weep for all that was lost, weep for the space they find themselves in.
In their misery of exile - wondering if they will return, unable to sing - God breaks through with promise!
I will gather you. I will bring you home.
I am mighty to save you and I will. I will reverse your fortunes.
I will bring blessing to your cursing.
I punished you through correction, but that will end. It may feel like my posture toward you is anger, but know that I delight in you. You may not be able to sing, but I can, and I am singing songs of joy over you.
In their misery, God delivers good news that will lead to joy and gladness – that one day, the Mighty One will come and rescue them.
Years later back in the land, some shepherds are watching their sheep at night and an angelic messenger appears to them. His message?
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11). Good news that will cause great joy. Jesus’ birth was good news. Jesus’ birth brought good news. He has done the rescuing, he has restored people to their Creator, he has made all the sad things come untrue, and his kingdom is the kingdom of joy! This means that Jesus is the king of joy! The laughter that was promised to Abraham and Sarah is the laughter he wants to bring to all people!
Will you receive this joy and allow it to be your strength?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal where you might be lacking joy in your life.
Name your misery. Write down the specifics – memories, words, phrases, lies, attitudes.
Spend 5 minutes in silence with the following posture:
Jesus, I wait for your joy.
Take some time to submit your misery. Be specific.
Jesus, I give you my misery.
Allow Jesus to make the exchange of your misery for his joy.
Read Psalm 40 in a posture of gratitude and adoration.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.
Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.[b] Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire— but my ears you have opened— burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, “Here I am, I have come— it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.”
I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, Lord, as you know. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.
Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord; may your love and faithfulness always protect me. For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. Be pleased to save me, Lord; come quickly, Lord, to help me.
May all who want to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” be appalled at their own shame. But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, “The Lord is great!”
But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay.