Focal Passage: Zephaniah 3:9-20
Fear is an effective tool used by Satan to demoralize and discourage people, especially God’s people. Scripture repeatedly commands us: “Do not be afraid.” And yet, we fear anything and everything all the time: fear of loss, fear of man, fear of being without, fear of sickness, fear of death, etc.
In addition, we don’t often think of replacing fear with joy. However, if our confidence in God is ever-increasing then there is every reason to be full of joy, the kind of joy that springs out of a faith and contentment in God’s sovereign and gracious care. We may want to take a lesson from the Shepherds of Luke 2:10 whose fear was replaced by the “good news of great joy.” The prophet Zephaniah reminds us of the process of replacing fear with joy.
Fear to humility to joy (Zephaniah 3:9-13). God’s people were called to humble themselves before God, calling on the Lord faithfully serving Him with all our heart, mind, and soul. Zephaniah notes that there is no shame in worshiping God because it produces a joyful people who are meek, humble and dependent on God. Humility is simply the admission that we are God-dependent. The God-dependent person is a person who realizes that there is a God and it is not them. The relief that can be experienced when we realize that God is God produces a joyful contentment that is powerful and purposeful.
God’s presence and joy (Zephaniah 3:14-17). God’s abiding presence produces joy. In fact, verse 15 notes, “The Lord has removed your punishment; he has turned back your enemy. The King of Israel, the Lord is among you; you need no longer fear harm.” The promise is that our warrior God is among us, a God who saves and rescues. His joy over us will cause us to experience our own joy. Rather than weakness we experience strength; rather than sorrow we experience joy; rather than depression we experience hope. All of these benefits are the outcomes of being in the presence of God.
God wanted for His people then and He wants for us now to know joy in His presence. He wants us to discover the truths of Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Life, joy and pleasures are truly found in knowing the Lord Jesus.
Joy and God’s restoration (Zephaniah 3:18-20). God’s presence not only produces joy, but God’s presence has a restorative power. All those who had been scattered will be gathered (v. 18). All the oppressed will be set free (v. 19). Those who have been disgraced or shamed will be affirmed (v. 19). God will restore what has been lost (v. 20).
Sometimes God’s restoration takes place in this life. God is able to bless His people in this life. Jesus said in John 15:11 that in Jesus Christ our joy can be full and overflowing. Yet, we know that we may have to wait for complete restoration in the kingdom to come where God will make all things new (Revelation 21:1-8). Whether in this life or the life to come, we can experience everlasting joy in God’s presence — a joy that pushes out fear. B&R