Do you know the children’s story by Dr Seuss, ‘How the Grinch stole Christmas’?
The Grinch is a green monster with a tiny heart who steals all the Christmas presents, trees and food from the people of Whoville. He takes the goodies to the top of a mountain to throw them into the abyss. Expecting to hear the people from whom he thought he’d stolen Christmas crying with sorrow, he’s surprised to hear joyful singing. The people are singing their Christmas song. He realizes that Christmas may perhaps mean more than presents and feasts. His once shrunken heart grows 3 times larger. He returns what he stole and the generous people invite him to join the celebrations.
What’s that got to do with the book of Zephaniah?
It’s mostly a deeply gloomy book. @LayAnglicana has posted more about that in Zephaniah: Just Another Harbinger of Doom? The book condemns the sins of Zephaniah’s nation and warns of God’s coming judgement, not only for the nation of Judah. Zephaniah prophesied that God would make a clean sweep of the whole planet:
“ ‘I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth’, declares the Lord.” Zephaniah 1: 2
No, I’m not saying God is like the Grinch who wants to spoil people’s celebrations.
God is more like the Whoville people who sing even in dark times. Part of God’s nature is joy. At the end of the 3rd chapter of Zephaniah, in an epilogue that may be a later addition, the people are urged to sing, to
“Be glad and rejoice with all your heart…” Zephaniah 3: 14
This is much more than a vain attempt to cheer each other up in adverse times. It is a declaration of faith in the love of God and God’s promises to save,
“the meek and humble, who trust in the name of the Lord”. (3: 12)
Singing joyfully to God is a response to the joy at the heart of God.
Much more striking than the call for the remnant who are faithful to God to sing, even when their situation is still dreadful, is the image of God rejoicing by singing. Zephaniah portrays God as fearfully powerful, yet also as sensitively loving as a parent calming a young child and showing joy in the child by singing:
“The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3: 17 NIV
Just stop for a moment.
Maybe you are in a place where it feels as if a Grinch has stolen the Christmas you hoped to have.
And you certainly don’t want anyone to tell you to sing a joyful song anyway.
Imagine God singing with love and joy over you, even in your darkness.
What do you hear?
Image Credit: Flickr, CC License