We don’t often associate Old Testament prophets with joy, but this week’s lectionary selection makes an exception to that rule. Zephaniah speaks to returning exiles about God’s desire to have divine compassion overwhelm even Divine judgment:
Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord. –Zephaniah 3:14-20 NRSV
Curiously, this is the only place in the entire Bible where God sings! And, of course, God invites the people to join in the joyful noise.
For reasons that are unclear to me, my denominational worship office decided to switch the Joy and Love weeks around, but I’ll go with the traditional one here, which is known throughout much of Christianity as Gaudete Sunday (so named for the Latin word for Rejoice”).
Here’s a link to a previous ForeWords blog post on this week’s lectionary scriptures:
My most recent book, Speak to the Bones: How to Be a Prophetic People in a Time of Exile, is up on Amazon in both print and e-book formats: 161-page Book ; Kindle e-book. The ancient Hebrew prophets can serve as guides for modern-day prophetic communities to engage in actions for peace and social justice. Each of the 10 chapters includes questions for reflection and discussion, making this great for class use. My previous book What Was Paul Thinking? is also available on Amazon in both print and