Everyone seems to have a word, a saying or a Bible verse for the new year. Last year I facetiously noted that my word for the year was “platypus.”
But, is it too late to have a verse for the new year? I just happened to come across this verse from a minor prophet that I think is going to have a major impact on my life this year. (And, yes, I know that in God’s universe, things don’t “just happen”!)
For the Lord your God is living among you. . . . He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs (Zephaniah 3:17).
Wow! In the new year, I want to comprehend—or at least grasp a tiny glimpse of—its meaning.
God is living with us
In Scripture, Jesus goes by over 200 names: Lord of lords, King of kings, Almighty God, Prince of Peace, etc. etc. But my absolute favorite is Immanuel: God with us. Jesus promises:
“I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:18-20).
It will take me a year to scratch just the surface of the reality that God the Son—who created the universe, healed the sick and raised the dead—is living within me.
He takes glad delight in us
That is going to take even longer to sink in than the idea that he is living inside of me!
With his love, he will calm all our fears
I have lived all my life with low-grade angst and anxiety. But this week, my sister-in-law, Beth, sent me her song for the year. (I didn’t realize there were also songs for the year.)
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace
Every time I thought of our medical debts, my book sales figures and the odd pain in my side (I just knew it was cancer!), I mentally recited those words written by Helen H. Lemmel. All those thoughts did did “grow strangely dim.”
I have a God who chooses to live within me, takes delight in messed me, and calms me with his love.
He will rejoice over us with joyful songs
But wait, there’s more. As if that is not enough, God sings praise over us. Us! While we make feeble efforts to praise him privately and corporately, he is singing over us with joyful songs. The Hebrew word for rejoice translates “to rejoice, exult, be glad,” while joyful means “in proclamation, joy, praise.”
Throughout history, the church has emphasized the bad news of God’s displeasure with his people—and he is displeased with all who refuse to acknowledge and obey him. But, the church has failed to adequately express the good news of God’s sheer delight in those who want to please him:
The Lord’s delight is in those who fear him,
those who put their hope in his unfailing love (Psalm 147:11).
For the Lord delights in his people;
he crowns the humble with victory (Psalm 149:4).
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy” (John 15:9-11).
I’m wondering if, in heaven, we will learn the lyrics of those songs that God has been singing over us. “Have a seat, Jim. I want to sing you a song.” Amazing!
I am just beginning to explore this little verse with the infinitely large message. Paul sums it up well:
And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is (Ephesians 3:18).
That’s going to take not only this year, but the rest of my life!
Copyright © 2014 James N. Watkins
Pipe organ photo: MorgueFile.com