I grew up in the church. Yet I must admit that I neither gained a true nor biblical view of God. As a kid my concept of God was that he was an old white bearded guy who pretty much just twiddled his thumbs on a big ivory throne and occasionally looked down on the earth to see what was happening. If he got involved at all, it was to take out some sort of divine BB gun and shoot random people in the backside just for kicks (yes, I know this says a whole lot about what kind of kid I was!).
You may not have such a view of God, but just maybe God is a bit different than you have always conceived him to be. The Old Testament prophets are conduits to showing us something of the pathos of God, that is, the emotions and heart of God. Yes, I said emotions. It could be that we do not think of God as feeling anything (except maybe anger) and portray him in our minds as some sort of big brain on a stick that never really gets excited about anything except disobedience.
But in this wonderful little book of Zephaniah we get a portrayal of a God who is graciously giddy. All the prophetic books of the Bible display a God who moves in waves of judgment and grace in response to a people who continually break covenant stipulations. Yet God does not remain angry forever. He is merciful and is in the business of not only forgiving people but restoring them and making them righteous.
There is a verse tucked away in Zephaniah that we might pass over because we do not tend to look at God this way: “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” It is God himself that rejoices and sings. Yes, God. Perhaps we need to gain the perspective that God throws parties and celebrates. Maybe we must begin to think the thought that God is not some divine curmudgeon that is constantly a sourpuss.
If God is this way (and he himself says he is) then maybe we ought to entertain the notion that hospitality, food, celebration, and loud rejoicing reflects God’s image as much or more than somber attitudes. Maybe Christians are the people who should throw the best parties in the neighborhood. Soon Christmas will be here, and the Church Calendar allows for and encourages a twelve day celebration of the incarnation, of God becoming human. It is time to prepare for a party. Let us do it with all the gusto that befits people created in God’s likeness.
Joyous God, how thankful I am that you do not remain angry forever. May your grace and mercy seep down into my soul to the point of bringing out loud singing and rejoicing. May a watching world see that there is joy both in heaven and on earth. Amen.