In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Do not fear;
Zion, let not your hands be weak.
The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”
“I will gather those who sorrow over the appointed assembly,
Who are among you,
To whom its reproach is a burden.
Behold, at that time
I will deal with all who afflict you;
I will save the lame,
And gather those who were driven out;
I will appoint them for praise and fame
In every land where they were put to shame.
At that time I will bring you back,
Even at the time I gather you;
For I will give you fame and praise
Among all the peoples of the earth,
When I return your captives before your eyes,”
Says the Lord. (Zephaniah 3:16-20)
God tells us “do not fear” because we’d really like to be afraid. God does not just warn us away from those things that we’d really like to do. “Do not eat the dirt,” is an unlikely commandment. But there are other things equally unpleasant, that appear desirable or reasonable at first glance. Fear is that way, and certainly for Jerusalem they had many things to fear. Zephaniah prophesied during a time of revival, but the international situation was in flux: the balance of power was shifting to Babylon and the revival had touched but few: the rot in the heart of Israel remained festering with no solution left but exile. Captivity was inevitable, the destruction of Jerusalem guaranteed. How could there be no fear facing that?
But Zephaniah pointed out that someday their punishment would be past tense. In that day, Jerusalem would stop being afraid. In that day, God’s love would quiet them instead of punish them. Their hearts would grow calm and then turn to joy. The captives would come home. Whether times are good or times are bad, we are still with God. We do not need to be afraid. With God, we can capture the attitude of joy we will have tomorrow when the pain of today has become yesterday.