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Advent III: God Rejoicing in Your Midst

Zephaniah 3 tells you something hard to believe: God rejoices in you. God delights in you. God wants to be with you. God is proud of you. God loves you. All of this is true, despite the fact that He knows your faults and your fears and your failures. This is what it means that God is in your midst: He is not far away or ignorant. He hasn’t been misinformed about who you really are or what you’ve been up to. He is acquainted with all your ways, He knows your rising up and your lying down, everything you have done and everything you will do, He is near, He is close, He is in your midst, and He rejoices over you.

If you were to rest in the knowledge that God rejoices over you, then your Christian life would be nothing but unspeakable joy. The foundation for your joy as a Christian is the fact that God rejoices in you. You won’t always be able to find joy in your circumstances. You won’t always be able to find joy in your relationships. You’ll almost never be able to find joy in your performance. But because this is true, that God rejoices over you, then you have within you a well of salvation that will never run dry, an inexhaustible supply of joy.

Think about how this changes everything. You say, “I ruined the big project at work today, and I’ll probably be fired.” God says, “I have taken away the judgments against you.” You say, “My husband left me for another woman.” God says, “I have chosen you, and I delight in you.” You say, “I am old and useless, and my own children don’t like me.” God says, “I will change your shame in praise and renown, because I am glad that you are mine.” You say, “I’ve done a lousy job leading my family, and we’re unhappy and frustrated all the time.” God says, “I’m so delighted in you that I’m going to start singing your praises.”

Do you see how hard to believe this is? It’s easy to believe that God only sings our praises because He’s never actually been in our midst. It’s easy to believe that if God ever were to come and spend time in our midst, He would be so disgusted and fed up with us that He would get rid of us and start over. It’s hard to believe that God is right here with us and that He enjoys us.

In the time of Zephaniah, who prophesied under King Josiah, Judah was in one of her many cycles of unbelief and idolatry, which caused God to give His people into the hands of her enemies and bring strong and severe judgments against her, so that she would be brought to repentance. Zephaniah looked forward and saw the day coming when the dross would be purged away, and God’s people would come forth as gold. And to some extent, this is what happened under King Josiah when He repaired the temple, when Hilkiah the priest found the book of the law, and when the people repented of their sins and got rid of their idols. That was what it meant for God to be in their midst: true worship was restored, God’s law was obeyed, and false gods were rejected. Once again, God lived in peace among His people, and rejoiced to be their God.

But if you know the history of God’s people, you know that this didn’t last. Josiah’s reformation was only a foreshadowing of an even greater renewal, when God would not only enter our midst through His Word, but by becoming one of us. The source of our Advent joy is that Jesus Christ became a man so that He could be in our midst, and so that through His life, death, and resurrection, He could once and for all take away the judgments against us and clear away all our enemies. He came to gather all who longed for right worship, all the oppressed, the lame, and the outcast. He came to change your shame into praise and renown in all the earth. He came to be with you, and He came to rejoice over you with loud singing and to quiet you with His love.

Because of Advent, because God sent Jesus, you can know that God is in your midst, and that He rejoices over you. That’s why we’re joyful and triumphant. That’s why we sing loud songs and exult with all our hearts. Our Christmas celebrations show the world what it looks like when God’s people start to believe that Jesus has come into our midst, taking away the judgments against us, and rejoicing over us.

Posted on Wednesday, December 19, 2018 by CJ Bowen