God created us to be worshipers of him. If we do not worship God, we will worship something or someone else, and worship of anything but God is self-destructive. If we worship God alone, however, he fulfills us. This is seen in Zephaniah’s prophecy as he describes the city of Jerusalem in two very different conditions – in a state of rebellion and distance from God, and then in a state of restoration and fellowship with God.
At the heart of the contrast is misdirected worship stemming from the disease of pride. Pride shuts down the flow of worship, is toxic in our lives, and fools us into serving false gods. Humility is the medicine – when we turn and humbly seek God, a life of joy and righteousness results. God gives us “pure speech” and transforms us into true worshipers as we accept his grace and yield to his lordship over all things (Zeph. 3:9). As both our Judge and Redeemer, God is “the mighty one who will save” us from ourselves (v.17).
God’s redemption was ultimately fulfilled in Christ and, unlike Zephaniah’s listeners who knew only in part, we are privileged to know this fully and live in the joy of it. Through Christ we become citizens of the restored city of worshipers, living an earthly expression now of our heavenly hope. We join with God’s ancient people, singing aloud to praise the Lord for removing the judgement we deserve (v.15).
God delights in freeing us to worship him. The Israelites were not the only ones singing in Chapter 3. Verse 17 says God loudly sings over his people, extravagantly rejoicing in their restoration. The gladness of God’s heart when sinners turn to him echoes throughout Scripture. In Luke 15:10, Jesus says “There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents”. God desires all sinners everywhere to turn to him (2 Pet. 3:9).
Are we ready? Is the worship of our hearts and direction of our steps in our homes, our church, and in our community revealing loyalty to Christ and the fragrance of Heaven? The One who sang his creation into being will one day see his people completely renewed as the worshipers they were meant to be and will rejoice over his work of grace as he marvels at the work of his hands.