The John 3:16 of the Old Testament
The Prophet Zephaniah gives a good reminder for us today in “John 3:16” of the Old Testament.
The prophet Zephaniah is perhaps the only Old Testament prophet who was of royal descent. He may have been the great-great-grandson of King Hezekiah, a godly king who brought about great reform in Judah. But since the death of Hezekiah, the people and its kings had once again fallen into sin and returned to the worship of idols.
King Josiah renews the covenant.
Josiah, another godly king, sits on the throne during Zephaniah’s time as prophet. Eighteen years into Josiah’s reign, a priest stumbles upon a copy of the Law and gives it to the king (2 Kings 22:3). King Josiah spends the rest of his days reading God’s Law and implementing change in the southern kingdom of Judah. He renews the covenant, burns down idols, fires the bad priests, rids the city of its male prostitutes, and renews the Passover. But it is already too late—the people have become set in their wicked ways.
A reminder that God’s people are meant to be set apart.
Thus God’s anger has been provoked, and Zephaniah warns the kingdom of the coming Day of the Lord, when the whole earth will be consumed by His wrath (Zephaniah 1:2-18). A list of transgressors the Lord says will be punished on that day includes “all who array themselves in foreign attire” (1:8). God is saying that His people, who are meant to be set apart, look too much like the culture. This is a good reminder for us today.
The “John 3:16” of the Old Testament.
After Zephaniah warns of Judgment Day, the prophet speaks of a faithful remnant and the day of their salvation (3:8-20). There is a beautiful verse in this passage that some have called the “John 3:16” of the Old Testament:
“The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love;
he will rejoice over you with singing.”
(Zephaniah 3:17, NIV 1984)
What can you take from this passage today?
God is with you.
He is with you, going before you, coming behind you, protecting your right side, and blocking your left side. He will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:8).
He is mighty to save.
God has saved you by faith through the sacrifice of His one Son, Jesus Christ, and He is continually working in you to set you apart for holiness (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
He takes great delight in you.
Why? Because you are His (1 Corinthians 3:23). Nothing you can do will change the way God feels about you. The Lord’s love is not a performance-based love (Romans 5:8). He loves you unconditionally, no matter what!
He will quiet you with His love.
His love will make you speechless. It is truly unfathomable. His perfect love calms all fears and renders you still (1 John 4:18). Always remember to let God’s love define you, not the love of a flawed human.
He will rejoice over you with singing.
The ESV says, “He will exult over you with loud singing” (emphasis mine). The Creator of the universe—the One who knows all—is jumping, dancing, and shouting with joy over you. You are His, and He loves you!
God loves you, and He wants you to know Him and love Him in return. That’s where you will find true self-worth and meaning in life. But God doesn’t just love you; He delights in you! To put this in simpler terms, you bring a smile to His face.
Let His love motivate you to strive to look different from the rest of the world. Don’t conform to the culture surrounding you (Romans 12:2). In other words, be in the world, but not of the world (John 17:14-18).
Heavenly Father, sometimes it is hard to grasp that you actually love me. Yet I know it is true. Your love lifts me up and stirs my heart to live for you. Transform me into the likeness of your Son, Jesus Christ. And let me rest in your love and good pleasure, knowing that I am your child and will enjoy eternity with you in heaven. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.
Davis is the President of Apologia Educational Ministries, the #1 publisher of Creation-based science and Bible curriculum for homeschooling families. He is the author of five illustrated children’s books designed to help parents instill a biblical worldview in the hearts and minds of their preschoolers. He believes that if there was ever a time to homeschool, it is now!
Davis’s four books include: Good Morning, God, based on Deuteronomy 6, A Light for My Path, an ABC book based on Psalm 119, In the Beginning, based on the Creation account in Genesis, and Psalms to Know Early.
If you enjoyed this devotional by Davis Carman, check out Faith: Four Types of Faith, Which Do You Have? or Repentance: Rend Your Heart, Not Your Garments.