Updated: Dec 17, 2022
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)
We've covered the subject of Jesus as Counselor and Prince of Peace. Continuing to unpack this Christmas verse, our next stop is Jesus as Mighty God. As I usually do, I pre-prayed my hunt for what The Book says about "mighty God" to inform my reflections. I found a lot of good verses but one especially touched my heart, also because of other insights God has been giving me lately that echo these themes:
"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." Zephaniah 3:17 (NKJV)
How I relish the promise of this verse! The protection, acceptance, serenity, and love it conveys, so Daddy-like (next week's Divine feature from this verse). I wanted to explore this Christmas verse in a joyous Christmassy spirit, mistletoe, sugar canes, and light. Reading it in context, it cast some shadowy light. Here's the thing: I prayed and was led to this verse and cannot just snip it out neatly with tiny scissors, ignoring where it appears in the text. We need to be mindful of this fact anytime we read scripture. We can't just select what's palatable and discard what's not, a la carte. I mean, who would be qualified to pick and choose and on what basis? "Danger, Will Robinson. Danger!"
Yet don't despair! There's a happy ending with a new beginning!
This verse appears at the tail end of the brief, three-chapter book of Zephaniah, a minor Old Testament prophet. It is indeed tempting to take verses out of context, whether to condemn, comfort, or congratulate ourselves or others. When we do, we can miss information that's vital to an accurate understanding.
Thus, I'm sorry that I have to take a slightly distressing--but timely--detour before arriving at the *+* SUPREMELY Good News *+* foreshadowed in these verses, packaged in the promise of a little baby, born in a lowly manger some 2000 years ago.
This verse is a promise to God's wayward people, but it's a promise that was contingent on a few things when it was written. You see, the chronically wayward Israelites were a hot mess (yet again), having just emerged from the reigns of two consecutive corrupt kings. Zephaniah wrote his book somewhere around 600-630BC during the reign of King Josiah, a dedicated reformer trying to clean things up. The people had turned away from the one true God and were worshipping idols, most especially a rancid fellow named Baal.
Among other things, this unsavory pseudo deity was associated with fertility and prosperity of both land and people. He evidently demanded some wildly abhorrent and morally bankrupt practices to be pleased and appeased. What's worse, is the lost people invited this weirdo into God's holy temples, defiling them. (Please do note that for modern-day Christians, our very bodies are holy temples so we oughta be extra-careful about what we're ingesting and doing with them!) It's more than a little troubling that some modern-day commentators think there's a spirit of Baal worship happening right now, conscious or otherwise. Read the headlines. Over the top, getting nuttier every day.
Regardless, the first two and a half chapters of this three-chapter book are all about Zephaniah warning God's people to get their act together and return to God. Speaking on behalf of God, Zep is extremely specific about the severe consequences of failure to obey God. There's a litany of awful judgement at the hands of a wrathful God who may or may not relent in smashing them to smithereens, depending on the people's compliance. The threat of total destruction is clear. This is so very hard to read, especially at a time when--as individuals and as a nation--many seem so very much at odds with God.
It's also tempting to relegate this kind of dynamic to an Old Testament fire and brimstone God of yore, one Whom we fancy got "replaced" by a gentle, unconditionally loving Jesus. There's a very big gap in this Divine makeover that we need to examine, understand, and honor.
Father, Son, and Spirit are ONE and UNCHANGING.
Brace thine self: Good News is coming!
This Mighty God, the One who breathed the universe into being with infinite intelligence and creativity, who raises up and levels nations, who thunders Truth, who dispenses both judgment and mercy at will, and who threatens destruction as He does in much of Zephaniah, is also the loving Papa of Zephaniah 3:17. That same God also embodies the humble, tender-loving Jesus, who voluntarily bore the rightful wrath of Father God. In fact, it's so important to see that even Jesus fully represented those less appealing God-traits in the Gospels, most especially in His dealing with proud hypocrites and the unrepentant who flouted both His grace.
Again, we cannot serve Him up, a la carte.
Thankfully, there's EPICALLY GOOD NEWS!
As Christians, we are totally spared God's righteous wrath, which was poured out entirely on the little baby Jesus we celebrate next week. God is the proverbial judge who convicts the guilty, then pays the fine.
However, there is a transaction involved which depends squarely on us and our free choice. We can eschew our guilt and reject the mercy offered in Christ, relying on our "goodness" for rescue (impossible, BTW) or we can own our fault and rest, PAID IN FULL.
If you're downtrodden by your woes or woefulness, SHIFT YOUR GAZE!
Another upside: An Almighty God can fix all sorts of unfixable things within, around, and among us. Hallelujah!
As we approach the manger baby, let's bow down low to behold His mighty power to save us from ourselves and to bless us into eternity. Let's accept this ultimate love gift that enables us to enjoy...
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.
Love, joy, peace, and Grace in Christ,
PRAYER: ALMIGHTY GOD, Help me remember the full counsel of Your Divine Nature, including your standard of perfection, my inability to meet it, and your gracious provision of Jesus to stand in the insurmountable gap! May I ever worship You with my temple, Your home. In the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen!
ACTION: Read and reflect on the book of Zephaniah as it relates to modern times.
Do you enjoy my writing? Even the tiniest gift blesses me more than I can say! Please follow me, and like, comment, and share my blogs, too. I'm so grateful for you!