“On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be, “Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid! ……With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:16, 17, NLT
God is love and we are created by love, for love and to be loved. The theme song of an American romance-drama film in the 1950s described love as a many splendored thing and love as nature’s way of giving us a reason for living.1 Indeed, we need a wonderful experience (A.W.E) of God as our Divine Lover to transform our minds, to fill our hearts with a hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness and to strengthen our will to face suffering and death with joy and peace. It is impossible to live a life of joy and peace without the love of God.
Sin has alienated us from the love of God and distorted our image of God when we see God as an impersonal and uncaring Creator or as a wrathful Judge. Sin led the Jews to question God’s eternal love for them in spite of all the blessings and care God had showered on them. The prophet Malachi had to remind them of how God had chosen them to be His special possession.2 The Jews lived with the mindset of the elder son in the parable of the prodigal son who obeyed his father out of obligation rather than of love:
“All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf.”3
In the midst of God’s judgment for their idolatry, the nation of Israel was given the promise that the Creator will be their husband.4 The prophet Zephaniah painted a beautiful picture of God’s unfailing love with the background of the rebellious and disobedient spirit of the Jews. God, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, was patiently waiting for the remnant of Israel who were lowly and humble to return and live in the Kingdom of Heaven. God wanted to take delight in them, to calm all their fears with His love and to rejoice over them with joyful songs so that the announcement to Jerusalem will be, Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid!”5
It is so difficult to see the wonder of God’s love in the stories of God’s judgment on the idolatry of the Jews. In the 17th century, Saint Therese of Lisieux, “The Little Flower,” found that people are afraid of God as they saw Him as a being who permitted suffering and sorrow and who punished even the smallest of sin. They dread death and felt that it was impossible to reach heaven. However, St Therese encountered God as a being of love and mercy as well as justice with an infinite love for mankind which was not appreciated. Throughout her life, she shared the spirituality of imperfection through “The Little Way” – a gospel of radical grace.6
We are living at a major crossroad in human history, an apocalyptic time that feels like the Day of the Lord. We are bombarded by horrific news of wars, climate change, economic crises and pandemics. Such times are a time to “stand in silence in the presence of the Sovereign Lord, for the awesome day of the Lord’s judgment is near.”7 Our failures, weaknesses, imperfections and suffering are the consequences of our slavery to sin. We are perfectly imperfect and in need of deliverance from sin. We need the wondrous love of God that is revealed in the cross of Christ.
Love is the antidote for all our fears in life. Jesus Christ is the incarnation of love. Love is not a feeling but the essence of God for God is love.8 God’s love is the blood stained cross of Christ and the many splendored thing that turns our tragedies into victories, failures to growth, grief to joy and death into resurrection. It is time to listen to what God is saying to us:
“Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.”9
In silence, solitude and stillness we learn to hear the voice of the Lord which can be powerful and majestic10 or a gentle whisper.11 In silence we listen to our Shepherd of Love leading us to rest in green pastures beside the still waters.12 In silence we kneel before God’s throne of grace so that God’s love may be perfected in us:
“O perfect Love, all human thought transcending,
lowly we kneel in prayer before thy throne,
that theirs may be the love which knows no ending,
whom thou in sacred vow dost join in one.”13
Lord, help me to transcend my human thoughts that I may be filled with Your perfect Love.
- How can my imperfections and weaknesses help me to experience God’s love?
- What have been my experiences of God’s judgment?
- How can I listen to God’s voice in my daily life?
Song of Praise:
O Perfect Love
- Love is a many splendored thing, Wikipedia
- Malachi 1:2-5, NLT
- Luke 15:10, NLt
- Isaiah 54:5, NLT
- Zephaniah 3:16, NLT
- Gabriel Lopez, Saint Therese of Lisieux, “The Little Flower” – Her Beautiful “Little Way” For Christ, https://stmuscholars.org/st-therese-of-lisieux-the-little-flower-her-beautiful-little-way-for-christ/
- Zephaniah 1:7
- 1 John 4:8, 16, NLT
- Jeremiah 6:16
- Psalms 29:3-9, NKVJ
- 1 Kings 19:12, NLT
- Psalms 23:2, NJKV
- O Perfect Love, Dorothy F. Gurney