“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17, ESV)
What does God think when he looks at you? I imagine for some of you, the first words that come to mind are words like “disappointed” or “frustrated.” You serve God with a sense that you are never quite good enough to satisfy Him. Even when you do your best, your best falls short. This kind of thinking leads inevitably to legalism, the idea that God views us begrudgingly, and if only we try a little bit harder, maybe, just maybe, we can make him smile. So begins the endless round of quiet times, Sabbath keeping, Bible memory, gospel sharing, money giving, and self-denial, all in the hope of earning a “Well done” from God.
The problem with all this, of course, is that it ends where it should begin -- with the smile of God. It puts the gospel love of God at the end of our effort, rather than at its foundation. And the glorious thing about the gospel is that you don’t have to be better, Christ is perfect. You don’t have to do more, Christ has done it all. The Father now looks upon us with Christ colored spectacles. He loves us in Christ, as part of His Son. Christ has made an end of all your imperfections. In Christ every blemish has been dealt with, every debt has been cancelled, every stain has been washed away. And now, seeing you in Christ, God loves you with the same love with which He loves Christ. If you don’t believe me, listen to Jesus,
“I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”” (John 17:26, ESV).
So ask yourself, would you be in the least surprised if God were to say Zephaniah 3:17 about Jesus? Would you be surprised to hear God singing with delight over Jesus? Would you be surprised seeing God, the Father doting over God, the Son? Then, don’t you see, you shouldn’t be surprised to see God viewing you with the same delight, or to hear Him singing over you with the same tender gladness!
What would the singing of God sound like anyway? I like John Piper’s sanctified imagination:
I hear the booming of Niagara Falls mingled with the trickle of a mossy mountain stream. I hear the blast of Mt. St. Helens mingled with a kitten’s purr. I hear the power of an East Coast hurricane and the barely audible puff of a night snow in the woods. And I hear the unimaginable roar of the sun, 865,000 miles thick, 1,300,000 times bigger than the earth, and nothing but fire, 1,000,000 degrees Centigrade on the cooler surface of the corona. But I hear this unimaginable roar mingled with the tender, warm crackling of logs in the living room on a cozy winter’s night.
Begin today with God singing over you, delighting in you, doting on you for Jesus' sake. When he looks on you, He sees the travail of His Son’s soul and is satisfied. You may feel like a Jacob, but God smells His favorite Son, the Lord of Glory, covering you and clothing you. Hear His delight, “See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed!” (Genesis 27:27, ESV). You don’t have to warm His heart. You don’t have to earn His smile. Jesus has done that for you. It’s all yours, because it is all His! Here is a foundation from which you can face this morning and whatever else the day holds in store. Christian, God loves you for Jesus sake. He could not possibly love you any more, and He will never love you any less.