I have always loved the verse in the Old Testament book of Zephaniah. Here’s how it goes in the Amplified version
The Lord your God is in the midst of you
a mighty one
a Saviour (who saves).
He will rejoice over you with joy,
He will rest in silent satisfaction
and in His love He will be silent and make no mention
of past sins
or even recall them.
He will exult over you with singing.
This verse has always struck me because of the image it creates of God ‘singing’ over us. (The ‘you’ in the sentence is plural – there is no room in Judaism or Christianity for self-serving individualism – yes, you are loved individually but you are also deeply connected to a body of other people who are also deeply connected to God)
Love in the Christian faith ALWAYS has to flow in two directions;
<—-> this way between us and other people and vertically between us and God.
The church may be weird, odd, difficult or not to our taste but it IS where Christ chooses to be present and although this verse doesn’t refer to ‘the church’ it does refer to a group of God’s people the Jews who were meant to pre-figure God’s ideal of society – the church, the ‘communion of saints’. I love Eugene Peterson’s take on the church: ‘that many of them don’t behave or look the way we think saints should look is no concern of ours. They are saints by virtue of the way God looks on them and treats them’. We fall so far short of God’s ideal society as did the Jews. God had always intended them to be a light to all nations but they mostly forgot about that and assumed that God was their private God.
God is no one’s private God.
Anyway, all that is a preamble. what really struck me about this verse when I read it recently is not the image of God singing but the idea that God would be silent. The Amplified version brings out the full meaning of God’s silence in relation to our short-comings – ‘he will make no mention of them, he will not even recall them’.
How very, very difficult it is for us to do that for those who have hurt us, rejected us, disappointed us or simply ignored us. How often we rehearse that hurt and sometimes express it or bring it up over and over. Silence is very difficult especially when the opportunity arises to rub someone’s nose in it if they have hurt us.
Yet God does this for us.
And who are WE? We are those who have ‘hurt’ God by rejecting him outright, we have disappointed him by living with no reference to his offered wisdom or guidance. We have ignored him by assuming his irrelevance, impotence or non-existence.
And so what does God do when we turn back to him? He is quiet. So overwhelming is his love for us, he’d rather say “Let’s not go over all that again!”
Now isn’t that good to know?