“Lo, the sun goes down, and we mortals dread the endless darkness; but thou, great God, seest the morning, and thou knowest that in the hours of darkness dews will fall which shall refresh thy garden. Ours is the measure of an hour, and thine the judgment of eternity” -C.H. Spurgeon A Sermon for the Time Present
Today my studies on Zephaniah brought me to this sermon from C.H. Spurgeon. On Oct 30th 1887 Spurgeon, penned these words, but on this cold morning in 2017, I find his words apply to the world I see around me.
I don’t have to spend much time building the case that the world around us often appears to be endless darkness. Rampant sexual exploitation, the deaths of thousands of women and children in Syria and other war torn countries, the current attitudes of omission and permission that perpetuate the national scars of racism. All of these are on center stage in the world today.
But what about our own worlds? At times there appears to be endless darkness there as well. We sit seemingly alone facing the confusion, anxiety, loneliness, and fear that comes with the brokenness of our bodies, relationships, and marriages.
Where is God? Where is his Church? As Spurgeon points out, “I see the sun going down, I dread the darkness, is there a source of light to be found?”
Light and Delight
Brothers and Sisters, in this present reality there is darkness, but we must be reminded that the Word became flesh! Zephaniah, Spurgeon, and the apostle John all saw hope.
In his excitement to encourage his people towards hope, John, Jesus’s beloved disciple, could only get a mere four verses into his letter before telling us there is light in this present darkness. Oh how our hearts need to be reminded of this profound truth! “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5)
If you are anywhere close to where I am this morning, remember, the promises of God do not change with each election cycle. The mission of God is not determined by the state of any one nation. God’s character will not change, because it cannot change. He sees your pain, anxieties, grief, and exhaustion and he delights to bring life and light.
God not only sees your sorrows. In his sermon Surgeon goes on, in great length, to explain about God’s passion for us.
“On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: ‘Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. 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).
What Spurgeon draws out from the end of Zephaniah, I believe, is the main thrust of Zephaniah’s writing. The people of Judah where being drawn into the darkness. They were being guided by false judges, prophets, and priests. But Zephaniah takes great care to call the attention of the Lord’s people back to their God. You see, God knows the brokenness of our current state of affairs. God knows the rebellion of your bones and the sorrow of your heart. But God, being rich in mercy, (Ephesians 2:4-9) delights and SINGS for the redemption of his people.
Returning to Spurgeon’s own words:
“Here [Zeph 3:16-17], by the pen of inspiration, the God of love is pictured as married to his church, and so rejoicing in her that he rejoices over her with singing. If God sings, shall not we sing? He did not sing when he made the world. No; he looked upon it, and simply said that it was good. The angels sang, the sons of God shouted for joy: creation was very wonderful to them, but it was not much to God, who could have made thousands of worlds by his mere will. Creation could not make him sing; … But when it came to redemption, that cost him dear. Here he spent; eternal thought, and drew up a covenant with infinite wisdom. Here he gave his Only-begotten Son, and put him to grief to ransom his beloved ones. When all was done, and the Lord saw what became of it in the salvation of his redeemed, then he rejoiced after a divine manner… but still we are glad to note what is written, and we are bound to take comfort from it. Let us have sympathy with the joy of the Lord, for this will be our strength.”
But Zephaniah does not end with God’s rejoicing over being reunited with his children. You see God delights with singing over the accomplished mission at Calvary, but he doesn’t stop there.
“I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival, so that you will no longer suffer reproach. Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you in, at the time when I gather you together; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes,” says the LORD” (Zephaniah 3:18-20).
God sees our pain and our oppression. God sees our shame. What does he do with them? He gathers his children in, he sings over them, and he makes their mourning into dancing (Jeremiah 31:11-14). “God, seest the morning, and thou knowest that in the hours of darkness dews will fall which shall refresh thy garden. Ours is the measure of an hour, and thine the judgment of eternity.”
Keep up the good work. Fight for justice. Seek out and grieve over the broken areas of our world and in your unique story. But remember that God has not left us in this darkness. As Jesus reminded us through John, “I have said these things to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Take courage brothers and sisters. He has overcome this world!
Becky Kiern has been on staff at South City Church in St. Louis, MO serving as Director of Community Life and Women’s Ministry for the past 7 years. In 2011 she received her Master of Arts in Educational Ministry from Covenant Theological Seminary. Becky has also been a cardiology RN since 2007. Above all her favorite roles are that of friend, sister, and auntie.