Verses 14–20

After the promises of the taking away of sin, here follow promises of the taking away of trouble; for when the cause is removed the effect will cease. What makes a people holy will make them happy of course. The precious promises here made to the purified people were to have their full accomplishment in the comforts of the gospel, in the hope, and much more in the enjoyment, of which, they are here called upon, 1. To rejoice and sing (Zeph. 3:14): Sing, O daughter of Zion! sing for joy; Shout, O Israel! in a holy transport and exultation; be glad and rejoice with all the heart; let the joy be inward, let it be great. Those that love God with all their heart have occasion with all their heart to rejoice in him. It was promised (Zeph. 3:13) that their sins should be mortified and their fears silenced, and then follows, Sing and rejoice. Note, Those that reform have cause to rejoice, whereas Israel cannot rejoice for joy as other people, while she goes a whoring from her God. God’s promises, applied by faith, furnish the saints with constant and abundant matter for joy; they are filled with joy and peace in believing them. 2. To throw off all their discouragements (Zeph. 3:16): In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem (God will say it by his prophets, by his providences, their neighbours shall say it, they shall say it to one another), “Fear thou not, be not disposed to fear, do not easily admit the impressions of it; when things are bad, fear not their being worse, but hope they will mend; frighten not thyself upon every occasion. Let not thy hands be slack or faint; wring not thy hands in despair; drop not thy hands in despondence; disfit not thyself for thy work and warfare by giving way to doubts and fears. Pluck up thy spirits, and, in token of that, lift up thy hands, the hands that hung down, Heb. 12:12; Isa. 35:3. Lift up thy hands in prayer to God; lift up thy hands to help thyself.” Fear makes the hands slack, but faith and hope make them vigorous, and the joy of the Lord will be our strength both for doing and suffering.

Let us now see what these precious promises are which are here made to the people of God, for the banishing of their griefs and fears and the encouraging of their hopes and joys; and to us are these promises made as well as to them.

I. An end shall be put to all their troubles and distresses (Zeph. 3:15): “The Lord has taken away thy judgments, has removed all the calamities thou hast been groaning under, which were the punishments of thy sin; the noise of war shall be silenced, the reproach of famine done away, and the captivity brought back. Though some grievances remain, they shall be only afflictions, and not judgments, for sin shall be pardoned. He has cast out thy enemy, that has thrust himself into thy land, and triumphed over thee. He has swept out thy enemy” (so some read it), “as dirt is swept out of the house to the dunghill.” When they sweep out their sins with the besom of reformation God will sweep out their enemies with the besom of destruction. If they should need correction, they shall fall into the hands of the Lord, whose mercies are great, and shall not again fall into the hands of man, whose tender mercies are cruel: “Thou shalt not see evil any more, not such evil days as thou hast seen.” Note, The way to get clear of the evil of trouble is to keep clear from the evil of sin; and to those that do so trouble has no real evil in it.

II. God will give them the tokens of his presence with them; though he has long seemed to stand at a distance (they having provoked him to withdraw), he will make it to appear that he is with them of a truth: “The Lord is in the midst of thee, O Zion! of thee, O Jerusalem! as the sun in the centre of the universe, to diffuse his light and influence upon every part. He is in the midst of thee, to preside in all thy affairs and to take care of all thy interests.” And, 1. “He is the King of Israel (Zeph. 3:15) and is in the midst of thee as a king in the midst of his people.” With an eye to this, our Lord Jesus is called the King of Israel (John 1:49); and he is, and will be, in the midst of his church always, even to the end of the world, to receive the homage of his subjects, and to give out his favours to them, even where but two or three are gathered together in his name. 2. “He is the Lord thy God, thine in covenant, and he is in the midst of thee as thy God, whom thou hast an interest in and whose own thou art. He has put himself into dear relations to thee, laid himself by promise under obligations to thee, and, that thou mayest have abundant comfort in both, he is in the midst of thee, nigh at hand to answer both.” 3. “He that is in the midst of thee as thy God and King is mighty, is almighty, is able to do all that for thee that thou needest and canst desire.” 4. “He has engaged his power for thy succour: He will save. He will be Jesus, will answer the name, for he will save his people from their sins.”

III. God will take delight in them, and in doing them good. The expressions of this are very lively and affecting (Zeph. 3:17): He will rejoice over thee with joy, will not only be well pleased with thee, upon thy repentance and reformation, and take thee into favour, but will take a complacency in thee, as the bridegroom does in his bride, or the bride in her ornaments, Isa. 62:3-5. The conversion of sinners and the consolation of saints are the joy of angels, for they are the joy of God him-self. The church should be the joy of the whole earth (Ps. 48:2), for it is the joy of the whole heaven. He will rest in his love, will be silent in his love, so the word is. “I will not rebuke thee as I have done, for thy sins; I will acquiesce in thee, and in my relation to thee.” I know not where there is the like expression of Christ’s love to his church, unless in that song of songs, Song 4:9; Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse, with one of thy eyes. O the condescensions of divine grace! The great God not only loves his saints, but he loves to love them, is pleased that he has pitched upon these objects of his love. He will joy over them with singing. He that is grieved for the sin of sinners rejoices in the graces and services of the saints, and is ready to express that joy by singing over them. The Lord takes plea-sure in those that fear him, and in them Jesus Christ will shortly be glorified and admired.

IV. God will comfort Zion’s mourners, who sympathize with her in her griefs, and will wipe away their tears (Zeph. 3:18): I will gather those who are sorrowful for the solemn assemblies, to whom the reproach of it was a burden. See, 1. Who those are whom God will rejoice in and make to rejoice. They are such as are sorrowful. Those only must expect to reap in joy that sow in tears. The sorrowful now shall be for ever joyful. 2. What is the great matter of sorrow to Zion’s mourners, when Zion is in mourning. Many are her calamities. The city is ruined, and the palaces are demolished; trade is at an end, and the administration of public justice; but all these are nothing to them in comparison with the desolations of the sanctuary, the destruction of the temple and the altar, to attend on which, in solemn feasts, all Israel used to come together three times a year. It is for those sacred solemn assemblies that they are sorrowful, (1.) Because they are dispersed; there is no temple to come up to, or, if there were, no people to come up to it; so that the solemn feasts and sabbaths are forgotten in Zion, Lam. 2:6. Note, The restraining of public assemblies for religious worship, the scattering of them by their enemies, or the forsaking of them by their friends, so that either there are no assemblies or not solemn ones, is a very sorrowful thing to all good people. If the ways of Zion mourn, the sons of Zion mourn too. And hereby they make it to appear that they are indeed of Zion, living members of that body with the grievances of which they are so sensibly affected. (2.) Because they are despised; the reproach of the solemn assemblies is a burden to them. It had been the lot of the solemn assemblies to lie under a great deal of reproach. Satan and his instruments having a particular spite at them, as the great support of the interest of God’s kingdom among men. Black and odious characters have been put upon those assemblies; and this is a burden to all those that have a cordial concern for the glory of God and the welfare of the souls of men. They reckon that the reproaches of those who reproach the solemn assemblies fall upon them, fall foul upon them.

V. God will recover the captives out of the hands of their oppressors, and bring home the banished that seemed to be expelled, Zeph. 3:19, 20. 1. Their enemies shall be disabled to detain them in bondage: “At that time I will undo all that afflict thee, will break their power, and blast their counsels, so that they shall be forced to surrender the prey they have taken.” Conficiam—I will take them to task; “I will be doing with them shortly, and so as to make an end of them.” Note, Those that abuse and oppress God’s people take the ready way to undo themselves. 2. They shall be enabled to assert and recover their liberty, and all the difficulties in the way of it shall be surmounted. Isa. the church weak and wounded? I will save her that halts, as was promised, Mic. 4:7. He will help her when she cannot help herself; even the lame shall take the prey, Isa. 33:23. Isa. she dispersed, and not likely to incorporate for her common benefit? I will gather her that was driven out, and bring her again at the time that I gather her. One act of mercy and grace shall serve both to collect them out of their dispersions and to conduct them to their own land. When the people’s hearts are prepared, the work will be done suddenly; and who can hinder it if God undertake to effect it? “I will turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord; you shall plainly discern the hand of God in it, and say, This is the Lord’s doing.”

VI. God will by all this put honour upon them and gain them respect from all about them. Israel was at first made high above all nations in praise and fame, Deut. 26:19. The reproach brought upon them was therefore one of the sorest of their grievances (nothing cuts deeper to those that are in honour than disgrace does); and therefore when God returns, in mercy, to his church, it is here promised that she shall regain her credit; all the reproach shall be for ever rolled way, as Israel’s at Gilgal, Josh. 5:9. The church shall be as honourable as ever she had been despicable. 1. Even those that reproached her shall be made to respect her: “I will get them praise and fame in every land, where they have been put to shame, that the same who were the witnesses of their disgrace may see cause to change their mind concerning them.” Those that said, “This is Zion whom no man looks after,” shall say, “This is Zion whom the great God looks after.” And she that was looked upon to be the offscouring of the earth now appears to be the darling of heaven. 2. Even those that never knew her shall be brought to honour her (Zeph. 3:20): I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth. So the Jewish church was when the fear of the Jews fell upon their neighbours (Est. 8:17), and some of all nations said, we will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you, Zech. 8:23. So the Christian church was when it was made to flourish in the world, for there is that in it which may justly recommend it to the value and esteem of all the people of the earth. And so the universal church of the firstborn will be in the great day, when the saints shall be brought together to Christ, that he may be admired and glorified in them, and they admired and glorified in him before angels and men. Then will God’s Israel be made a name and a praise to eternity.