Recommended Reading: Jeremiah 29:4–13; Ezekiel 37:24–28; 1 Peter 3:15
Every team in professional sports has a group of devoted followers you might call hopeful fans. Without them, the team couldn’t survive. These aren’t rabid fans who constantly vacillate between intense hatred and delight during each game, or fickle fans who cheer enthusiastically during winning streaks but lose interest when the team loses games. These fans remain true no matter what. They’re happy when their team wins, certainly, but still wear their colors proudly when they lose. For them, there’s always next year.
Israel possessed an unparalleled record of losing seasons. Nations and dynasties flourished and vanished while God’s people experienced more losers than winners. The nation’s continued existence was in itself a miracle. A casual observer might wonder why God didn’t get tired of losing. He could have sold off the team long before. Yet God never gave up his franchise. The people of Israel were his chosen people. He knew they’d eventually win. With God, next year is always a certainty.
This message came to Israel through Zephaniah when storm clouds of devastation and defeat darkened the nation’s horizon. While he had earlier joined the chorus of prophets who were predicting Israel’s suffering, Zephaniah also added words of hope. The reign of King Josiah included a season of righteousness in Judah, delaying God’s judgment. The nation showed all the signs of a “rebuilding team.” The people changed their old habits and eliminated evil practices.
Unfortunately, Josiah’s reforms didn’t last long. Losing ways ran deep within the nation. Yet hope became the refuge of a small group determined to remain faithful. God’s hopeful fans stood fast. They realized that “next year” might not happen for a long time, but it would eventually come. God had promised.
The same God who kept his word to Israel keeps his promises to you. You can count on it. So live as a hopeful fan. God’s promise describes both his relationship with Israel and the one he longs to have with you: “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).