What is the sound of God singing? In fact, does God sing? Well according to the Bible, yes, he does! Even though I have tried to I can’t imagine what that sound is like. There are some clues as to how and why he does, however.
The prophet Zephaniah announced a series of judgements on Israel, Judah and even the Gentile people for turning their back on God and being wilfully disobedient. But as he got to end of this damning indictment he declared there would come a time when things would be different. God would preserve and protect all of those who called on His name. Furthermore, the King of Israel, the Lord would be in their midst. Things might be tough, the circumstances of life could get difficult, there might be temptation to give up but, he says ‘Fear not, don’t let your arms droop and grow weak!’
Life gets difficult. Sometimes the stress of living gets too much. Financial problems, ill health, broken relationships, difficulties at work, falling profits and rising debt and the rest threaten to overwhelm us. We are drowning, or so it seems; or at least life is just so hard. Maybe our arms grow tired and our hands become weak – giving up seems an attractive option. But then God calls out ‘I am with you’! He is in the midst of this, with us. He is not shouting from the side lines, giving advice, making suggestions. He is right there in it with us. He is Immanuel – God is with Us! Whatever your circumstance, your difficulty, your mess, God is in it with you.
That’s good news, but it doesn’t end there. This God is the one who is not only able but who will save, he will deliver. The message of Zephaniah is that God will deliver those who call on Him because he knows them, has chosen them and has declared them to be righteous. He is not swayed by the opinions of others, he doesn’t listen to the descriptions that are used about you, even if they are your own. ‘I’m too weak, too poor; I’ve failed so many times, I’m tired, my problems are too big I just can’t do it!’ Of course, there are many who will agree with those views and be happy to add to them ‘call yourself a Christian, I saw what you did, failed again didn’t you, what makes you think you can handle this problem? You’ll never change, you’re a product of your environment, you’ll always be insecure and unloved…’ You are who God says you are! Chosen, loved, significant, a winner, secure, righteous, delivered, set free! Why? Because he says so.
So, what has all this got to do with singing? It is in that context that God says That he is in your midst and he is rejoicing with gladness. The Hebrew words used in the passage (Zeph. 3:17) are translated differently by some but essentially they mean: He looks happy, he is displaying all the characteristics of joy and festivity, just as if he is at a festival or banquet. He is excited.
He does more, he quietens you, he gives you rest. He doesn’t raise problems of the past, he doesn’t debate your failures he is there as a Mighty God who will save you, he dispels your fears and quietens your soul. It is His love that does this, the same love that the apostle Paul says we can never be separated from and through which we are made more than conquerors.
Then he exults over you with loud singing! Some translators use the word rejoice rather than exult, but the root of the word means to go round in circles, to get excited, to dance. Not only will God sing, he will dance. Let your imagination run, what does this look like, sound like? God is in the midst of your life, with you, and he is dancing and singing. Why? Because the battle is won, he has delivered you. This is the sound of victory, he is celebrating.
Joy is the highest mood of worship. So much so that the people of Israel were threatened with a curse because ‘they did not serve the Lord with joyfulness and gladness of heart’ (Deut. 28:47). Paul tells us that the kingdom of God is righteous, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit and we are reminded that the joy of the Lord is our strength. When the walls of Jerusalem were dedicated, ‘the joy of the Lord was heard from a long way off’ (Neh. 12:43). Yet as Nietzsche famously wrote ‘I might believe in the Redeemer if his followers looked more redeemed’. What is it like to look redeemed? Surely God, himself, gives us a clue. He sings, he dances, he laughs. He is excited and enthusiastic, he doesn’t care about the opinions of others, he gives full expression to his joy. What about you, what about me? Do I look redeemed? When we meet and worship is it with gladness and joy or as C.S. Lewis once remarked about the church do we suffer from a terrible sense of good taste. Do we give full expression to our joy, or are we more concerned about our image, the opinions of others, our heritage? Some might say, but that’s alright for some but I’m an introvert (me too!), that’s just not me, I can’t express myself like that. Yes, but wait a minute, weren’t you created in the image of God? Aren’t we supposed to reflect his character in worship? Think about it, draw your own conclusion.
The Lord, your God, is in the midst of you, He is singing over you with joy, because the victory is won, and you are delivered. The least you can do is join in.