What makes a good warrior? It’s an odd question to pose in a country where virtually no-one possesses a weapon. In today’s culture warriors are a lost concept reserved for Hollywood blockbusters and R rated fantasy series. But in the ancient near east, the idea of the warrior was central to almost every culture in existence, and the Bible speaks quite a lot about warriors and wars. You may remember King David and his mighty men for instance. Every culture has its own warrior heroes of course, but you might find it odd to hear God described as a warrior.
In Zephaniah 3:16,17 we read: “Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. 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.”
In this context, God is speaking to a broken people ravaged by decades of assaults from the mighty Assyrian empire. Judah has just seen their northern neighbours, the Kingdom of Israel, be destroyed and carried off into exile, and they wonder about their fate. They are warned that a similar fate is in store for them if they too don’t change their ways. But at the end of this prophecy is found a precious gem of hope. God looks forward to a day where Judah will be restored to the land by His hand. And these words are immensely comforting. A much-weakened remnant of the mighty Kingdom of Judah would enter back into the land, and if they were alone they would surely fail. But as Judah is threatened by all the foreign peoples around them, the Greeks, and then the Romans, God promises to remain with them as their Mighty Warrior. This is important because with these odds a normal warrior would flee. But rather than turning tail and running from danger, God can save His people from it. This is immensely comforting when considering our fear at times like these – God is with us, fighting, and He isn’t afraid.
The promise ends with a remarkable detail; God will rejoice over those who stand firm. When we as God’s people seek Him and follow Him, rejoice and trust in Him, God personally delights in us. He even rejoices over us with singing. These short two verses leave us with a complex picture of our God who is both our fearless warrior and our delighted Father. This morning let us stand firm in the knowledge we are with the Mighty Warrior who saves.