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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Lovesick and Dumbfounded

Carolyn and I often spend our quiet times reading from A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants, an Upper Room publication (If you've visited Shepherd's Rest you've seen the copies in each bedroom.) The Old Testament passage for this morning was Zephaniah 3:17.

With apologies to Zephaniah and Bruce Waltke, my old Hebrew professor, here is my translation...

The LORD, your God is with you--
your hero, mighty to save!

He takes great delight in you.
He is speechless with love for you.
Every time he thinks of you he breaks into joyful song!

-Zephaniah 3:17

I'm awed by the notion that God takes great delight in me and breaks into song each time he thinks of my name. But it's the phrase I render, "He is speechless with love for you" that captivated me.

The verse is usually translated, "He will be quiet in his love," or in some translations, "He will quiet you." But the verb doesn't suggest tranquility or rest. It actually means, "to strike dumb."[1] And since the verb is in parallel with other verbs that suggest God's strong emotions ("takes great delight," and "breaks into joyful song") it must point to what He himself feels.

I wonder then: Could the analogy be that of a lovesick swain who is bowled-over, flabbergasted and dumb-founded by his love for the beloved-so overcome with fondness that he is tongue-tied? Is God, in some inexplicable, anthropomorphic way, "struck dumb" with love each time he thinks of us? If so, to be loved like this is, in turn, to be rendered speechless. As Isaiah would say, "I am undone."

And who is it that God so loves? One who is strong and able, brilliant, and breathtakingly beautiful? No, it is one who is "weak and the weary... who takes refuge in the name of the LORD" (Zephaniah 3:12).

DHR

[1] Jenni-Westerman, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament.

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