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Monday, May 31, 2010

Lovesick and Dumbfounded

“(The Lord) takes great delight in you…” (Zephaniah 3:17).

 With apologies to Zephaniah the prophet and my Hebrew professors, I offer this translation:

The Lord, your God is with you—
your hero, mighty to deliver!
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, that he breaks into song each time he thinks of my name. But it’s the phrase I render, “He is speechless with love” that dumbfounds me.

The verse is usually translated, “He will be quiet in his love,” or in some translations, “He will quiet you with his love.” But the Hebrew verb does not suggest tranquility. It means, “to be dumb,” or “to be speechless.”[1] And since the verb is in parallel with other verbs that describe God’s emotions (“He takes great delight,” and “He breaks into joyful song”) it must point to what he himself feels.

Could the analogue be a lovesick swain, thunderstruck with love for his beloved, so overcome with affection that he is tongue–tied?  Is God, in some inexplicable, anthropopathic way, “struck dumb” with love each time he thinks of me? If so, to be loved like this is, in turn, to be rendered speechless.

Who is it that God so loves? One who is good and true and breathtakingly beautiful? No. One who is unholy and unsightly, but who “takes refuge in the name of the Lord” (Zephaniah 3:12).

DHR

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

4 comments:

Dennis said...

What a fantastic thought....almost too much to believe. I don't even like myself that much!

gcorron said...

This post is simply theological sleight-of-hand, or misdirection. The context of Zeph. 3:17 is after the return of Christ, when all believers are transformed and perfected. That verse is part of a passage that begins in verse 16, "On that day ...". God is not in love with the person I know as myself, but with the person I will be after the resurrection. Because his purpose in salvation is unstoppable (Is 46:10), God has no problem loving me in the present or from the beginning of time. But I have not yet attained my goal (Phil 3:12) so I do not for a moment indulge myself in vain imaginings that God loves me just the way I am.

If we were to take David Roper's idea of God loving us for who we are right now and freely "translate" Eph. 1:4, we could come up with amazing truths such as "even as he chose us in him just the way we are right now", instead of "even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him."

Let's not confuse the "right now" with the "not yet." We live in hope of the "not yet", not in the phony glory of the "right now." (Rom 8:24, Luke 10:20)

dskn said...

With sincere respect to gcorron - with God not bound by time, I do believe He loves me in such a way now as He ever will. He has loved me like that since the foundation of creation. That love is not dependent on a time to come, but rather upon what Christ did for me for all time (past, present and future). His love is not dependent on me reaching a goal because He sees me already having attained that goal. I am moving toward the goal, but God is not waiting for me to arrive to be completly loved by Him. Thank goodness I do not have to settle for less than His full love for me now and wait for some day ahead.

gcorron said...

I agree with dskn. God loves all his elect right now, and has since the beginning of time. His love is "steadfast", meaning it does not depend on anything, because salvation is a sure thing in his mind and in reality, because he accomplishes everything he desires. My disagreement with the original post is in the grounds for this love. Is it indeed without grounds? Or is it grounded in his love for righteousness? My contention is that if it is not grounded in our future perfect righteousness after the resurrection, then it is meaningless and cheap. Psalm 33:5, 45:7, 103:17 are three good verses that show the link between God's righteousness and his steadfast love. Hos 2:19 says "I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy." We are betrothed in the "borrowed" or imputed righteousness of Christ, but we will someday "make it our own" (Phil 3:12).