17 Since the Lord “is with” (beqereb, “in the midst of”) his people, they need no longer fear; he is able to save them. “Mighty to save” (gibbôr yôšîaʿ; cf. Jer 14:9) is an expression in Hebrew that can be understood in an active verbal sense—“a warrior who will keep you safe” (REB); “a warrior who gives victory” (NRSV); “a warrior who brings triumph” (TNK); “a hero who saves” (GWT); “his power gives you victory” (TEV)—or as a noun with a modifier—“victorious warrior (NASB, JB); “mighty savior” (NAB, NLT). Isaiah 10:21 mentions the remnant that will return to the “mighty God.” The word gibbôr often refers to a warrior who is going out against the enemy (Isa 42:13).
The last half of this verse is a love poem of three parallel lines, each expressing the great love of God for his people. Robertson, 340, observes “that the Holy One should experience ecstasy over the sinner is incomprehensible.” Other passages that speak of God’s rejoicing in the love of his people include Isaiah 62:4–5; 65:19; and Jeremiah 32:40–41.
The Hebrew behind “he will quiet you with his love” was translated by the KJV, “he will rest in his love.” The reading of the text has been understood and interpreted in various ways: (1) because of his love, the Lord will keep silent regarding his people’s sins; (2) the Lord’s love will be so strong and deep as to hush motion or speech—there will be silent ecstasy; and (3) the Lord’s silence is due to his planning of good deeds toward Israel (see Notes).
Some commentators and versions (NAB, NEB, RSV, JB), however, read the Hebrew form from the root ḥdš (“to renew”) instead of ḥrš (“to quiet”), thus yielding various ideas: (1) he will do new things; (2) he will renew his love; (3) he will renew himself in his love; (4) he will renew Israel through new life; and (5) he will show you his love. Luther perhaps caught the sense when he explained, “He will cause you to be silent so that you may have in the secret places of your heart a very quiet peace and a peaceful silence.”
The prophet continues his description of this saving God as one who “will take great delight in you” and “rejoice over you with singing” (cf. Isa 62:5).
17 Now the prophet moves into the “holy of holies” by a rapturous description of the love of God for his people. This verse is the John 3:16 of the OT.
The love of God for his own people is not a soft, sentimental emotion that has no strength to act on behalf of its object. For this God who loves is Yahweh. He is God. He is a mighty hero who saves. The term for mighty hero (gibbôr) frequently refers to a warrior who overpowers his enemies. The Lord goes forth as a “warrior” who marches against his foes (Isa. 42:13). As the God of Gods, the Lord of Lords, the mighty God, the “hero,” he defends the orphan, the widow, and the alien (Deut. 10:17).
This mighty hero is in the midst of his own people with power to save. Many calamities may befall Israel because of their sin against the Lord. But in the end he shall show his power to save from every enemy. His love acts concretely to deliver his people.
The next portion of this verse may be called a “poem of personal love.” Three parallel lines each containing three phrases express the deepest inner joy and satisfaction of God himself in his love for his people. Delight, joy, rejoicing, and singing on God’s part underscore the mutuality of emotional experience felt by God and the redeemed.
That Almighty God should derive delight from his own creation is significant in itself. But that the Holy One should experience ecstasy over the sinner is incomprehensible.
God breaking out in singing!
God joyful with delight!
All because of you.
The mutuality of the loving response of Redeemer and redeemed is seen in the fact that some of the same terms used in the admonition to his people now describe the response of God himself to his people (cf. vv. 14 and 17). Zion is exhorted to sing (rānnî); he rejoices with singing (rinnāh). Jerusalem shall rejoice (śimṭî); he delights over Jerusalem with joy (śimṭāh). The whole scene depicts a grand oratorio as God and his people mutually rejoice in their love for one another.
The middle line of the poetic triad provides some difficulty in interpretation. Several optional understandings have been offered. But the most straightforward is the most likely: he will be quiet (over you) in his love. The only essential difficulty with this rendering is found in the vividness of the phraseology. To consider Almighty God sinking in contemplations of love over a once-wretched human being can hardly be absorbed by the human mind. But this understanding is supported by the regular usage of the word employed (ṭāraš in the Hiphil) as well as the poetic structure of the verse.
The Hebrew verb ṭāraš, “to be quiet,” is intransitive in meaning, with the possible exception of Job 11:3. It describes the inward condition of the subject of the verb rather than depicting a quietness which is conveyed to another. Here God is the subject of the verb, and he is said to be quiet in his love.
The parallelism of the verse also suggests this intransitive sense. The first and last lines of the stanza contain the middle member over you (ʿālayiḵ). Since it is quite common in Hebrew parallelism to omit a corresponding phrase in one line that appears in another line, this same over you may be regarded as belonging also to the middle line of the stanza.
Almighty God, quiet in his love. God the mighty savior, quietly contemplating, contented in his love for you.
If the prophet’s mode of expression appears excessive, it must be remembered that God in his very essence is love (cf. 1 John 4:8). As the direct source of all true love, he not only is capable of achieving every depth of salutary love experienced by his creation. He by his very nature may excel every human emotion of true love. If a human being with all the limitations of his nature may revel in the purity of essential love in short, snatched moments, then certainly the Almighty himself may reach even greater depths of love and sustain these depths without restriction of time.
So these considerations would remove any hesitation about understanding the prophet to be affirming that God sinks into contemplative quietness in his love for sinners. This much in the verse’s affirmation can be understood.
The real difficulty lies in assimilating personally the prophet’s repeated declaration concerning the object of the all-absorbing love of God. over you he will delight; over you he will rejoice with singing; over you will he be quiet in his love. How could the Sovereign Creator concentrate his whole being in the love of a temporal creature of dust? How could the Holy satisfy himself contentedly in the loving contemplation of the unholy?
One stage in the appreciation of this prophetic affirmation may be achieved by accepting in the abstract this proposition to be true. God can and does absorb himself in his love for human beings. But the total message of the prophet demands personalization. over you he shall rejoice. In his contemplation of you he shall sink into quietness.
This you of the prophet obviously contains the limitation of contextual definition. It is the you that is called “Jerusalem,” “Zion,” “Israel” (vv. 14–16). None other than the elect of God are the objects of such all-consuming love. Them he loves because he loves them (Deut. 7:6–8). Not in them or for anything in them is to be found the reason for his love. In the nature of God himself may be discovered the only explanation of this love.
But not only does the object of this love have the limitation of definition by context. It also has the openness of invitation. Reaching a breadth that stretches “beyond the rivers of Cush,” this incomprehensible love of God embraces all “his suppliants” (v. 10). Whoever they are, whatever their ethnic or moral background, wherever they may be located, this same unchanging love of God reaches to “all who call on the name of the Lord” (v. 9).
This global extension of the love of God is not merely a hypothetical possibility. It is a temporal and historical reality. From all the nations a people with purified lips call on the name of the Lord (v. 9). Every single individual who utters this humble call knows for himself this “love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:19). So the prophet describes a love of God exceeding all human imaginations.“Remember the silence of Jesus, and expound this text thereby,” says C. H. Spurgeon. Although the great preacher’s point may be related more directly to brilliance in homiletical flair than to precise exegetical science in expounding the intention of the prophet, it cannot be dismissed as having no relevance to the verse at hand. For Jesus’ silence in trial and crucifixion was rooted in no other soil than in the fertile depths of the love of God for sinners. “Like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth” (Isa. 53:7). Jesus’ silence lent him the opportunity to contemplate the specific objects of his sacrificing love. He “delighted” to do God’s will as he presented his “body” which had been “prepared” for sacrifice (Ps. 40:7, 9 [Eng. 6, 8]; cf. Heb. 10:5, 7). His love for sinners was no less than the love of the Father’s.
Attempting to comprehend the depths of this love, one may compare the OT version of John 3:16 to a child on the seashore. Digging a sandy trench to the limitless expanses of the ocean, the child stretches out her arms to gather the ocean’s depths into her shallow pool. As the poet has expressed it:
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell.
This contemplative quietness in love is complemented by the rejoicing with singing that also characterizes the love of God for his people. God will rejoice over you with singing.
Once again the language of Zephaniah reflects rather specifically the mode of expression found in Deuteronomy. Moses declares to Israel: as the Lord once rejoiced over you (śāś ʿălêḵem) to do you good, so he will rejoice over you (yāśîś ʿălêḵem) to destroy you (Deut. 28:63). But the nation could take comfort in the fact that ultimately the Lord will return “to rejoice over you for good” (lāśûś ʿāleyḵā ləṭôḇ, 30:9). Zephaniah sees the fulfillment of this ancient promise in the future manifestation of the love of God for his people. 
Ver. 17.—In the midst of thee; better, is in the midst of thee (see note on ver. 15). Is mighty; he will save; rather, a Mighty One who will save; LXX., Ὀ δυνατὸς σώσεισε, “The Mighty One shall save thee.” This is the real ground of confidence: the Lord wills their salvation. He will rejoice over thee with joy, now that thy iniquity is purged, and thou art united again to him, as a chaste and comely bride (Isa. 62:5; Jer. 32:41; Hos. 2:19). He will rest (Hebrew, be silent) in his love. This is a human expression, denoting that perfect love which needs no outward demonstration. For the very greatness of his love God rests, as it were, in quiet enjoyment of it. Some take it to mean that in his love for his people he is silent about, makes no mention of, past sins; but this seems less suitable, as this clause is merely an expansion of the preceding one. The Septuagint and Syriac Versions render. “He will renew thee in his love:” and Ewald has proposed to alter the present reading to, “He will do a new thing.” But there is no sufficient reason for making the change. With singing. Again he gives to his ineffable love outward expression. The LXX paraphrases accurately,“He will rejoice over thee with delight as on a day of festival” (Isa. 65:19).
How can I endure in my faith during hard times?
|You are God’s masterpiece, and He has given you His Word as a testimony to the love and joy He has for you. Zephaniah 3:17 says: “The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”
God rejoices over you, though He knows you are in the process of becoming all that He has planned for you to become. You are not yet what you will be when you step into the eternal presence of God (1 Cor. 13:12; 1 John 3:2). Until that time, God is patiently molding and shaping you into the image of His Son.
You never have a reason to give up (Gal. 6:9). You are not alone! Jesus is with you, cheering you on to victory. He is at your side to strengthen and encourage you. When you fix your eyes on Him and not on your circumstances, you will begin to see life differently. Instead of thinking negatively, the Holy Spirit will teach you to think about the things of God, pure thoughts that honor Jesus Christ.
God has pledged over and over to love you. He walks with you through disappointment and is never disillusioned by your wayward acts. He has seen the finished portrait! While on your own you can do nothing, He knows that through Christ you can and will succeed (Phil. 1:6; 4:13).
This does not mean that you won’t suffer or feel pain. Jesus endured both, and yet He did not give up. He knew that in order to complete His mission He would have to endure until the end, and He wanted more than anything else to accomplish the Father’s will.
How could He possibly bear the weight of all our sins and still remain victorious? God had given Him an eternal perspective. Long before it happened, Jesus saw the resurrection as a completed fact (Matt. 20:18, 19). And after three days, He rose again from the grave to walk in victory. God gives you such victory through the presence of the Holy Spirit.
You can walk in victory because Jesus is your example and His Spirit lives in you. Like colors on an artist’s palette, God uses every frustration, fear, feeling of hopelessness, and even temptation to bring you closer to Himself.
See the Life Principles Index for further study:
12. Peace of God is the fruit of oneness with God.
18. As children of a sovereign God, we are never victims of our circumstances.
 Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Zep 3:17). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.