James Nisbet Commentary - Zephaniah 3:17 - 3:17

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James Nisbet Commentary - Zephaniah 3:17 - 3:17

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‘He will rest in His love.’


We are going to the ground of everything—of all comfort and all hope, of all affection and all happiness—when we say that God ‘rests in His love.’ God has not left us without sufficient evidence on which to rest the blessed assurance. Let us trace it.

I. First, we see God in creation.—There He began to unfold His love; and this first manifestation was a beautiful world, in which everything reflected back God to Himself. God was pleased; ‘He saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.’ And to show His satisfaction, ‘on the seventh day He rested.’ Now of all the manifold intentions of mercy to man which lay in the fact of the holy calm of that first appointed Sabbath, I account this to be the foremost—it showed God resting in His love.

II. By and by, we find God’s love pitching upon a certain man, and in him, on his descendants.—Why that love pitched there, why it took its irresponsible course, and floating over the nations, settled upon Ur of the Chaldees, it is not for us to lift the veil to see; but we are to see, we are to consider deeply, and we are to admire this—that where it once pitched, there it rested for ever. Much there was afterwards—very much—to make that love, if it were possible, unrest itself and go away; for a more intensely ungrateful, or a more wilfully stupid, or a more determinately rebellious people than that seed of Abraham never existed on the earth, or could exist. Its wretched history seems to be left on record for this very end, to enhance the marvel of God’s immovable love. Yet in the midst of all their unparalleled provocations, hear God saying, by the mouth of His prophet Isaiah, of this very people: ‘I will take my rest, and I will consider in my dwelling-place like a clear heat upon herbs, and like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.’ Or observe that prayer which God taught them to make whenever they halted upon a journey: ‘Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest, Thou, and the ark of Thy strength.’ Or, again, in the hundred and thirty-second Psalm, listen to that remarkable expression, with the same significancy, ‘This is my rest for ever.’

The whole narrative of the Jews marks only a series of instances in which God returns again and again to them—after punishments, after captivities, after expulsions—however long, back and back to His own once chosen resting-place of love. His whole heart yearns over them, ‘How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within me, My repentings are kindled together.’ And though they are banished now into their weary exile, is that ancient love of God worn out? Oh, no! The text is one among thousands, which in their first and literal application belong to the Jews, foretelling the time when God shall return to brood over them again in all His early tenderness.

III. Or listen to the experience of one who perhaps had more spiritual trials and more varied difficulties than any other man who ever lived.—David had been greatly exercised in mind that he should lose the love of God: ‘Is His mercy clean gone for ever? doth His promise fail for evermore? hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath He in anger shut up His tender mercies?’ And now hear him returning to his confidence: ‘And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.’

IV. Or read the history of Christ and His disciples.—He had chosen them, wherefore I know not, but yet He had chosen them; they were an ignorant, unbelieving, treacherous people, yet He loved them still. Do you ask why? St. John, who knew more of His mind than any other, gives us this explanation: ‘Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.’ So that we arrive at a simple faith, a truth which cannot go before it or beyond it. Why do we go on to love God? Because God goes on to love us. And why does God go on to love us! Because He began to love us. And why did God begin to love us? Because He chose us. And why did He choose to love us? Because ‘He is love.’

And where God loves once, He loves for ever. ‘He rests in His love.’ It might have been that God had said, ‘I will rest in My hate.’ We never read of God resting in His punishments, we never read of God resting in displeasure. There is only one thing that God rests in—‘He rests in His love.’

Outside Christ, God may visit, but He never dwells. Once united there, it is the Christ in it which makes an object dear and precious to God; for God, resting indefinitely upon Christ, cannot choose but rest on that, whatever it be, however poor, or unworthy, or sinful soever, in which Christ is.

Let us learn to connect ever perpetuity with the love of God. And indeed you cannot connect it with anything else. Are we not taught every day the uncertainty of the tenure by which a man holds everything except the love of God?

All success in life lies within that confidence. Therefore fortify yourself in the unchangeableness of the love of God.

And it is a promise. Wrestle with that promise in prayer. Lay it up in the deep chambers of your heart. It is true for time, it is true for eternity, ‘He will rest in His love.’

Only give back your heart’s full, joyous confidences to the love which, in its own free grace, has shone upon your soul. Cement your union with Christ by every means in your power. Do let me beseech you to be a frequent communicant, that you may cement your union with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Rev. Jas. Vaughan.


‘Those who have ever known that sense of repose too deep for words—the thought which feels that, by any expression of itself it would only mar its own intensity—would understand the beauty of the fact, that the sentence which we have translated, “He will rest in His love,” is more literally still, “He will be silent in His love.” For there is rest beyond language, whose very eloquence it is that it cannot choose but to be silent.’