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The Mighty Warrior Who Saves Moms

God is present, working, and loving in the daily lives of mothers.


We're going to land on Zephaniah 3:17 today, but we're going to take a while to get there, because we can't appreciate what's going on when we get there unless we see the context it sits in. These verses are applicable to everybody today, but we're going to draw special application and special focus on helping mothers think through what these verses mean for their lives.

Let's read Zephaniah 3:17: "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."

A scene of struggle, a sign of hope

A mother walks down a busy street. It's a beautiful day, and yet she is clutching her child almost like there's bad weather outside. She cannot help it, because she is worried. She can't help but to hear about surrounding nations that want to do her own nation harm. She's seen it happen all around. She knows there are crazy people, tyrannical dictators. There are religious leaders bent on murdering other people in the name of their religion.

But as she walks down the street, clutching her child, she's well aware that the problem is not just out there—the problem is not just other nations. The problem is not just dictators and religious leaders of other groups.

She walks by a building and she glances over at it: everybody knows the religious leader in that building lives a life of immorality. Even in her own land, she sees the widespread decadence and rebellion—even among those in leadership—and even as she passes that building, she crosses the street and realizes that just a short time ago, a man's blood was on that street. The land is marked by violence, and not only violence. It's marked by all kinds of fraud—governmental fraud and rich people who take advantage of those around them to use them to their own advantage, gaining and maximizing their own wealth.

Even beyond that, she looks around and clutches her child, and she knows it is a place where most people are apathetic about God. It's hard for her to turn a corner without someone mocking God: where is he, if he exists? She is bombarded all around by the mockery of God.

But as she walks and clutches that child, something else is bothering her, and it's not just other nations. It's not just the religious and political establishment; it's not just the cultural mockery. She thinks about the fact that she is not who she thought she would be. She had painted a picture of the way her life would turn out, and the reality is not even close. She knows she embodies a lot of the rebellious attitudes and tendencies she shakes her head about in the culture. Even as she walks down the street, holding her child, she knows she is not the mom she wants to be, and she wonders if she's the one ruining her child.

The scene I painted here is not from Main Street in our own downtown, but it could be. All of those issues and all of those struggles were realities to the moms who were walking down the streets of Judah in the latter part of the seventh century B.C. See, many of those issues have not changed one bit. Many of the fears and the concerns have not changed at all. About 100 years earlier, the Northern Kingdom had been swept away by Assyria, and it seemed the Southern Kingdom of Judah had not learned anything. They followed the same path of sin, the same path of rebellion, and it seemed they were headed to the same place: of being swept away. But there was a glimmer of hope.

There was a king in Judah named Josiah. He was a boy king—he took the throne when he was eight years old because of a murder—and then some 18 years later, when he was 26 years old, there was a priest named Hilkiah. You can read about it in 2 Kings 22 and 23. In the temple, Hilkiah finds a scroll of the Scriptures, the Book of the Law. He shakes off the dust, for nobody had gazed upon it for some time, and he takes it and reads it to Josiah. Josiah is humbled and broken, and he sets about a reformation in the land. He starts running out the priests who are abusing others. He starts taking the idols out of the temple. He starts having the law of God proclaimed in the midst of the people.

There was a prophet at this time named Zephaniah, a proclaimer of the Word of God, and he was a man who stood with Josiah. He proclaimed a particular message: a message of two days. There was the Day of the Lord, the day of impending judgment and doom and calamity. Some of the most terrifying verses in the Bible about the judgment of God come from Zephaniah.

But there's another day. There's the day of restoration for a remnant who trust God: a day of blessing, a day of deliverance.

The Day of the Lord

First of all, consider this Day of the Lord. He mentions it in Zephaniah 1:7, 1:14, and 2:2-3, and there's always a sense of the reality that the day is coming. It's inevitable, and it's terrifying.

Look what he says in the first few verses in Zephaniah 1:2-3.

(Read Zephaniah 1:2-3.)

The coming judgment and the Day of the Lord is a judgment that is universal in scope. But look at verses 15-16 of chapter one.

(Read Zephaniah 1:15-16.)

It is not only universal in scope; it is comprehensive in its utter severity. It is terrifying. In Zephaniah 3:8, he says:

"Therefore wait for me," / declares the Lord, / "for the day I will stand up to testify. / I have decided to assemble the nations, / to gather the kingdoms / and to pour out my wrath / on them— / all my fierce anger. / The whole world will be consumed / by the fire of my jealous anger."

This is the pending day for this path of rebellion, he says: this pathway of decadence. But I'll have you flip back with me to Zephaniah 2:2-3.

(Read Zephaniah 2:2-3.)

Seek the Lord. Trust him. Put your faith in him, not in yourself. Humble yourself. Repent of your sins and look to him and trust in him, the raying glimmer of hope for a people who will be carved out in the midst of the judgment of God. They will know a different day: a day of restoration, a day of blessing, a day of deliverance.

The ultimate gift for a child

But I want us to pause here, because there's an important reality that we've got to deal with. Right after Zephaniah proclaims the Word of God, right after he offers this prophecy, Babylon comes in and takes over the people, sweeps them away into captivity. We see in this a moment—a historical moment—that says, "Yes, this is what Zephaniah was warning about. Just as the Northern Kingdom was swept away by Assyria, it hasn't just been the sins out there in our rebellion. God is dealing with us, and he's even using the Babylonians to do it."

But it's just a taste. You see, the Babylonian captivity was not completely universal in scope. The Babylonian captivity was not ultimately comprehensive in its severity. It's doing what the Bible often does, and that's to proclaim something: to remind of the reality of it with moments in history that say, "This is a window into what's coming, but what is being taught stretches far beyond that." The ultimate Day of the Lord—of which the Babylonian captivity was a taste—would be a day of universal judgment on those who are rebels against God. It would be a day of severity like you could never, ever comprehend. The Babylonian captivity was but a taste.

I guess it's just your lot in life that when you have eight children—like I do—people tend to come to you and your spouse for parenting advice: all kinds of people, in all kinds of places. You're at the ballpark and somebody thinks, Well, they've got eight. They must have learned something. They come ask me parenting advice. Oftentimes I'm able to give some sort of advice about a particular situation, but it always causes me to pause: because I know unless I say what's ultimate, I'm putting a Band-Aid on an open wound. Oftentimes I'll say, "Well, you can try this and do this and do this." But then I'll pause and I'll say, "Let me be clear. Nothing you do as a parent could compare with you living for Jesus Christ, you putting your faith in him, you walking with him no matter what. That is the greatest gift you could give your children."

One of the members of our congregation and one of my heroes—a single mom, facing a lot of challenges—came to me for parenting advice. We had that conversation, and she put her faith in Jesus, and I watch her walk with him and trust him. Understand this, moms. The most important thing is for you to walk with Jesus. There's nothing that matches that—you living for him—because the most important thing in your child is not the degrees and not the manners and not that they clean themselves up nicely, but that there is a coming Day of the Lord, and all who do not live for him will be swept away in the judgment of God. So the most important thing for you to give your child is a constant appeal that what matters most is being delivered from that Day of the Lord.

The Day of the Lord, hear me, is the day of Jesus as he returns for his final judgment. Make no mistake. The stretching out beyond the context is not Babylon: it's the day when the Lord Jesus returns. The New Testament tells us he judges the living and the dead. The New Testament tells us in that day, "every knee should bow … and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord" (Phil. 2:10-11), but for many, that day will be too late. That's ultimate, and we must never forget it. If you're a mom here today, and you've never put your faith in Jesus Christ, nothing I say matters except for this—the greatest gift you will ever give your child is to humble yourself, not trust in yourself, put your faith in Jesus Christ as your only hope for salvation now and forever, and walk with him.

A taste of restoration

But I want to bring a clear word this morning to moms who have put their faith in him. They have sought the Lord. They have trusted in him. They have humbled themselves in the sight of God, offering up no filthy rags of righteousness, but trusting in his righteousness alone. They have repented of their sins and turned to him.

You see, right at the end of Zephaniah's prophecy, the Babylonians came. The captivity was some 50 years, and there was the restoration to the land: there was the deliverance, there was the blessing of a people that returned from exile. But just as the Day of the Lord was but a taste, this day of restoration from Babylonian captivity was just a taste. It was a taste of something greater, something universal in scope, and something comprehensive in love and mercy. It was a great day to be heading back from the Babylonian captivity, but it was a window into a people that were restored from every tribe, tongue, and nation and gathered forever and ever.

The day of restoration, the day of blessing, the day of deliverance is already here, and yet it's not yet consummated. The Day of the Lord it is a day in the future, while God exercises his mercy and patience and calls us to repentance. But the day of restoration is different. Jesus invaded history, and when he showed up, they said, "The kingdom of God was at hand." This was the Messiah who would bring his kingdom, and he brought it. He brought restoration to all who would put their faith in him. But though it's already there, there is a coming day of consummation when he deals with sin fully and finally in the Day of the Lord: when the day of restoration and blessing and deliverance will be ultimate.

The text points us to that beyond. In fact, we get a taste of this in Zephaniah 3:9-11.

(Read Zephaniah 3:9-11.)

He's pointing to a day here when the people will be gathered: not just as the people of a particular nation, but the people of all nations will be gathered.

In Ephesians 2:13-14, it says there were those who were "brought near by the blood of Jesus. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility." In this new humanity, this restored humanity, there is no more Jew and Gentile. Those outer distinctions and divisions have been swept away, and it is the gathering of people from every tribe and tongue and nation right now. But one day, that people will be removed from the very presence of sin, fully and finally and forever.

Zephaniah 3:12 tells us this people will be marked by humility. They will be a people that are "meek and humble." Verse 13 says this people will be a people sanctified by the grace of this God, transformed in the midst of the sin and rebellion.

Then we get to 3:14-16, and we get the response. How do people respond to this if they experience the day of restoration? Imagine those in the Babylonian captivity heading back; imagine the joy and the song. But remember, it's just a taste of the day when he will gather his people from all nations, and he will separate them from the very presence of sin forever. How do you respond to that?

Look at verse 14: "Sing, Daughter Zion." Zion is the Lord's daughter. It's his people. There's a remnant within Zion or Israel. The verse continues: "shout aloud, Israel! / Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, / Daughter Jerusalem!" That's the way you respond. You respond in song, in shouting and exultation and joy.

Verse 15 reads, "The Lord has taken away your punishment, / he has turned back your enemy. / The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; / never again will you fear any harm." Do you hear that? It's an amazing celebration of rejoicing in God, of singing with joy at the reality of what God has done. There is a coming day where all of the enemies will have been wiped out, and there is a day when the people of the day of restoration will never experience fear again, ever.

The mighty warrior in moms' midst

But there is a very important transition in the next verse, and it's the transition that we have such a hard time with. Verse 17 takes us from rejoicing over God and what he has done. We say, "I get that." But verse 17 takes us from that to a picture of God rejoicing over us, and we have a hard time believing that. The gospel does not say, "Because of what Jesus has done, God has decided to tolerate you." It is that God rejoices over you.

There is a world of difference. This is the truth that the mom walking down the streets of Judah with her child at the end of the seventh century needed more than anything. It's the truth that every person, including every mom here, needs to hear and believe more than anything.

You know, I found something over the course of 20 years of ministry. Moms tend to struggle with this more than others. Moms tend to struggle with performance. For most of the things they do, nobody is standing outside applauding. Every now and then, when my wife's washing the clothes, we'll march down there and cheer, but she washes about 25 loads a week in our house. I have to have two washing machines and two dryers even to keep up. So we can't really do that all the time. Rarely ever does she change a diaper and somebody calls and says, "I'll tell you what. I am proud of you." Very few people ever applaud.

So the tendency is to be haunted with thoughts like, Am I doing this right? How do I know? I'm not good enough. I'm messing these kids up. Then click on Facebook, and look how happy that family looks. If I were just like her, you might think. Or if I just had her gifts and her abilities. It doesn't matter how many times you say, "Listen. People do not put pictures of themselves in a puddle of tears, crying in the corner on Facebook." It's just hard. I wonder if she's got something I don't.

Then we come to verse 17, and we see the power to overcome all of that, the key to serving and loving our children. First thing I want us to see is this: the mighty warrior is present with you every day. Where does that come from? Look at verse 17. "The Lord your God"—Yahweh, the great covenant name of God—"is with you, / the Mighty Warrior." The word "mighty" here is a particular word for a soldier: a mighty warrior. "The Mighty Warrior who saves."

You've got to fight to believe that, because you are often in the midst of dirty diapers and scrubbing floors and carting off here and there. It just seems so utterly unimportant. We so struggle with the providence of God.

I had a conversation with one of my sons not too long ago. I went to see him play in a sporting event, and the effort, the guts—it just wasn't quite there. He got in the car and I said, "What are you doing? Why wouldn't you give maximum effort? I don't get it. If we go home tonight and we turn on the Atlanta Braves and somebody gets thrown out because they're not running out a ball, they're just sort of jogging down, you're going to be yelling at the TV, 'Come on! Hustle! That's ridiculous!' Why is it more important for Justin Upton to hustle than it is for you? It's not."

Here's what the providence of God teaches us: you are not able to determine what the important moments are. Most of the moments unfolded in Scripture are not something where you would say, "Now that matters. Hey, everybody stop! There's a woman heading to a well." You aren't able to judge it. The providence of God means there's a sovereign God who weaves all of the daily-ness of life together for his glory, and we don't know what the important moments are. But moms at home changing diapers, carting kids here and there: the mighty warrior is present with you every day. He is in your midst, and every moment matters.

By the way, he's the hero so that you don't have to try to be. You're swept into his story, and it is the story that will reign in eternity throughout the cosmos. So you don't have to create a narrative that makes you a big deal here and now. It's not the way you thought it would turn out? Good. There's a mighty warrior who knows better than you.

Secondly, the mighty warrior delights in you. Look at the next line in verse 17: "He will take great delight in you." Do you believe that? Do you believe that in Christ, God is present, and he is over you, and he's filled with delight? Not because of what you've done and offered him, but because of what he's done for you. He has delivered you. He saved you.

Picture this. Your child is wandering off. You look out the window. The child is wandering into the street. There's a car coming. All of a sudden, you get supernatural speed. You grab that child. You bring him back, and you say, "Listen, chump! Don't make me have to do that again."

No, you weep with joy. You celebrate. It was almost over, but here you are. "You are still here! I love you. I don't want a pat on the back for saving you. I'll do anything for you."

God says that in your daily-ness, he delights over you: "There's somebody I saved! They were running headlong toward the Day of the Lord, and I've swept them into the day of restoration forever. I delight over that fact." Every single day, Mom, don't you dare think that you would delight in the deliverance of your child more than God delights in your deliverance.

Thirdly, the mighty warrior quiets you in chaos. Look at the next verse: "in his love he will no longer rebuke you."

Our home is often chaotic. You know what I see all the time at my house? I see kids who are getting panicky about things that aren't that big of a deal, and they're getting chaotic and worried, and I see my wife come in. Maybe they've injured something, and they think it means they're going to lose their leg. All it needs is a Band-Aid. My wife comes in, and she just hugs them, and all of a sudden they quiet down.

Why? They are overwhelmed by a love that gives them a sense of safety and protection. But you know what? Sometimes I get to come in to do that for my wife, too: "It's okay. You're not in this alone. I love you. I'm here." Sometimes I have to simply overwhelm her with love and my presence.

The mighty warrior of heaven and earth is present in your everyday life. He delights in you. If you look to him, he will quiet you in chaos. What we do for one another, he does for us with perfection.

Notice the last part of this verse—the mighty warrior sings over you with joy. Now I don't sing over my children, because they would cry. I started singing one day, and one of my sons said, "No, Daddy! No! Don't sing. Let Mommy!" My wife can sing, and oftentimes she sings over the children, and it fills them with delight. In fact, she teaches them all how to spell their name by making up a song just for them. Countless times, there they are in the midst of the day, and she starts singing over them the songs that she's come up with just for them, and there is unbridled joy on their faces. That is but a pale reflection of the mighty warrior who is present daily with delight, quieting us with his overwhelming love, and singing over us with joy.


Here's the problem: a lot of moms gets lost in the daily-ness, and they believe the gospel for everybody else. They even tell it to their children. But they don't believe it for themselves on a daily basis. On a daily basis, they get a performance mentality. They see their flaws. They wonder if they're messing their kids up. They wonder what's going on.

Hear me today: God doesn't tolerate you. In Jesus Christ, he loves you with sovereign, overwhelming love that issues forth in delight and song. He is always present. Hear that. He defeats your enemy. He pays your debt. He ushers you to the day of restoration. He is present with you every day. In every diaper, in every moment, in every trip, he is present with you. He is delighting in you as one he has delivered. He is quieting to you when you look to him in the midst of chaos with his overwhelming love. He sings over you with joy.

But understand this. It's not till you experience this, it's not until you continually taste it and begin to live based on this fact of his love, that you are capable of reflecting—in an imperfect way—that love to your children. If you live in the sight of God with a performance mentality and act as though God tolerates you, then you're teaching your children the wrong things about the gospel. Nothing's more important than that.

Moms and everybody else, we've got to fight. We've got to fight to believe the gospel is true, because we want to reflect it. None of you are going to go home today and look at your children and say, "I'll tell you what. I've decided to tolerate you." To even hear that, we go, "Oh." And yet so often we act as though that's what God is saying to us. But it's not. Moms—and everybody—nothing is more important than getting this right and as right as you can every single day.

David Prince is Pastor of Preaching and Vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, KY. He also serves as Assistant Professor of Christian Preaching at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. He is the author of In the Arena: The Promise of Sports for Christian Discipleship and he blogs at www.davidprince.com.

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Sermon Outline:


I. A scene of struggle, a sign of hope

II. The Day of the Lord

III. The ultimate gift for a child

IV. A taste of restoration

V. The mighty warrior in moms' midst