I really like the way the love of God stands out in the Old Testament prophecy books. When I hear songs or hymns about God’s love, I’m not that impressed because every song seems to be about God’s love. Frankly, it gets boring, especially since they are rarely creative. On the other hand, these prophecy books talk a lot about God’s wrath. (The only song I can think of that gives more than a passing mention to God’s wrath is “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”) Because they talk so often about God’s justice and wrath toward evildoers, His mercy and love toward the unrighteous stand out more than ever.
Cherry-picking verses about God’s love is a great way to water down its preciousness. If you want to be impacted by how amazing it is, try reading an entire book of prophecy in one sitting (preferably a short one). Zephaniah is a good choice. You know God means business when the first sentence of His message is, “I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth” (1:2). He pronounces judgments against Judah as well as the surrounding nations. He proclaims that the Day of the Lord is near, singling out the idolatrous priests, the royalty, and the merchants for punishment. Over and over and over, God announces how He will destroy them all.
So far, so good. But then in chapter 3, God ends with a promise of love, joy, and restoration that is unprecedented in the rest of the book. I read it with a sense of relief. I can’t help but come away amazed at how God’s wrath and judgment are so much greater (and more righteous) than ours, and that His love and joy toward us are also far superior to our own.