Zephaniah 3:17 includes an interesting description of God singing over people: “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
Two important observations regarding this passage: first, singing represents God’s joy. The Hebrew phrase translated “he will rejoice over you with singing” can also be translated literally as “he rejoices over you with a shout of joy.”
Second, God’s singing parallels the singing of His people in Jerusalem. “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion!” (verse 14). This unit of poetry begins with the people of Jerusalem singing praise to God and ends with God singing over His people. God rejoices with His people, and He expresses joy when His people praise Him.
The question then is, why is God so joyful? This passage of Zephaniah speaks of a future time when God has ended His judgment upon Israel. All of their enemies have been destroyed, and Israel is entering a time of safety and blessing (verses 8, 15, 19). Zephaniah is speaking of the future millennial kingdom when the Messiah (Jesus) will reign with His people in Jerusalem (Isaiah 9:7; Revelation 20:1–6).
The word picture in Zephaniah 3:17 is full of emotion. God the Father is the One who holds His daughter Jerusalem and sings joyfully in her presence. Just as a loving parent cradles a child and sings out of love, so God’s song over His people is born of His great love. After a time of hardship, our loving Lord dries His people’s tears, comforts their hearts, and welcomes them to a new world.
Finally, Jesus also taught in the New Testament that “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). Whether or not God Himself sings in this passage is not made clear, but it is clear there is rejoicing in God’s presence when those who are lost repent and are made right with God (Ephesians 2:8–9; John 3:16).