Reading the prophets might give you the impression that God is an angry God. But Jesus' parable of the prodigal son tells us that God is more anxious than angry. In fact, like all good earthly fathers, He longs for our return. Even the prodigal son has to go through the trials and tribulations brought upon by his own rejection of his father, ending in desperation of famine and degradation of a pigsty (read Luke 15:11-32). It's never our Father's intention that we should live in poverty. His desire is that we who are straying return home to the Father's house filled with riches and rejoicings.
The whole purpose of divine discipline is to drive us home. Here in Zephaniah 3:14-17, we catch a glimpse of God's rejoicing over His people when they return to Him: "The Lord your God in your midst...will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet (calm) you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." God's preferred mode of engagement with humanity is love, joy and peace for His people. But when there is willful rejection of God to pursue the world's values--lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life--we will have to face the consequences of our own sinful choices, even for those who call God Father. No one can violate the law of sowing and reaping. As much as the father loves the prodigal son, the son nevertheless suffers the consequences of his own choice to leave the father's home.
But when we return (repent), heaven rejoices. Jesus says: "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent" (Luke 15:10). God is anxious for our return to Him. And when we do, heaven breaks into a chorus of joyful singing over just one sinner that repents!
Father, thank You that You are a God who rejoices over Your people, especially over those who repent and return home to You. May we share this joy by helping sinners come home. Amen.