“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
This has to be one of the loveliest and most meaningful stories in Scripture – and told by Jesus Himself. He has just described the selfish faithlessness of God’s people which again and again has led them to disaster. They have rejected God, rejected His ways, wasted their promised inheritance and walked away from their relationship with Him. Now, when desperate and helpless they turn back to Him, what sort of response would they expect? Certainly nothing like the one that Jesus painted for them!
God the Father is seen as the father who watches and waits in longing pain for his lost child to come back to Him. Understanding where the boy’s actions would lead He had still let him go – knowing that to force him to stay would have been fruitless. But whilst he was gone the father ached for him … and waited … and watched.
When at last he saw his humiliated son struggling sadly along the painful road home the father didn’t walk back into the house … he didn’t stand sternly with folded arms and compressed lips, making the boy crawl to his feet … he threw decorum to the winds, ran the road to meet his precious child, enveloped him in a huge hug and covered his face with tearful kisses. His child was back at last .. and how he had missed him and longed for him. What the boy might have done, the wealth and opportunity that he had squandered, all were brushed aside in the father’s openhearted love and acceptance … ‘You’ve come back … you’re home … I love you so much!’
Unwittingly we often imagine God in the image of some of the authority figures we have known or feared – often stern, unbending and severe in their expressions of disgust and dismissal. Although He is Almighty God and of absolute holiness, and although He would have every right to reject and dismiss us, He is not like our images at all. He is Love – and we get a glimpse of the meaning of the word as we watch this Prodigal Father in action.
This is Who watches for us and watches over us, this is Who longs for us and loves us, this is Who comes to us and calms us. This is our God and our Father –and He wants us so badly to come home to Him – not just partially but fully; not just once but whenever we discover that we have strayed again, and from wherever we find ourselves to be.
His response is not just one of a word and a hug. It is a response of restoration of relationship as Father and son and restoration of position as His son. And it is a celebration of that restoration and the permanence of that relationship as the Father gives expression to His love and His joy.
“The father said to his servants, `Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:22-24)
This is the One who watches and waits and longs for (more of) you.
O Lord I want to believe in and know that Love – please help me to come home to You more fully than ever before. Amen.