Read: Luke 15:4-7; Hosea 3:1-3; Luke 19:41-44
Even though we are coming to know and love our Savior more and more, there are things about him we can't understand right now. His ways are beyond our comprehension, Isaiah 55:8-9. He is wondrous and vast, Romans 11:33-36. Yet how good it is that there is much amazing truth we can understand about our Creator/Redeemer. Precious things revealed about Him in His Word, things that we are meant to understand, Deuteronomy 29:29. If I may, I would like to highlight one tender reminder about the Lord that has encouraged me this week.
The Father wants us to know that when we ache because of our love for a precious prodigal that our longings for his salvation and restoration are in sync with His own desires, 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4. My thoughts began to turn toward this truth when I listened to an old interview where James Dobson was speaking with Ruth Bell Graham. She is now in heaven, but at the time that discussion took place, they were talking about a book she had written concerning prodigals. Two of the Graham boys went through a time of rebellion. Ruth Graham said those difficult periods of time had brought her to her knees in prayer. She knew the Father's love for her sons was greater than her own, remembering Jesus picture of the shepherd and how he would leave the 99 sheep in order to search for the one that had strayed, Luke 15:3-7; Matthew 18:12-14. We will return to her thoughts in a bit, but let's spend a few minutes reminding ourselves of the Lord's view concerning prodigals. Perhaps our own precious loved ones who seem so disinterested in the Savior.
A. We don't have to travel very far in the scriptures before we see the Lord's heart toward those who were living in rebellion against Him. Genesis 6 tells us that as sin infected the whole world, God was grieved and the wickedness He observed was a source of pain to Him, Genesis 6:5-6. Yes, ultimately the Lord did bring judgment to a world of unrepentant sinners; however, God was at work through Noah prior to the day when the door to the ark was shut. Noah, the preacher of righteousness, 2 Peter 2:4 was demonstrating God's love through his words and obedience. How patiently God waited prior to the time when judgment had to come. What was God's desire during the years of waiting? We don't have to guess. We learn in the book of Ezekiel that God experiences no joy when people die without having received His love. Rather than this, He longs that they turn their lives over to Him, Ezekiel 33:11; Isaiah 30:18. He longed for the people to listen to Noah; yet, none did.
B. We can see the Holy One's heart of love and sorrow over His own prodigal people in the book of Hosea. What an earthly picture the prophet painted for us through his obedience to God's commands. His life was a demonstration of the pain God endured because of the idolatry of His people. Could God have given us a more poignant picture than Hosea's marriage to Gomer? He took her as his wife in spite of her bent toward unfaithfulness. Then the depth of the pain the prophet experienced when she disrespected and discarded his love by returning to a life of sin. Praise God. The picture wasn't complete. Hosea obeyed God one more time. The prophet bought his unfaithful wife out of bondage, and he treated her with kindness, Hosea 3:1-3. How much did God want us to understand the stubbornly beautiful love He has not only for Israel, but also for our prodigals!
Romans 10:20-21 as well as Luke 19:10 remind us that God's love continues to reach out and seek those who are lost and straying. If you have ever known someone who like Hosea was betrayed, you have seen the pain up close. Surely God wants us to know that His love for our prodigals is strong enough to "buy them back" no matter where they have been and how far they have gone from Him. Ray Pritchard says that God knows four things that we often do not know concerning our prodigals.
1. Where they are.
2. What they are doing.
3. How to reach them
4. How to bring them back.
C. If there were still any doubt concerning God's care and love for prodigals, Jesus puts it to rest in Luke 19:41-44. It is here that we see Jesus' eyes crying God's tears. His people have missed the "day of His visitation". The rejection by the religious leadership with all the ramifications and pain Israel would soon endure, caused the Savior great pain. How God longed for them to receive Him as their Promised Messiah, but they said no. What a reminder for us that our tears for our loved ones are like the Lord's. How good to be reminded that Jesus understood our sorrow concerning our loved ones, and He demonstrated it through His words and tears.
Back to Ruth Bell Graham. She wrote that she continued to love her prodigals. She understood that she could not convict them of sin or save them. These were miracles. Things that only God could do. She did the things that a mother could do. She prayed that God would do what He alone could do. Praise God. He brought the prodigals home.
Father, help me love _______________. Please do the things that You alone can do, Luke 1:37.