Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Picture of God’s Love and Mercy

A mother once approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son. The emperor replied that the young man had committed a certain offense twice and justice demanded death. "But I don't ask for justice," the mother explained. "I plead for mercy." "But your son does not deserve mercy," Napoleon replied.  "Sir," the woman cried, "it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for." "Well, then," the emperor said, "I will have mercy." And he spared the woman's son. ~Luis Palau, Experiencing God's Forgiveness, Multnomah Press, 1984.

The parable of the Prodigal Son is a story about God’s redemptive grace and mercy through the perspective of the father.  It was a story about a father’s unconditional love and forgiveness towards his wayward son.  It was clearly about God seeking sinners. In Luke 15, Jesus tells about the youngest son coming to his father to ask for his inheritance before the right time.  According to the Old Testament laws in Deuteronomy 21:17, the youngest son would only receive one-third of the father’s inheritance. 

Here’s the scenario that may offend people hearing this story: the young son came to his father to ask for his inheritance and it was like he was saying, “I wish you were dead!” This was an insult to the father. In the minds of the Jewish leaders listening, they understood that this would not have received the young son back into the family.  As a matter of fact, in the ancient Jewish culture, he would have been disowned and would not have been allowed to return as part of the father’s family.

The strong element of disbelief and disappointment felt by the audience of this story often is lost for the modern day reader. The Jewish audience might have asked how a son can be so cruel as to ask for an inheritance before his father’s death. They realized that money was more important to the younger son than his relationship with his father.  

After getting what he wanted, the son left and wasted everything he received but decided to return back home at the end. When he did, being not far off from his father’s house, his father saw the son approaching, indicating that he had been watching for him, runs to him and embraced him with open arms. According to Jewish tradition, the Jews considered this highly undignified in their culture. The patriarch never ran or never made the first move in such a situation. 

The prodigal son came back with nothing to offer; yet his father received him with much joy and celebration. His father showed His unconditional love and accepted him back into the family without any interrogation and even restored him to his former state. Looking at it from God’s perspective, the actions of the father reflected God’s great mercy and incomprehensible grace towards any sinner with genuine repentance from their sin and humility before a loving God. Here are three important lessons to learn from this parable: (a) God reaches out when sinners lose their way; (b) God responds to sinners when they repent wholeheartedly; (c) God reveals His Divine Love when sinners return to Him with humility.

Richard C. Halverson summarized it this way: There is nothing you can to do make God love you more! There is nothing you can do to make God love you less! His love is Unconditional, Impartial, Everlasting, Infinite, Perfect!  

Here’s an article in National Geographic several years ago that provided a penetrating picture of God's character: After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno's damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother's wings.

The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety, but had refused to abandon her babies. When the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body, the mother had remained steadfast.

 Because she had been willing to die, those under the cover of her wings would live...

"He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge..." (Psalms 91:4)  Being loved this much should make a difference in your life. Remember the One who loves you and then be different because of it.

God will never abandon us even when we totally abandon Him and He will accept us when we return to him again. Believe it and let others know about it!

Let us talk again!