A Prodigal People
By Wendy Wippel
“Grace” is a beautiful young woman who loves God. Who spent a year in London on Mission, serving and witnessing to London youth. She came home with an unexpected medical issue, however. Really unexpected: a pregnancy. Which– distraught and devoid of resources– she ended in the same way that so many that don’t know God’s love do. But she knew better. Thank God He’s the God of second chances.
God IS love, the Bible tells us. John the Apostle recorded that fact, and since he walked with God himself, he should know. But what does that mean: God is Love?
For one thing, it means that he understands our fallen nature:
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy….He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:9-14 NKJV)
He knows our “frame” because he actually became one of us. God himself walked the earth as a man. Through Jesus we see the depth of His love, because Jehovah God-the Lord who created the universe, the God who’s real name was not to be even spoken, enclosed Himself in our fallen nature in order to purchase our redemption.
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (II Cor. 5:21)
It cost Him.
We see His love again by the fact that it does not cost us:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. (Eph. 1:3-7)
We don’t deserve it. On our own merits we are spiritually bankrupt. But God gives freely to those who finally swallow their pride, acknowledge that they are divinely destitute, and ask for help.
And God, while walking the earth as Jesus, explained this eternal truth in the form of a parable. One that discussed a rich man and a prodigal son:
“A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’
“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
“Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’
“But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
“And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:11-32)
It’s a parable, which means that it teaches principles through the use of analogy. And it’s pretty obvious that the prodigal son represents a sinner who repents. And that the other brother represents the Jews who thought themselves more righteous than their countrymen. Likewise, it should be obvious who the Father is.
El Shadai. God Almighty.
So isn’t it interesting what the passage says about Him. (And I bet, like me, you didn’t notice till it was pointed out).
But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.
The prodigal son was still a great way off. Meaning no where near home yet. Which can mean only one thing: His father spent every day looking for him. Hoping to see him on the way home.
And we know our Heavenly father does too:
Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him. (2 Samuel 14:14)
Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents (Luke 15:10)
For the creation waits with eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. (Romans 8:19)
The prodigal son came home (He had banished himself, hadn’t he?) and his dad has a party! Why? The exact wording, to me, has spiritually analogous overtones as well-
“Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’ (Luke 15:25-27)
Safe and sound at home. Which every parent hopes to see in a spiritual sense.
But even that isn’t God’s endpoint. We are all prodigal children, aren’t we? We insist on being the captains of our own ships despite the storms, gales, rotted food and scurvy, the frequent veers off course, and the inevitable shipwrecks that God often uses to finally get our attention.
I am going to make an embarrassing confession here: as someone who has written for a living for 25 years and who prides themselves on their extensive vocabulary—I never realized till now what the word “Prodigal” actually means.
I kind of thought it meant ne’re- do-well. Someone who couldn’t get his act together.
Wrong. What it really means is to waste resources, like His Word. His Spirit inside us. His present help in trouble. His ambassadorship that we are called to.
Which means we’re all prodigal sons and daughters of God.
But God still makes sure that our pain isn’t wasted. We get to know God better as we work through our pain with His help. And we get to pass it on:
. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (I Cor1:3-4)
It’s been about three years now since her abortion and for Grace (and by now I think you can figure out why I called her that) it’s been three years tormented by guilt, wondering what her child would have looked like, more guilt, and lots of depression. But the God who truly lives within her wasn’t done yet. And last week she started working as a grief counselor for a Right-to-life Group near her Orlando home.
We all sin. But God’s provision, His own life, wipes every one of our mis-steps, big and small—away.
He is the God of Second Chances.
P.S. Closing with the Veggie Tale song Lyrics to “Second chances” set in the story of Jonah in the whale. Which I forgot all about (my kids are now 24 and 20) till I started writing this today.
If you have never heard it, listen to it. It’s the best song ever!