When Daddy Stopped Listening

It’s a comfort to know my Heavenly Father always listens to me when I pray.  But the Message paraphrase of Luke 15:20-23, illustrates a time when my Daddy-God stopped listening to His wayward son.  The Father had scanned the road every day since His younger son left home with his portion of the family’s fortune.  (Being a considerably wealthy landowner, I wonder if Papa also sent out spies to make sure the boy was safe?)

When the Father spotted His son coming down the road, scripture says, he broke into a run, grabbed him in his arms and hugged him.  Why?  Was the Father determined to reach the lad before the elders of the town could carry out the tribal law that said a disobedient son should be stoned? When he engulfed the sweaty, grimy, travel worn lad, his clothes covered with pig feces and all, the Father instantly became unclean according to Jewish traditions.  Having touched a part of a pig, He wouldn’t be allowed to worship in the temple until He performed a series of cleansing rituals.

As incredible as the Father’s actions were, the next part is beyond incredible.  As the humiliated and repentant son babbled on about his unworthiness before God and to even have the right be called his son, THE FATHER STOPPED LISTENING.   It wasn’t that the injured parent turned away from His boy, refusing to acknowledge his apology.  The Dad wasn’t listening because, as the Message paraphrase puts it, “But the Father wasn’t listening.” He was too busy celebrating.  He was calling to His servants to fetch the boy clean clothes and to kill the fatted calf.

What a metaphor of forgiveness.  The clean clothes can represent the robe of righteousness.  The ring placed on the boy’s finger represented reinstatement of all rights, privileges and status in the family.  The robe also protected the son from any stones the elders might want to throw, as the robe and the ring represented the Dad’s authority which no one would dare attack.  Daddy-God was solving the problem in His own magnificent way.  He threw a party–prime rib and all!

Hmm, what a story of forgiveness, grace and mercy!  According to the law of the day, the boy didn’t deserve to be called his Father’s son ever again… but Dad erased all of that with one merciful hug.  Phillips, Craig and Dean, a contemporary Christian group, illustrates the Loving Father’s actions with their song, ‘Mercy Came Running.”  Daddy God does the same with you and with me every day.  He doesn’t wait until we grovel in the dust, He rushes to us the instant we turn our faces toward Him.  He clothes us in His righteousness and gives us full family status as if we’d never sinned.  I wonder how many angels help Him celebrate whenever I turn my steps toward home?

P.S. A wiser person than I once said, “Every time a Christian shows grace to another person, he reaffirm God’s amazing grace and love’ to the unbelieving world.”  What a  challenge.

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