Thoughts Inspired by Diminutive Heroes
I have been praying for you this week, that God would “strengthen you and show you a sign of his favor” (Psalm 86).
I have a sister who lives in Middle Tennessee. She and her husband have a house on 27 acres of wooded land, which includes a volleyball court, a basketball goal, hiking trails, a barn, and even cows. It’s a veritable hillbilly Disneyland. So most of the time there are more than enough options to keep nine kids—her five and my four—occupied when we visit.
However, the last time we made the cross-country trek, it rained almost every minute. Literally. And I’m not talking about the gentle spritz that we experience as Southern Californians; I’m talking about bone-drenching, bucket-filling, baseball-sized drops, the kind that soak your clothes in a matter of seconds.
So, as parents, we were huddled in the living room trying to figure out what to do with all these kids. Since six were teenagers at the time, we knew that just about every suggestion would be met with, “Meh. That sounds boring.” So we said, “Let’s go to the movies.” The first showing of the day was pretty cheap—a prerequisite when you’re buying a total of 13 tickets!—but we only had two choices: Minions and Ant-Man. The overwhelming choice was the latter. Since movies about superheroes who shrink down to the size of a bug and ride on the backs of giant ants to save the world from evil yellow jackets don’t tend to stick with me very long, I don’t recall much about that story. But I do remember one line, where the villain says as he faces impending doom, “The things I’ve done can never be forgiven.”
Even though it was a movie for young adults, I think that sentiment is one that people of all ages share: there are things that I’ve done that can never be forgiven. Who hasn’t felt that way at one time or another? I hear this statement as a pastor all the time. And I get it.
This week, our ladies of WOW studied the so-called Parable of the Prodigal Son. And I heard that Holli Worthington did a terrific job of explaining it. It’s a powerful story of rebellion, restoration, mercy, and forgiveness.
But it’s not the first of such kind in the Bible. Not by a long shot.
The book of Hosea gives a similar account concerning the children of Israel. Repeatedly, they run from God, dishonor him, “whoring” themselves out to cult prostitutes (Hosea 4:12-14.) They show no regard for the Lord who redeemed them. Instead, they worshiped and sacrificed to gods of wood and clay.
Consequently, throughout this book, we read about God’s horrific judgment that he promises to bring on his people for their idolatry, and he does, in fact, discipline them severely. But following every one of God’s judgments, it seems, are reminders of his steadfast love and the completeness of his forgiveness.
Every time God says, “I’m going to wipe you out because of your idolatry,” he says afterward, “But how could I destroy the people I love. I won’t let you wander off forever. I will woo you, and win you back to me. My love for you will never fail. You will be called mine again.”
Every time the people of Israel repented, God instantly forgave them. There was no sin too great; no offense too egregious. One Old Testament scholar says, “There is no hesitation in the divine response. It is almost as if God longed for the occasion to speak of salvation rather than judgment.”
We might say it this way: there is a relentlessness to God’s forgiveness. God delights in restoring his wayward children. It’s almost as if he cannot wait to do it. To be sure, God is not impetuous; he never gets swept away by his emotions, but his love is real. It is deep. It is rescuing. It is freeing. And his forgiveness is boundless. To his perpetually recalcitrant people, God says:
“I will heal their apostasy;
I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow” (Hosea 14:4-7).
Perhaps you can relate to the conviction that your sins are beyond forgiveness. Take heart: God’s forgiveness is yours in Christ. Completely. You don’t have to earn it or even show that you deserve it. Our God is one who loves to forgive the repentant; he is eager to lift up the broken.
By God’s grace, he yearns to mend our broken hearts are restore our hope. This is not a consequence of willpower or doubling down on our efforts to be better. Instead, it is accomplished by the Lover of Our Souls, the one who allows us to say, “Great is thy faithfulness.”