We saw in part one that the two sons in this story give a pretty realistic, however unflattering, representation of our human nature. But let's look at what this story tells us about the nature of God.
First, it tells us about His patience. God is patient enough not to give up on us when we've gone astray. Notice, the story says "But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him". In order for his father to have seen him while he was yet a great way off, the father had to have been looking for him, probably every day since he left. Patiently watching and waiting, longing desperately for that lost loved one to return.
Some of us can really relate to that. With heavy hearts we've patiently waited for our loved ones to come home. Sometimes it takes years, but we never quite give up. We continue to wait, for as long as it takes.
Isn't that just what our loving Heavenly Father does with us? He patiently waits for us to come to repentance. II Peter 3:9 says the Lord "is patient toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." How I thank God that He is patient toward me!
Second, it tells us of the Father's compassion, or mercy. The father was so compassionate toward his wayward son. He loved him and had mercy on him, no matter what the son had done. It's the same way with God and us. Even if we could somehow manage to use up all of God's great mercy, the Scriptures tell us we get a fresh new supply every morning! Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us: "It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness." Praise you, my Lord!
The third thing this tells us about the character of God is how far He's willing to go. He is willing to go to extreme lengths, to show extreme love. He will go to extreme measures to reach us. The story tells us the father "ran, and hugged his neck, and kissed him." It would have been unheard of in that day and time for a father to pull his robes up and run, showing his legs. How undignified for the head of the household! But this father did. He also openly displayed His affection, hugging & kissing his son, rejoicing over his return. The Bible tells us:But God showed his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) Jesus went to the cross for us. That's pretty extreme; in fact, love doesn't get any more extreme than that.
The fourth thing this story tells us about the Father's love is that it is freely given, and unconditional. We don't read anywhere that the father began detailing a long list of the son's misdeeds, or began to berate him for all the trouble and worry he caused the family. Nowhere do we read of any conditions the father placed on the son's return: "I'll take you back IF...." No, the father's love was unconditional. There was nothing the son had to do, to earn the father's love. It was his all the time. All the son had to do was receive it.
That's how our Heavenly Father is, too. His love is always there for us. It's ours for the taking. We don't have to earn it, as if we ever could! We don't have to deserve it, as if we ever would! We just have to receive it.
The fifth thing this story tells us about God is how forgiving He is. The son in the story knew how undeserving he was; he said, "I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight, and am no more worthy to be called your son." But do you see the father's response? He forgave everything. The repentant young man didn't have to change his clothes first, or clean up his act first, or do anything else. He was forgiven, just the way he was.
Our God is forgiving enough to accept us just the way we are. We don't have to clean ourselves up before we come to God. He takes us just the way we are. We never have to wonder whether or not God will accept us. If we come to Him with a repentant heart, we can be assured that He will take us, no matter what condition we are in. THEN He'll turn us around and clean us up. After all, you don't clean a fish before you catch it!
The last thing this story tells us about God is that He gives us better than we deserve. We are his beloved children, and he not only forgives our sins, but once again goes the extra mile, giving us not what we deserve, but better. Daniel 9:9 tells us: "The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him."
You see, the love of God is two-fold: He DOESN'T give us what we DO deserve. That's mercy. But He also DOES give us so much that we don't deserve. That's grace! Grace is God's Riches At Christ's Expense. It's ours for the asking.
First John 1:9 promises us: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Oh, praise you, my God! How can we help but love a Father that loves us so much?