Come Home

Come Home

I used to cringe at the words of this old hymn:  
Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling
Calling for you and for me;
Patiently Jesus is waiting and watching
Watching for you and for me!
   Come home! Come home!
   Ye who are weary, come home!
   Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
   Calling, O sinner, come home!
Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading
Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not his mercies
mercies for you and for me.  Chorus
Oh, for the wonderful love he has promised
promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, he has mercy and pardon
Pardon for you and for me!  Chorus

I struggled with the picture of Jesus so helplessly pleading with people to come back to him.  My picture of God did not include a weak God like this.

I have been recently spending a lot of time in Ps 119.  Ps 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible.  176 verses.  Broken up into sections, each section corresponds to a letter in the Hebrew alphabet.  Each verse, in each section, begins with that letter.  The whole Psalm is about the Word of God and it extols the Word’s beauty, wisdom and value.  The Psalmist, who most people think it is David, shares how important the Word (for David that is primarily the law) of God is for his life.  He constantly affirms how much he loves the Word and is obedient to these life giving principles and commands.  As he closes out the Psalm, he writes this verse, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments”.  Having studied the Psalm, read all of the commitments made to obedience, all the comparisons of his life to those who have disobeyed the laws of God, I was dumbstruck by this ending.  The Psalmist has wandered weakly away and he knows that, like a lost sheep, he is in mortal danger.  It is not as if he does not know the commandments of God, he has just, for these moments, chose to wander far from them.  Having loved the law for so long, the Psalmist has seen the heart of the law giver, and he implores (I didn’t want to say demands) for God to come seek him.  He knows his own heart and, for this moment, he does not have enough will power to come back on his own.

Not the ending I was expecting but an honest, human ending to a great chapter.  Immediately, we think of the book of Hebrews that speaks of how we so quickly drift away or of the old hymn that states: “Prone to wander Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love”.  We wander.  You may be there today.  Struggling to care like you used to care.  Powerfully drawn toward sin or coldness.  Enjoying the temporary pleasure of being in control of your own life.  Doing what you want rather than serving others.  If you are honest with yourself, you know the commandments of God.  You know that you are not in a safe place.  Wandering sheep get hurt or die.  Yet, you are not strong enough to come back like the prodigal son.  You are not eating the slop of pigs just yet.  You know that if you stay there, you will eventually eat slop, but for now you need rescue.

Here is what the Psalmist knew.  Jesus, our creator and our holy God, is also the good shepherd.  The good shepherd leaves the 99 to go find the one who is lost.  While he is out rescuing the lost sheep, he is earnestly and tenderly calling that sheep to come home.  Not out of weakness but out of a love for the well being of that sheep.  He loves to show mercy and grace to sinners like us.  How many times will our Good Shepherd come and seek us?  Every time.  Not because of our worth but because it is who he is.  He will never stop coming for his sheep.  Why not meet him halfway?  Turn in repentance and fall into the arms of the one who loves you more than we can ever understand.  

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