For many of us like Ron who feel disconnected from their earthly fathers, this truth does not come quickly or easily. But God finds creative ways to help. For with passion, he longs to be our dad. We find this clearly expressed in the pain of his words to the rebellious Israelites: "How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation. I thought you would call me 'Father' and not turn away from following me" (Jeremiah 3:19). Those who renounce their rebellion against God and call him "Father" receive a beautiful inheritance through adoption into his eternal home. The apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians: "When the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son,...that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying,'Abba! Father!'" (Galatians 4:4-6). He also wrote,"You have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons" (Romans 8:15). And "he chose us...to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will." (Ephesians 1: 4, 5) Because our world is in rebellion toward and estranged from God, we live in an orphanage, a huge orphanage, planet Earth. God longs to adopt us into the safety, vibrancy and warmth of his eternal home. When we answer "yes", he becomes our adoptive Father and we his adopted children. This gives him delight. I have a feel for God's delight in adoption. My wife, Karen, and I adopted an infant boy whom we named Justin. The day we picked him up, we entered our caseworker's dark, cramped basement office. She soon stepped out, then burst back through the door with a month-old baby boy wrapped snugly in a blue blanket. Her dismal office suddenly became filled with light and celebration. I longed to bring Justin into the warm shelter of my home where he would always be loved. My reaction was just a glimpse of God's delight and passion when we decide to call him "Father", becoming adopted by him. Moreover, his heart is stirred when we meditate on his great father love. Doing so deepens our bond to him. This also shapes the right kind of motivation for serving him. If the story of the prodigal continued, I see the son working hard in the fields and mending fences, not with slavish effort to earn his father's love, but out of loving gratitude for having received it as a gift already. Similarly, we can serve God out of gratitude for having already received as a gift his love.
Along with love, we can see God's wonderful humility through the prodigal's father. The father displayed this by running to his son, and God reveals it as well when he runs to us. Moreover, as the father's humility allowed him to receive his son after all else was tried and failed, this is also true of God. I would have been crushed if after asking Karen to marry me, she said,"Well, let me see where I stand with Al, John, and Pete first. If they won't have me, then I'm yours!" I would not have married her on these terms, but God accepts us after even all else has been tried and failed. In "The Problem of Pain", C. S. Lewis wrote: "I call this a Divine humility because it is a poor thing to strike our colours to God when the ship is going down under us; a poor thing to come to him as a last resort, to offer up 'our own' when it is no longer worth keeping. If God were proud he would hardly have us on such terms: but he is not proud, he stoops to conquer, he will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to him, and come to him because there is 'nothing better' now to be had."
The prodigal's father shows his forgiving heart as well. The father was quick to forgive his son, not holding his great debt against him. His son's well-being mattered far more to him than any material loss. Like the prodigal, so many of us waste in sinful rebellion the resources God has graciously given us: our abilities, energy, money, time, and more. We end up sitting in a pig pen, our resources squandered. Yet when we turn to God with a genuine commitment to change, he cancels our huge debt. First John 1:9 declares: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." God's great love and humility compelled him to make a provision for our forgiveness through Christ's sacrifice on the cross.