In a former job, I had a great, if slightly eccentric boss. One enjoyable aspect about returning to work after a holiday (and there weren't many of those!) was his opening line - "welcome back, we need you!". And the nice thing was, as far as I am aware, he said this to all those in his team on their return.
I was looking at a painting this week - not a line I ever thought that I would write by the way! As a typical engineer, I really don't bother with "The Arts" that much. However, the image of this painting was intriguing. It was Rembrandt's "The return of the prodigal son" (see picture).
My own son has just returned from 6 months work experience abroad, so maybe this is why I was drawn to this painting and indeed to the parable of the prodigal son, on which it is based. Many things have been written on this great parable that Jesus told to the people of that day. I just wanted to share a couple of thoughts on the actual homecoming of the son, as told in Luke 15: 11-32, and as shown in Rembrandt's visual interpretation:
1. A purpose in returning home
For the 'prodigal son' (i.e. lost son) in the Biblical account, his purpose in returning home was a matter of life and death. He was starving… literally. The 'world' of his own choice and making had failed him. Like in the painting, the son was destitute, he was dirty and he was in great need. He had been in a 'far country', had been starving after the famine hit that place and yet he "came to his senses" (Luke 15:17). When he reaches his father's house, we see him humbly asking for forgiveness. He is in rags, is fully repentant and is able to offer nothing to his father… or expect anything either.
2. A place to call home
Thank God often if you have a good safe home to 'come home to'. So many people in the world today simply do not have this. 'Home' for many can mean a place of abuse, anger and fear. Rembrandt painted "The return of the prodigal son" late in his life, probably around 1668. He died, leaving no property and only a few personal possessions a year later in 1669. I wonder was he thinking of an eternal home? Somewhere beyond the turmoil he had in his life? An eternal rest, accepted by a Heavenly Father?
3. A person to accept you home
Have another look at the painting. As well as a humble and broken son, we see a loving and approachable father. The son, exhausted from his travels and in emotional turmoil over his reckless actions, must have been incredulous at this unconditional acceptance from the father!! God wants to embrace us all if we would only come to Him in humble repentance for our sins…
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
As human beings, we all want a place of safety and acceptance. They say that "Home is where the heart is", but I think it should be "Home is where the love is".
We all have our expectations, longings and fears. Some of us may be in a 'far country', i.e. far away from God, or some may be like the bystanders in Rembrandt's painting - not far away and yet too far away to experience the love of the Father. We may also feel that He could never love the likes of us anyway!
Remember, our Heavenly Father loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die in our place, to atone for our sins, to set us free from the punishment our sins deserve!
Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:22)
I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins. (Isaiah 43:25)
When you look at the few glimpses of Heaven that are revealed to us in the Bible, you can see what a wonderful heavenly home it will be. There, God's people will know love, forgiveness and acceptance as they have never experienced before.
While Jesus walked this earth, He said that He would go and prepare a place in Heaven for those who believe in Him (John 14: 1-6). We have a Heavenly Father who wants to welcome us home someday, a home the like of which none of us can imagine…
But just as it is written, "things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him." (1 Cor 2:9)
Are you sure of your final homecoming? Let us all make sure that all of our homecomings will be heavenly!
I'll end this month with a clip about homecomings, just turn your sound on and click on the link below.
Until next month then (DV)…
(All quotations are from the NASB, unless otherwise noted)
Are you SURE that you have your place booked in Heaven? Read this if you're not!