All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.
What does the parable of the prodigal son have to do with you and me? Jesus said, if you want to know the attitude God has toward you, then learn from this story. God doesn’t hate you when you wander away from Him. God loves you. He’s watching for you. He’s waiting. He’s longing for your return to Him. That’s God’s attitude toward those who wander away. But you say, “How is that possible? How could a holy God forgive me of my sin? You don’t know what I’ve done. A holy God could never forgive me.”
We need to understand the basis for God’s forgiveness. How is God able to forgive us of our sin? First of all, the Bible acknowledges that God does hate sin. Score one for the Pharisees—at least they got that part right. In Psalm 7:11, Scripture says that God judges the righteous and is angry with the wicked every day. Psalm 34:16 says, “The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.” God hates sin.
Second, the Bible teaches that God must punish sin. God can’t simply overlook and excuse and turn His back on sin. He must punish sin. Nahum 1:2–3 says, “A jealous and an avenging God is the Lord. The Lord is avenging and wrathful. The Lord takes vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.” It is impossible for a holy God not to punish sin.
But here’s the heart of the gospel: Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sin. He took the punishment that you and I deserve for our sins. A few years ago, I wrote a book called When Forgiveness Doesn’t Make Sense. In the first edition of that book, the publisher put a picture of a famous painting called The Prodigal on the cover. If you’ve seen the painting before, it depicts the scene when the prodigal son has come home and the father is embracing the son. But the father is not only embracing the son, he is also shielding the son from the rocks and the sticks that the townspeople are throwing at the son. You see, they’re demanding that the son be punished for what he has done in humiliating the father. And what catches your attention in that painting is that as the father is embracing the son, you realize the father is really suffering twice. He has already suffered the hurt of his son’s rejection, and now he is suffering the punishment that his son deserves.
That’s a picture of what God has done for us. God has already suffered the pain of you and me rejecting and rebelling against Him. But God, for no other reason than the great love with which He loves us, chose to bear the punishment for our sin by coming to earth in the person of Jesus Christ and bearing the penalty of our sin. Isaiah the prophet said it this way: “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isaiah 53:4–6). That’s what Jesus did for us. Jesus bore the punishment that you and I deserve.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Waiting Father” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2009.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.