Yesterday we watched the sermon "The Prodigal God" by Timothy Keller on DVD during worship. Now some of you, like me, might have been initially put off by the title. It just sounds so wrong? God as prodigal? How could that be?
Yet I think if you like me had that feeling it might be due to the fact that we associate the word "prodigal" as necessarily bad. When we think of Jesus' parable we think of the "prodigal" son as the bad guy. Who would ever want to be known as a "prodigal"? And how could we ever think of God that way?
However, let's take a look (as Timothy Keller does in his book) at the word "prodigal" and see what the dictionary definition really is.
Prodigal = 1) recklessly extravagant 2) having spent everything
It seems wasteful, but it is only wasteful if the object of our extravagance and lavish spending is ourselves. But what happens if the object of extravagance and spending is others?
As we think about Jesus' life and death, we realize that He literally spent everything, extravagantly, including His own life on us. This is what Keller means when he describes God as "prodigal".
So is this a new picture of God? Remember that Keller said Jesus is asking us to rethink everything we ever thought about how to approach God. So what is God really like? Is Jesus giving us a new vision of God? Or is this who God really is, always has been, and always will be?
(Read Exodus 33:12-34:10)
Moses asks God in 33:13, "If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you."
God hears Moses' request and grants him what he asks. God reveals Himself twice as "the LORD". In 33:19 He says, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." Later, God again reveals Himself as "the LORD". In 34:6, He says, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished ..." This is God, as He is for who He is.
Notice that He describes Himself first with mercy and compassion, then with grace, long-suffering (slow to anger), love, faithfulness, and one who forgives. While He also punishes the guilty, He clearly defines Himself first with love, mercy, grace, compassion, patience (slow to anger), forgiveness, and faithfulness. This is God, as He is for who He is.
So now I ask again, "Does Jesus offer us a new vision of God?" Or is the God Jesus shows us the same as He has ever been? I believe God has always been the same "prodigal" as Jesus describes in the parable.
So what do you find most striking here in God's self-revelation? Does anything surprise you? Is this a different picture of God, than the one you had before? Let's discuss!