Who wants to make the angels clap and shout and sing with me?
In Luke 15:1-10 Jesus shows us how to do just this.
I imagine that every time a sinner repents, all the angels and archangels and heavenly host in heaven hoot and holler. To communicate this joyous celebration, Jesus uses two parables this morning.
The joy that God, the angels, and the church triumphant (saints who have gone before us) experience over a repentant sinner is like the joy a shepherd in Jesus’ time would have had if he had lost one of his sheep, left the other 99 to go after it, and then found the sheep again. To a shepherd, the sheep are the apple of his eye, and so the shepherd is so jubilant when he finds his lost sheep that he wants to share his joy with his friends and neighbors. That is what God is like when one of His lost sheep, us, is found again.
Or God’s joy is like the joy a woman experiences when she loses a silver coin, turns the house upside down looking for it, and finds it before her husband returns home (all right, I added that last bit, but I think it was probably on her mind!)
God delights when one of His children is found again. If you’re a parent, then you’ve probably felt this on a much smaller scale. Children have a tendency to get lost, especially in big places. The moment when you realize one of them is missing sends an icy chill down the spine, but the moment you find one of them there is a joy exceeded by very few other things on earth.
Believe it or not, I went camping for the first time when I was 49, to a camp site near Mount Scott, Oklahoma. I survived well enough, and my kids and the others we were with had a blast. One of their favorite things to do was to climb some enormous boulders that went higher and higher until they reached a top some way off. They had done this a few times but couldn’t get enough of it and had to go back one last time. When everyone finally got back, there was one person missing: my middle son Calvin, who was 10 at the time. Apparently it was the classic game of “I thought he was with you.” “Me? No, I thought he was with you!”
We sent out a search team, which came back empty-handed. You can imagine how concerned I was as his father, especially because Calvin is the tenderest of my kids. After some more time passed, and he still wasn’t found, we sent out several more search teams, and my anxiety mounted. A total of nearly an hour passed, but it seemed much longer. We discovered that he had gotten turned around, tried to get back a different way, and was stuck in a place he didn’t know how to get out of. In the end, one of the teams found him and yelled “We found Calvin!”
You can imagine the joy I felt when I heard the cry and especially when I saw him again! Magnify that joy a million times and you might get some idea of how much joy it gives to God when we repent and turn to Him.
Though Jesus’ teaching is probably with particular reference to a sinner who turns for the first time to the Lord for salvation, I believe the idea can be safely extended. I believe that every time any sinner (that is, any of us) repents and turns to the Lord from whatever sin he has committed that the Lord is delighted.
Imagine that something so simple and good as turning from each of your sins as soon as possible brings a smile of joy to your heavenly Father’s face. How much He must love you and me to rejoice so much over us when we return. But then, that is our God, who created us so that He could enjoy our presence, and we His, and sent His only Son so that we who abandoned Him might return to His household.
Sometimes I even imagine that there are designated cheering sections in heaven. It might be that certain angels and saints are appointed to stand up and cheer or make The Wave every time you or I repent, no matter how small the sin. Maybe there is a separate Erlandson cheering section in heaven, or one for Christians in Hot Springs, Arkansas, or Fort Worth, Texas, or Tyler, Texas, or wherever God’s people are. Regardless of my speculations, I do know that whenever a sinner repents, there is rejoicing in heaven, and probably the kind of rejoicing that puts our feeble attempts at celebration to shame.
Finally, I think it’s important to go back to the beginning of the passage and acknowledge why Jesus even told these two parables: it was to justify why He ate with sinners. The implication is that just as it was necessary for Jesus to eat and spend time with sinners, even at their feasts, it is necessary for us to do the same. God delights in seeing sinners repent, but how shall they repent if the presence of Jesus isn’t among them? And since Jesus is in heaven, He has sent His Holy Spirit into His Body, the Church, so that we might go and eat with sinners.
Once in a blessed while, God actually uses us as the means for leading those sinners to repent. At that moment we know the joy of God in us about as well as we ever will, for God rejoices whenever any sinner repents, as often as he repents.
Prayer: Help me to turn from my sins more quickly each day than the day before. Allow me, Lord, to join in with your joy over a sinner who has repented (including myself), knowing that for this reason there is always joy in Your presence. May I delight with You and in You every time I return to You! Amen.
Points for Meditation:
- Spend some time today imagining the delight the Lord has every time you turn from sin or wandering and back to Him!
- What are some areas in your life where you have been wandering from the Lord? Imagine the kindness with which He will accept you back, and the rejoicing He will make over you when you do return!
Resolution: I resolve this morning, Lord, to confess all my sins and vow to turn from them.
The Lost Drachma by James Tissot – U.S. Public Domain