As I read Genesis 32 and Luke 15, something in the text reminded me of a story in 1 Samuel 25.
In both Genesis 32 and 1 Samuel 25, we read how lavish gifts are given to placate the rage of an individual who’s been wronged.
In Genesis 32 God tells Jacob to return to his father after living with his father-In-law for more than twenty years. Jacob now faces the prospect of seeing his twin brother, Esau who has vowed to kill Jacob if he sees him again because he tricked him out of his inheritance. After all these years, and in spite of his great wealth and immense success, Jacob still fears Esau and so sends servants on ahead of him with generous gifts in the hope that when he finally comes face to face with his brother, his anger will have abated.
In the same way, 1 Samuel 25 highlights the inspiring story of Abigail who stops David and his men from killing her foolish husband, Nabal and their entire household. Nabal dismissed a reasonable request from David and ridiculed him and his men, even though they acted as a wall of protection around Nabal’s shepherds and his sheep. David was furious and set out to destroy Nabal and his family, but when Abigail heard what had happened, she rode out to meet him, humbly accepted the blame and gave gifts in a desperate effort to prevent any bloodshed.
These two stories illustrate an impassioned human effort to make restitution, but the story we find in Luke 15 gives us insight into the way the Kingdom of heaven works. Jesus told the story of a young man who asked for his inheritance from his father. The son then travelled to a distant land where he squandered all his money on wild living and ended up working for a pig farmer, where even the pig food seemed pleasant to him. When he finally came to his senses, he decided to return to his father, where he planned to admit that he got it wrong and beg to be treated as a servant, rather than a son.
In this case, the son had no gift to offer his father in order to made amends for his shameful behaviour. He came just as he was; a stinking mess with nothing to show for himself and yet while he was a long way off, his father saw him and filled with love and compassion, ran towards him, embraced him, and kissed him. In an instant the son was forgiven and fully restored.
In the same way, no earthly gift or human effort will ever satisfy the wrath of a holy God when He considers our sin – all our efforts are as filthy rags before him.
The only worthy gift has already been given – the life of Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God who died for the sin of the world and made a way for us to have peace with God. When we stand before him, just as we are, with a repentant, humble heart and believe that Christ died in our place, we are reconciled instantly to our heavenly Father and restored to our rightful place as his children. It is by grace alone that we are saved from the chasm that exists between us and God. Our heavenly Father just wants our hearts. Your surrendered life and the belief that his Son died in your place is the only gift he is looking for today.
© 2022 by Ruth O’Reilly-Smith