Normally it takes only eleven days to travel from Mount Sinai to Kadesh-barnea, going by way of Mount Seir. But forty years after the Israelites left Egypt, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses addressed the people of Israel, telling them everything the Lord had commanded him to say. Deuteronomy 1:2-3
These verses sum up the extraordinary patience of God. A journey which should have taken eleven days was stretched over 40 years of confusion, disobedience and outright rebellion. If Moses had told the people of Israel that God had totally given up on them, surely it wouldn’t have been a surprise! In many ways, it would have been an entirely fair and reasonable response. But he didn’t. Deuteronomy is a book of love and forgiveness, woven together with careful instructions as to how the people should live in the promised land so that their future would be full of blessing.
We all mess up from time to time. If there were any justice, we would be made to pay for our foolishness. But God’s way is different. He offers to forgive us and gives us the opportunity of a new start. That’s the incredible message of the parable of the Prodigal Son. After the younger son’s appalling behaviour, all he deserved from his father was a good hiding. He abused his father in the most terrible way, demanding his inheritance while his dad was still alive. After squandering it, he decided to return home, but knew he had no right to expect anything more than a job and a roof over his head.
I am sure the people listening to this parable were expecting to hear about the beating the son would get when he arrived home. But the father’s ideas were different. Long before the son started his walk home, his father had been gazing at the horizon to see if there was any sign of him. And when he did return, he ran to greet him and gave him the finest robe to wear, a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. He laid on a party because of the inexpressible joy of his son’s return (see Luke 15:11-32).
That’s our God. Whether you are looking at the Old or New Testament, we meet a God of incredible patience who loves to forgive and give us a new start.
In what way have you experienced God’s patience?
Loving God, thank you that you have been so patient and loving with me. As you fill me with your Holy Spirit, help me to show more patience and love to others. Amen