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God's Joy Over The Returning Sinner.
"Likewise, I say unto you, There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth."-Luke 15:10.
Let us not overlook the words with which this statement is introduced, "I say unto thee." He speaks as the faithful witness; testifying of what he knows; what He has seen and heard in that heaven whence He came.
It is of a sinner that he speaks,-a sinner such as those who were now gathered round the Lord,-a publican, a profligate, a harlot; not some worthier sinner, but one of the worst. He wishes the Pharisees to understand the feelings of God above to these sinners below; to see that God's thoughts were not their thoughts. Whatever earth might do, heaven took an interest in them. The "religious" ones of earth might turn away; the holy ones of heaven did not.
It is of a sinner's repentance that He speaks; of that mighty change whereby old things pass away, and all things are made new. It was to produce this change,-this change of the whole inner man,-this total renovation of being, that the Son of God came. He came to "call sinners to repentance."
It is of one sinner that He speaks; not of multitudes; so that no one may think that it is the number that is the occasion of his statement. It is one sinner; one of
Poor publicans that He thus so graciously holds up to view; it is one poor fragment of lost humanity, despised by all else, that He here declares to be the object of his own and of the divine compassion. So was it always in his life here; one woman of Sychar; one woman of Tyre; one Zaccheus;-thus He declares his interest in individual souls. He cares for each.
But it is specially of the joy which the Lord speaks of that I ask you to think. It is not simply pity or love, but joy.
(1.) It is joy in heaven. There is always joy there, but sometimes it swells up and overflows. On the occasion of the event referred to, there is peculiar joy,-an out-burst of unrepressible gladness in that glad and glorious heaven which the presence of God fills.
(2.) It is the joy of God. It is He himself who is thus represented as rejoicing. The joy is in heaven; and it is the joy of God himself; the joy of the Shepherd on finding the lost sheep; the joy of the woman on finding her lost silver; the joy of the father on finding his lost son.
(3.) It is joy in the presence of the angels of God. As the shepherd and the woman call together their friends and neighbors, so God calls his heavenly hosts. In their presence He utters his joy; and He calls on them to rejoice with Him. He is full of this joy of love, this joy at recovering the lost, that He must have them to share it with Him. There is something in this representation of the divine joy that brings it very close to us, as it makes it so like our own in its way of manifestation. How like our selves is this way of dealing with his joy and getting vent to it, and making others partakers of it. Is it not a strange truth this, that the infinite Jehovah should need, and should ask for, the creature's sympathy in his joys? How like that infinite heart must be to ours! How near to us does this bring the Eternal One!
From all this we learn much; chiefly such truths as the following:-
(1.) The knowledge in heaven of what is going on here
on earth. How far this extends we cannot say. It refers here only to what concerns the great redemption-scheme; and even as to that, the knowledge is only that which is directly communicated by God, when He has something special to announce. But heaven knows this at least: that there is such a place as earth; that it is full of God's lost property; that God loves it; that it is not hell; that salvation is there, and that God is every day getting hold of some lost one there. Intelligence is constantly going up to the heaven of heavens; and God is making known so much of it as suits his purposes of sovereign wisdom and grace. Probably, they do not know all; but certainly they know what is fitted to augment their gladness, and call forth their songs.
(2.) The delight which God has in saving. This is manifest from the pains He takes about this; the perseverance and longsuffering; the patient endurance of rejection and hatred;-and all this in the desire to rescue the captive, and to win him back, heart and soul, to himself. He seeks and saves "with his whole heart and soul" (Jeremiah 32:41). He loves to bless; and when He has blessed, He rejoices over the sinner to whom the blessing has come. As the father receives the prodigal, so does the great Father receive his wanderers; calling all heaven to join in his song over them, "This my son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found."
(3.) The appeal which He is thus snaking to the sinner. No appeal could be more forcible than that which is thus made by the great love of God,-the overflowing joy He has in saving. Wilt thou continue in sin, and rob both God and the angels,-yea, and thyself too,-of such a joy? All heaven would rejoice over thy salvation, and wilt thou not be saved? Wilt thou persist in wandering, in worldliness, in ungodliness? Art thou determined to be lost when God is so bent on saving thee?
(4.) The encouragement thus held out to the returning sinner. Look at all the three parables! Is there one word of discouragement? Does not each of them say, Come? Is God not bidding thee welcome, stretching out his arms? What joy it would give God to pardon and to bless thee! What a song would be sung in heaven over thy repentance and return! Shrink not back; turn not away; be not afraid, the gate is open, and thy God stands beckoning thee in.
What a comment is this verse on Christ's tears over Jerusalem! His sorrow was sincere and true; so is his joy in the day of the sinner's return. His tears were real and genuine; so are his songs. All is real, both the sorrow and the joy.
What a force does this passage throw into such words as these: Ye will not come to me; him that cometh to me I will in nowise cast out; if any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
What a great thing must salvation be! And what an important and precious object must a sinner be! So much love, so much sorrow, so much seeking, so much joy in connection with him!
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