As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.
A few Decembers ago, I was eating lunch at a restaurant that had an “angel tree” for Christmas. As you may know, an angel tree has paper angels on it, with the names of needy children. People are asked to take an angel, buy a Christmas gift for the child, and return it to the restaurant.
As I ate, I saw a father and his little boy approach the tree. The small boy was going to pick out an angel for them to take, but as he reached out for the one of his choice, with his hand he accidentally dislodged one of the tree’s ornaments from the branch and it fell with a crash. Shards of shiny broken glass scattered across the floor.
The boy saw what he had done and immediately looked up to the face of his Dad. Pulling on his Dad’s pants leg with one hand and pointing at the shattered mess on the floor with the other, the boy said, “Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.” The tone of his voice indicated he was asking a question more than making a statement, though. “Sorry? Sorry? Sorry?”
The question the boy was asking was, “Do you forgive me? Will you make it all right, Daddy? I just messed up and I don’t know how to fix it. What do I do now? Will you fix this for me?”
In that moment, I wondered, a bit nervously, if this Dad would pass the test before him. I couldn’t help smiling when he did.
Without one unkind word or expression, the father put his hand on the boy’s shoulder to reassure him that it would be all right. His comforting look into the boys eyes completely changed the child’s demeanor in an instant. The panic over what had happened vanished from the boy’s face, and he was at peace.
Then the boy reached down to start cleaning up the mess, but his Dad held him back, saying softly, “Wait now, don’t touch. It’s sharp and it can cut you.” Then the father stooped down and began to clean up the broken pieces himself with his own hands while the boy watched.
As a father pities his child, so is the Lord’s compassion for His children.
How many times we have wanted to serve Him well and failed, only to find Him a Father who is merciful and compassionate beyond our ability to imagine. When we “fear Him” and turn to Him in our times of failure, hoping once again to find forgiveness, He always passes the test of being faithful to forgive just as He promised.
After that boy had received his father’s assurance of forgiveness, the Christmas ornament was still broken. In the same way, there are consequences for our sins. But time and time again our compassionate Father in heaven stoops down to help us deal with the consequences of the sins He has forgiven. Sometimes those consequences are sharp and they cut us. But when we let Him, He does a mighty work and cleans up the messes we can’t fix. Mending hearts shattered by our rebellion. Repairing relationships damaged by our thoughtlessness. Restoring trust that has been broken by our spiritual carelessness. Resurrecting that which we have destroyed.
And this Christmas season, we celebrate the greatest Divine stooping of all time. When God came all the way to earth, completely entering the human race Himself to take upon Himself all of the eternal consequences for our sins, that we might be forgiven, set free, and made clean and holy. Indeed, we do have a Father who is compassionate toward us.
Come and worship.