Walking through a field of sheep with our dog at this time of year sets off a racket of baa-ing. Very quickly lambs are re-called from their wandering to the safety of their mother’s side. This desire to protect offspring is seen across the animal world and we feel it too.
When some terrible disaster strikes, parents instinctively search for their children. Families nearby will draw together, parents with arms around their little ones. When children go missing, or when they begin to treat their parents as ‘the enemy’, the natural deeply-felt longing is to be able to hug them once again.
God thinks like that too. He speaks of ‘finding’ his child Israel in the desert: “He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions.”1
And Jesus was just like that too. When he thought about how the people of Jerusalem had distanced themselves from his Father he wept for them.2 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”3
When we start putting distance between ourselves and our Creator, then the most helpful thing we can do is to remember our heavenly Father’s grief over his missing children and his longing to gather us up into his arms again.
And if you’ve never felt that God was a Father to you then take a look at the astonishing Bible account of Ruth. She was from the people of Moab who were no friends of God’s people. Tragically widowed as a young woman she decides to count the people of her Israelite mother-in-law as her own. Boaz, who eventually marries her, declares: “May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge." 4
It was a homecoming to a home and a Father that she never knew she had!
1 Deuteronomy 32:10-11 2 Luke 19:41 3 Luke 13:34 4 Ruth 2:12