(Photo by Jesús Rodríguez on Unsplash)
For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have
returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
1 Peter 2:25
God knows about wayward children. In the Old Testament, God chose the nation of Israel for His own, but again and again, they rejected Him. He only wanted what was best for them, but they didn't like His laws, and they chased after other gods. God continued to love them, and everything He did was for their good, but He would not compromise His holiness. So God found ways to deal with them in keeping with who He is, and I believe today, He is dealing with our wayward ones similarly:
GOD USES JUDGMENT
We see God time and time again handing the Israelites over to their enemies because they wouldn't stop doing evil in His sight. God used judgment to cause them to cry out to Him.
Judges 3:7-9a (NASB) And the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgot the Lord their God, and served the Baals and the Asheroth. Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel so that He sold them into the hands of the Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia, and the sons of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. And when the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord...
The Israelites forgot about God and did what was evil in His sight, so He turned them over to their enemies. They were in bondage to them for eight years. But the very next verse has them crying out to the Lord.
GOD EXTENDS MERCY
God heard the cries of His wayward children, Israel. Apparently, it took them eight years. But when they finally did cry out, God extended mercy. He raised up a deliverer and gave the enemy into their hands.
Judges 3:9-11a (NASB) And when the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother...When he went out to war, the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim into his hand...then the land had rest for forty years.
God's mercy resulted in not only defeating their enemy but going on to live in a time of peace for forty years.
This is just one example of God using judgment and mercy. When we pray for our wayward ones, we need to keep this in mind. Judgment is hard for us to watch and we may be tempted to swoop in and rescue them, but we need to make sure we are on the same page as God. Is this something He is using to cause them to cry out? Don't think it will automatically happen the first time they are in trouble. It took the Israelites eight years, and the prodigal son of Luke 15 didn't run home right away. First, he tried to do things his own way. We have no idea how long it took this son to come to his senses, but it is the equivalent of crying out to God.
GOD IS PATIENT
We know God is patient because He is still pursuing Israel. Scripture tells us, in the end, they will be saved (Rom 11:26). God doesn't force anyone to turn to Him, but He is relentless in His love and does not give up. God is waiting because He wants all to come to Him.
2 Peter 3:9 (NASB) The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
God is patient. He is patient with Israel, with our wayward ones, with unbelievers, and with believers. It's who He is!
Everything God does for our wayward ones is for their good. He uses judgment so they will cry out to Him. And when they cry out in sincerity, God extends mercy. And through it all, He remains patient, waiting eagerly for their return. We pray for God to have mercy on our wayward ones as well as patience and using judgment if needed. If we know God has not given up on them, why in the world would we?