The prodigal life is often reflected in the way people live and also characterized the lives of the Israelites. “You can still be living in your home and have departed for a distant country. You can play the role of the “good son” with a heart that roams in the twilight beyond good and evil. You can even show up to church every week with a voracious appetite for idols. Not all prodigals need a passport,” stated James Smith in, On the Road With Saint Augustine. Why are we and the Israelites so prone to wander?
God has remained the same. His covenant ways and His love are steadfast, they never waver. God is true to his character, He is perfect in His love and righteousness. “God never permits His people to sin successfully.” (Charles Spurgeon) If God is immutable (unchanging), then it is my prodigal ways that lead my feet on a prodigal path. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8) How have you see this principle of reaping and sowing played out in the lives of people in scripture, in our culture, and in your own life? God was not going to ignore the golden calf and He will not ignore our rebellious hearts, either. “…our ancestors…were all baptized into Moses in the cloud…they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ…nevertheless, God was not pleased with them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things occurred as an example to keep us from setting our hearts on evil…so, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (I Corinthians 10:1-12)
We are all prodigal possibilities. When our emotions become our god, they can lead us away. Fear, sadness, anger, loneliness, seeking to assuage my emotional pain, can quickly become my golden calf. Impatient waiting on God’s answers can be that first step on a path to find the “answer” in my own way: and my god substitute rears its golden head. The Israelite’s’ fears drove them to say to Aaron, “…make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses…we don’t know what has happened to him.” (Genesis 32:23) When have you tired of waiting on God? How did you respond?
“Moses saw that the people were running wild…” (Exodus 32:25) He knew God’s character and he knew God would respond to their sinful rebellion. Moses was angry with the people (Exodus 32:19,22), but it was an anger tempered with love, which is anguish. How many of you have felt the “anguish” of loving a prodigal? You can put yourself in Moses’s sandals and understand his anguish over the rebellious path that they were embarking on. My own prodigal ways of bowing to the “idols” of life are often as foolish as the Israelite’s golden calf. “I remember…my wanderings, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet…I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail…it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:19-25). Is there anywhere in your life that God looks at you and sees your heart, “running wild?” What “golden calf” have you adopted in your prodigal path that you need to melt down and “wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord”? How will you remember God’s unfailing compassions?