Daily Riches: Parenting the Prodigal – God’s Perspective (Terrence Fretheim and Abraham Heschel)

“The image here, obviously, is not that of some heavenly General Patton having difficulty tolerating acts of insubordination. Rather, it is the image of the long-suffering parent and, given the roles in child rearing in Israel, it is probably more the image of mother than father. God is pictured as one in great anguish over what the children have done, but her love is such that she cannot let go. Any parent with a prodigal child should know something of what God must feel.”

“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them,
the more they went from me;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
and burning incense to idols.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them up in my arms;
but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of compassion,
with the bands of love,
and I became to them as one
who eases the yoke on their jaws,
and I bent down to them and fed them.”
Hosea 9:10-13; 10:11; 13:4-6; cf. 2:14-15

“The striking note of Hosea is that, wheras the common human reaction in such a situation would be give up, God’s love is such that she cannot let go. The parental pathos is the heart of God!  …God’s Godness is revealed in the way in which, amid all the sorrow and anger, God’s salvific purposes remain unclouded and the steadfastness of divine love endures forever. [Abraham] Heschel once again grasps the essential point: ‘Over and above the immediate and contingent emotional reaction of the Lord we are informed of an eternal and basic disposition’ revealed at the beginning of the passage: ‘I loved him’ (11:1).” Terrence Fretheim

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Can you see yourself in Hosea’s description of Israel?
  • What emotions arise in you when you gaze at “God’s Godness” here?
  • Does this study make you want to change anything in your life?

Abba, there is nothing in this world like your love for me. Thank you for your love.


For More: The Suffering of God by Terrence Fretheim


The “Daily Riches” from RicherByFar are for your encouragement. My goal is to give you something of uncommon value each day in less than 400 words. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it with others. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

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