Heaven Celebrates Repentance
God is displeased when a person departs from following his schedule and he provides opportunities to redirect the person to return to him. He is pleased and there is great celebration in heaven when redirection is successful. An opportunity for redirection could be voluntary and provide a person freedom to re-evaluate and abandon a course of actions that would result in departing from God’s schedule, like in the parable of the lost son. Also, God may offer coercive redirection to compel a return to him, like in the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin. We discuss Christ teaching of God’s promise of redirection and examples from David, regarding his encounter with Abigail and his forced exit from a Philistine battlefield.
We begin this study with a recap of the basis for our study series on Following God’s Schedule. As we discuss in Prayer of Joseph from the Dungeon, God at times grants a prayer with a promise to be fulfilled to fit his overall plan for the recipient; sets a schedule for fulfilling the promise; requires and guides the recipient to follow the schedule; but may not reveal the promise, schedule, or plan. He is displeased when a person departs from following his schedule and he provides opportunities to redirect the person to return to him. He is pleased and there is great celebration in heaven when redirection is successful, that is, the departed returns to Following God’s Schedule: “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” [Luke 15:10].
Through opportunities for redirection, God implements his promise to not abandon those committed to following his ways by doing what is right and just, even if they miss a step. He will intervene to provide them opportunities to return to him. An opportunity for redirection could be voluntary or coercive, as God chooses. An opportunity for voluntary redirection provides a person freedom to re-evaluate and voluntarily abandon a planned course of actions that would result in departing from God’s schedule. In contrast, God may choose to intervene by placing an insurmountable obstacle that compels the person to abandon planned wrongdoing. That is, in coercive redirection, a person planning to do something that would cause them to depart from God’s path encounters circumstances beyond their control that force them to abandon the plan.
We discuss Christ teaching of opportunities for redirection, through three parables: Parable of the Lost Sheep, Parable of the Lost Coin, and Parable of the Lost Son (the Prodigal Son). Also, we discuss two examples from the life of David as king in waiting: his encounter with Abigail and his forced exit from Philistine battlefield. The first example illustrates voluntary redirection whereas the second illustrates coercive redirection.
Promise of Coercive Redirection—
Christ Teaching through Parables
Christ used the Parable of the Lost Sheep [Luke 15: 3–7] and Parable of the Lost Coin [Luke 15: 8–10] to explain God’s promise of coercive redirection. The parable of the lost sheep is based on the behavior of a hypothetical shepherd that owns a flock of one hundred sheep and loses one of them. He would go after the lost sheep, leaving the ninety-nine where they could roam without getting lost, and would rejoice greatly when he recovers the sheep. Similarly, a woman that lost one of her ten silver coins would spare no effort to find it and would rejoice after she does.
Both parables describe God’s promise of coercive redirection and explain circumstances for the promise. He will compel a person to return to Following God’s Schedule after a departure or contemplated departure if he judges the circumstances satisfy his conditions for coercive redirection. The circumstances described in the parables suggest the following conditions.
- The departure is compelled by circumstances beyond a person’s control. For example, neither the sheep nor the coin has a choice in getting lost. The sheep drifts from the flock and does not have the mental capability to realize it is drifting away. Also, the coin is misplaced and does not have any way to control what happens.
- The departed will like to return to God. It is evident in each parable that the departed will prefer to return. The sheep would be happy back with the flock where it is protected and nurtured. The coin does not really have a choice but would regain its value if returned with the other coins.
- The departed will not be able to return safely by itself. The sheep will likely wonder until eaten by wild animals or dies by accidental or natural causes. The coin would just remain there and likely lose its value.
Promise of Opportunity for Voluntary Redirection—
Parable of the Lost Son
In the parable of the lost son [Luke 15:11–32], the younger of a man’s two sons demanded and received his share of their father’s estate early and bolted from the father to independence in a distant country. There he squandered his wealth and became destitute.
While in abject poverty, he recognized he would be better off in any status his father could grant him at home. Therefore, he decided to return home to his father [Luke 15:17–19]: “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’”
His father rejoiced in accepting him back and appealed to his senior son to do the same [Luke 15: 31–32]: “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Through this parable, Christ explains God’s promise of opportunity for voluntary redirection, for any person that departs or embarks on a plan to depart from God’s Schedule. The opportunity will come in the form of an intervention that draws the person’s attention to the departure and identifies a potential return path. If the person chooses to repent and commit to the return path, God will rejoice and celebrate. In the parable, the intervention was abject poverty and the return path was to go home to his father, confess his wrong-doing, and submit to whatever status his father would offer him. The lost son repented and returned. His father rejoiced and celebrated.
Voluntary Redirection Example from David
David was set to launch a tit-for-tat attack against Nabal, because Nabal refused a food request from him and insulted him and his followers. He had sent the request to Nabal during sheep shearing festival and expected Nabal would honor the request because he and his men had protected Nabal’s shepherds and flock when they shared an area of the wilderness with them. As we discuss in a previous study under Opportunity for Voluntary Redirection, Nabal refused and insulted David and his men. David was enraged by Nabal’s response. He felt mistreated and decided to extract revenge. He set out with his men, intending to attack Nabal, destroy everything that belonged to him, and take the food by force [1 Samuel 25:21–22]: “It’s been useless—all my watching over this fellow’s property in the wilderness so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!”
Abigail, Nabal’s wife, intervened to resolve the developing dispute. She gathered a generous supply of food and drinks, intercepted David and his men on the way, and persuaded David to call off the attack. Her intervention was successful. David recognized her effort at redirecting him as a manifestation of God’s intervention. He confessed and repented from his intention to attack Nabal, appreciated her for intercepting him, and appreciated God for sending her [1 Samuel 25:32–34]: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.” He called off the attack, accepted the supplies she brought, and sent her home in peace.
We don’t know how David’s progress towards the kingship of Israel would have been affected by an attack against Nabal. However, we know that David was redirected from his plan because God intervened through Abigail. In the same way, God will offer opportunity for redirection from planned wrongdoing and will rejoice and celebrate if the recipient accepts the opportunity, abandons the plan, and returns to living in the image of God.
Coercive Redirection Example from David
David’s rejection from a Philistine battlefield provides an example of coercive redirection. When David was on exile in Philistine territory, his host King Achish invited him to join Philistines in battle against Israel. David accepted and, accompanied by his followers, joined Achish in the Philistine lineup. However, the Philistine commanders did not accept David joining them in battle against Israel. They prevailed on Achish to order David back to his base.
As we discuss in a previous study under Divine Intervention by Coercive Redirection, David’s interest would have been harmed by joining Philistines in the battle, irrespective of the outcome. His interest would have been harmed by fighting in the battle, irrespective of whether Israel won or lost and whether David fought faithfully on the Philistine side or flipped sides to join Israel during the battle. It turned out that God used the battle to end Saul’s rulership of Israel. Therefore, any involvement by David would potentially have caused problems for him. However, though his interest would have been harmed by joining the battle, he did not have a choice. His host expected him to join in the battle and he would have lost favor with Achish if he refused. Therefore, like the “lost sheep” in the Parable of the Lost Sheep, David could not have resolved the situation by himself.
God stepped in to redirect David away from joining the battle. He placed the Philistine commanders as an insurmountable obstacle to compel David to abandon his plan to join in the battle. God rescued David like the “lost sheep” and would do likewise for any person he judges to be in a similar problem.
Summary of What We Learned
God is displeased when a person departs from following his schedule and he provides opportunities to redirect the person to return to him. He is pleased and there is great celebration in heaven when redirection is successful.
An opportunity for redirection could be voluntary or coercive. In voluntary redirection, a person is offered a choice to re-evaluate and abandon a course of actions that would result in departing from God’s schedule. Christ explains such opportunity using the Parable of the Lost Son. Also, God may offer coercive redirection to compel a person to return to him. The Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of the Lost Coin explain circumstances for coercive redirection.
We discuss Christ teaching of God’s promise of redirection and examples from David, regarding his encounter with Abigail and his forced exit from a Philistine battlefield.
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