The God Who Delights
Words by Marjorie Roberson
I come from a tight-knit family. My sisters and I are all grown, and my parents have been empty-nesters for quite some time. But we still enjoy each other’s company deeply and find ways to spend time together as often as we can. Recently, my older sister asked me why I thought our family remained so close, and why our memories of growing up together were so happy.
Now, I want to make it clear that my family isn’t perfect. We are a group of sinners who sin against each other. We have real conflict and have to ask for forgiveness often. Yes, our love of Christ unites us, but I think my parents did something specific that helped shape our relationships with them and with one another: they enjoyed us. And we knew it.
We knew they loved us no matter what because they were our parents. But we also knew that they loved having us around, they loved spending time with us, they loved talking with us, and they loved celebrating life’s big and little moments with us. My parents are not perfect, but by God’s grace, their words and actions helped us experience an important aspect of God’s character: God delights in his children.
In Luke 15, tax collectors and sinners draw near to hear Jesus teach, and the Pharisees and scribes respond by grumbling saying, “this man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:1–2). Jesus responds by telling the scribes and Pharisees three parables that illustrate God’s response to sinners who repent and turn to him. As sinners draw physically nearer to Jesus, he reveals how God rejoices when his children draw near to him spiritually.
The God Who Pursues
The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1–7), the Parable of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:8–10), and the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32) give us three images of the way God pursues his children. The man who loses a sheep leaves 99 others to search for the one that is lost. The woman who loses one coin, though she has nine others, turns on the lights and looks all over her house until she finds it. And the father—whose son dishonors him by demanding his inheritance before his time and squanders it on a sinful lifestyle—when he sees his son from a long way off, feels compassion for him, runs to him, embraces him, and kisses him!
The sheep, the coin, and the son don’t deserve the level of pursuit they’re given. Yet, they are actively and rigorously pursued. The same is true for all of God’s children. Like the sheep, we were actively running away from the shepherd, and like the prodigal son, we wanted worldly benefits, not realizing the Benefactor himself is the greatest gift of our inheritance. We were enemies of God, running toward hell until he plucked us up. We do nothing to deserve God’s pursuit, and there is nothing we do to initiate it. It’s God’s active grace toward his children.
The God Who Rejoices
The man who finds the sheep, the woman who finds the coin, and the father who embraces his prodigal son all respond in the same way: they rejoice! They are overcome with joy that what was lost has been found. But they don’t stop there—they invite their friends and neighbors to rejoice with them. The prodigal son’s father says, “Let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:23–24).
God is not like us. When we come to him in repentance and faith, he does not respond with a frown and lecture. He embraces us with pure joy. “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Ps. 103:12) He forgives us. He accepts us. He adopts us. He makes us righteous, giving us his best robe, covered in the blood of Jesus Christ. And with all the rights of his child, we receive a beautiful inheritance that we don’t deserve—eternal life with him.
But he doesn’t stop there. As God has rejoiced in our salvation, he calls us to rejoice in the salvation of our brothers and sisters in Christ. He calls us to marvel anew at the miracle of salvation and to rejoice together as the family of God grows for His Kingdom and His glory.
The God Who Loves Sinners
The first two parables have a similar conclusion: There is rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents. One sinner repenting is a big deal, and it’s worth celebrating! As the prodigal son’s father mentions twice in the final parable, his son was “dead and is now alive; he was lost and is found” (Luke. 15:24, 32). One sinner repenting is God miraculously bringing one dead soul to life.
The final parable concludes by focusing on the older brother’s response to his younger brother being celebrated. He is outraged. After all, he did follow all of the rules; yet, his father never threw a party for him. So his father patiently reminds him why it was fitting to celebrate his brother: his return was a matter of life and death. He repented of his sin and came home.Through these parables, Jesus is reminding the Pharisees that “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart” (Ps. 51:17). He wants them to understand that God loves sinners who see their deep need for a Savior. Sadly, like the older brother, the Pharisees and scribes were looking to their own effort and ability to make them righteous, rather than to the grace of the loving Father.
The God Who Delights
In my own sin, I wrongly assume God’s response to me is often like my response to my own children: frustrated, impatient, or tired. But God is not like me. He is perfectly patient, loving, and kind. He never operates on empty, and he never needs time to refresh or refuel. God the Father is abounding in joy, always delighting in his children, as he has always delighted in his Son Jesus Christ. He doesn’t just listen when I call on him. He doesn’t just respond out of obligation. He delights to listen and respond to sinners who repent and turn to him. Because these sinners are his very own; they are his children.
Christian, remember today that God enjoys you. Not because of anything that you have done, but because of everything he has done for you.