Run to You
MAC: I’ve written several songs through the years from the Prodigal Son story and this is yet another one of them!
QUESTION: What are the other ones then?
MAC: ‘Come on Back to Me’ is certainly one, and I think the reason I keep re-approaching this story and parable is because I live it out in my own life. I grew up in church, became a believer at a very early age, new Christ as my Savior but through High School years loved life on my own. Now I didn’t jump off the deep end by any means, I didn’t become a drug addict or an alcoholic or do anything as extreme as those, but at the same time my sin was that I didn’t give control of my life to the Lord. I understood later His grace and mercy in receiving me back, and I realised that how much better life is with God as opposed to apart from Him. Apart from God I was really empty inside. That’s why I love that parable, I lived it out in my own life and in fact I think so many of us do.
DAVID: This song is the prodigal son story in a nutshell and one all of us can relate to. The truth is, we all run from God from time to time and sleep in the mud of sin. The beautiful thing is that though we may run from our father, he never runs from us. In fact, he runs to us with open arms when we are most broken and vulnerable, when there is nowhere else to run to and no one to turn to and we are dying out there on our own.
QUESTION: In the song who is saying ‘If I run to you’, is that the father running towards the son when he sees him returning or is it the son realising he needs to go back to the father?
MAC: It’s the son speaking. That’s another thing with this song, it’s a good example of us trying not to have ‘the answer’ in every song. ‘The answer’ may be in the whole album but not necessarily in each song. So in “Run to You” we hear the question but we don’t get the answer. This is a ‘brokenness’ song in our three steps idea, genuinely asking the question which so many people have; ‘God are you really going to take me back after I did this, I’ve heard about your grace and your mercy but I think I may have gone too far this time’. Some people genuinely ask that question, and so in the song you never hear the answer, because that’s a place of brokenness that many people are in. But don’t worry! Later on in the album we do answer that question.
Running to God
Towards the end of the devotions based on the song ‘Call My Name’ we mentioned the image of God’s name as a strong tower. The exact verse is Proverbs 18.10 and it says this: ‘The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.’ You may be able to identify times in your life when you have been running. Running away from difficult situations, running towards significant people, running away from the truth about yourself, running towards worldly pleasures and even damaging habits, running away from God and His claims on your life, or running towards God in desperation and humility. However you have been running, one thing is for certain- you can’t really run by accident. It takes an act of will to begin running, to stop running in a certain direction, and to start running the opposite way back home to where you were meant to be.
Sooner or later we need to realise that each of us has to run the journey back to God-whether we see that journey ending in the security and safety of a strong tower or the caring and compassionate arms of a loving Father. That’s what repentance is really all about: returning to God in humility and accepting His grace and mercy. On the day of Pentecost, Peter addresses the gathered crowd and tells them: ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ Acts 2.38-39 NIV
JONAH RUNS AWAY FROM GOD
Read Jonah chapter 1
Most of might simply think the book of Jonah is about a man swallowed by a whale, but the lessons from this story are powerful and important. Jonah is called to be a prophet and receives a significant revelation from the Lord. Except that He’s called to deliver a particularly difficult message to the city of Nineveh and his response is to run away from God. Jonah is a stubborn and reluctant missionary and foolishly thinks that running away will help him avoid his responsibilities, even his God-given destiny, and that instead he can have a quiet and self-centred life. Whatever must have been going through Jonah’s mind to come to the conclusion that running away from God would be the best course of action? He soon discovers that you can’t run away from a God who is omnipresent (that means He’s everywhere!). He sees that even if you run from God, God will always remind you of His presence and His purposes. In the first place, God sends a great storm to cause havoc to the ship Jonah is travelling on, and in the second place when Jonah is thrown overboard by a scared crew God provides a giant fish to swallow Jonah up. You may well be able to remember a time in your life when running away from God meant you ended up in big trouble. What was the whale that swallowed you up?
Read Jonah chapter 2 and chapter 3.1-4
Like many people, when Jonah is at his most desperate point he decides to pray! Have you ever stopped to think how difficult it must have been to even breathe inside the belly of a whale, let alone pray! Once again we see the evidence of God answering those who genuinely call out to Him in desperation. God rescues Jonah, who is genuinely grateful just to still be alive. Early in chapter 3 we discover that Jonah has another revelation from God –because the Lord always gives another chance to those who have run away- and he sets off on his mission to Nineveh. Despite Jonah’s original disobedience, and his recurring reluctance, revival came to a whole nation through his words. Yet even after this success, Jonah’s character flaws come to light and he’s angry and jealous at the grace and mercy that God shows to the Ninevites. Jonah really hoped that the God would judge the people of Nineveh rather than saving them. Fortunately for Jonah, God treated him with a different set of standards than Jonah was prepared for the Ninevites to receive.
THE LOVING FATHER
Jesus tells three stories in Luke chapter 15 to demonstrate God’s compassion and love for lost people. The parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin are memorable enough, but it is the parable of the prodigal or lost son that provides the strongest illustration of God’s love. Although we mostly think of the parable being about a lost son, or about two brothers, it is really focused on the father- ‘there was a man who had two sons’ is how Jesus starts the parable.
You may want to read Luke 15.11-32 to remind yourself of the parable.
What fresh perspective can we discover about this famous story?
Well, in order for you to lose something it must be yours in the first place, and the father feels a profound and intense sense of loss when his son decides to run away from him. That’s how God feels about every human being who has chosen to run from him and into a life that might seem enticing for a while but soon ends up in despair. The son’s choice to leave home for fame and fortune seemed like a good choice at the time, but he would realise that a life away from family and the love of his father would eventually end up almost without hope- eating from a pigsty was the lowest point that a Jew could sink to. At this lowest point he came to his senses and yearned to be back home. So he started rehearsing all the excuses and apologies that he would give to his father, in the desperate hope that he might at least be accepted home as a servant if no longer a son.
He probably began his journey home still covered in the mess of the pigsty and smelling literally like a pig! Some of you might feel that God could never accept you again after your disobedience, rebellion, and the depths you have sunk to. The question of this song- what if I run back to God? -will have been or still is in your mind. In the song ‘Run to You’ you don’t find the answer, but you do in this parable. If you run back to God will he reject you, will he scold you, will he let you return but to an inferior place in His family? Or will you be accepted back with love and rejoicing? Read Luke 15.20-32 to discover the answer. When the son begins his journey back to his father, we read of the father running towards the son with arms open wide ready to offer an embrace and throw a party.
Old School Third Day- Listen to ‘Come on Back to Me’ from Wire or from Live Wire or from Chronology Vol. 2
Written by Pastor Nigel James