“Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
It is not uncommon us, even as Christians, to lose our sense of God. As the hymn suggests, we are “prone to wander, prone to leave the God we love.” For countless and often trivial reasons, we choose to no longer remain in His love. But as Jesus’ teaches in this parable, there is cause for celebration in heaven each time we repent of this. The woman finds her lost coin, she calls her friends and neighbours, they share her joy, and all ends well.
But let us back the story up a bit. To the part just before the lost coin is found, when that happy outcome is not yet certain. It is easy to imagine the concern that precipitates the frantic search for this precious item. If heaven rejoices when the coin has been found, does it not also suggest that it shares the worry over what, for the moment, appears to be lost?
Is there concern in God’s heart when we stray—that we might not return? The French poet Charles Péguy (1873-1914) thinks so. He believes there is a genuine, heart-felt fear on God’s part whenever His children have been away for too long. In his epic poem, The Portal of the Mystery of Hope, Péguy surmises that it was the lost sheep who first introduced such fear in the Shepherd’s heart. He writes,
By his very going away,
and because he was going to miss the evening call
the lost sheep aroused fear from the very heart of God,
and thus he caused hope itself to spring forth.
Because of this lost sheep, Jesus experienced fear in love.
Our “missing the evening call” is surely a cause for concern in heaven. There is, after all, the real risk that the exercise of our God-given freedom might become a snare for us. We could succumb to the arrogant words of the Israelites which Jeremiah records, “We are free to roam; we will come to you no more’?” (Jer. 2:31). If not for God’s grace, we too could be swallowed up by the very idols we create. What, for instance, might the fate of the prodigal son have been if, rather than ending up in a pig’s pen, he had instead prospered from his own initiatives?
As we ignore the continued appeals of the Holy Spirit to return to God, there is always a possibility that our faith might be shipwrecked (1Tim. 1:19). It is not, after all, just for idle speculation that the book of Proverbs warns us that “there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Prov. 14:12).
As a wise preacher once noted, there are as many Scriptures that assure us of the security of our salvation as there are that caution us not to take the Lord’s grace for granted. In other words, God has valid enough reasons to be concerned for us when we wander too far on our own.
The three parables of lostness—the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost son—all speak of the rejoicing that takes place in celebration of the return of that which was lost. But they also hint at the very real parental concern that remains in God’s heart until the precious item has been recovered.