In one of the most searching parables our Lord told, he spoke of both the firmness and tenderness of God’s love. It would be wrong to act as if God is only lightness and tenderness. For when Jesus spoke of the final judgments of God, he thought of sheep and goats divided by their own deeds before the judgment seat of Christ. There is a stern word here of which we all had better take full notice. The chilling, final, terrible words are spoken: “Depart from me,” he said, “into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” But there is also word of infinite tenderness: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
So, Jesus says that God gives to us the perfect invitation: “Come, ye blessed of my Father.” How can we then think that we must worm our way into God’s favor? There was a day when people spoke in awed terms of seeking God, as if he is lost. The Old Testament, with all of its passages of heartrending warmth, sometimes so emphasizes the awe and holiness of God until he becomes a frightening, austere figure. At Sinai’s awful tremors, a rope must be strung around the mountain, lest the people coming too close be destroyed. In that overwhelming motion picture The Ten Commandments, the writing of the commandments is an awesome spectacle. A deep, thundering voice, a leaping fire that sizzles the commands of God in the very rock of the mountain. This all makes for an awful, terrible God. “Before Jehovah’s awful throne,” begins a stately old hymn.
This spirit is true, but it is not the whole truth. In his words “Come, ye blessed of my Father,” Jesus is saying that God is willing, anxious. He speaks likewise of God as a patient, loving father in the parable of the prodigal son, or the prodigal father, as it might be entitled. There he refers to the heavenly Father as a tender Father, with a heart full of love. Dare we believe it? “Come nearer,” says God, “I want you close. Don’t be afraid. You need not cower or cringe around me. Come closer to me.” We ought to despise the moods and days in which we have been frightened of God. He loves, he’s interested in us. If things are rough with you today, don’t you believe that God will ever willingly or spitefully hurt you. Jesus said to parents, “If you, being evil, know how to give gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father?”