Friend of Sinners

The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ Luke 7:34 NLT

I am so glad the Pharisees called Jesus “a friend of sinners.”

I shudder to think what would have become of me, had Jesus not come after me, and befriended me.

In my younger years I got my eyes off of Jesus.

I focused on what others were, and were not doing.

I let go of what was really important.

And because I did, I made one bad decision, after another.

Getting it wrong

How easy it is to get lost in this world.

You make one wrong choice, and that takes you down the wrong road. Then, before you know it, you are wandering in circles; caught up with all the wrong things and the wrong people.

I wandered in circles for years like that, trying one wrong thing after another, vainly attempting to fix my broken life, and mend my broken heart.

Nothing I tried worked.

And, with every one of my failed attempts, my despair and depression grew.

Puddling around in circles

My frustration with my life back then? Makes me think of the first time I took my little cocker spaniel on a field trip to the Scott River.

It took us awhile to get there, and by the time we did, my little ball of fluff was plenty anxious to get out of that car and run!

As soon as I opened the car door, down the trail he went–ran to the beach, sniffing every bramble and bush on the way.

Then, he laid eyes on that magical river.

That’s when instinct kicked in, and being a cocker spaniel he bolted for the river’s edge, took a flying leap, and found himself somewhere out in the middle.

The problem was, he had never been in a river before.

He didn’t know, or understand, what “river current” was or how to handle it’s powerful pull.

I saw the moment his joyful abandon, turned to panic.

He began to puddle around in circles, vainly trying to fight the river’s pull, as the current carried him farther down river, and away from me.

Let me tell you, that was one happy puppy when I swam out to him, wrapped my arms around him, and we both swam back to shore.

Panic and getting off track

Poor Elijah.

Same thing happened to him.

He focused on the threats of Jezebel.

Instead of keeping his eyes on the God, who had worked incredible miracles through him, he gave in to panic. His fear got the better of him and he ran.

Instead of keeping his focus where it belonged, on God, he surrendered to terror and ran miles and miles in the wrong direction, ending up under a juniper tree in the middle of nowhere.

But God… Friend of Sinners!

Here is where we find Elijah, under a juniper tree, not at his best but at his worst. A dejected man, cringing in fear, and begging God to take away his life.

Yet, how dearly God loves this man even in his failure! And, how gentle He is, with Elijah’s misery and fractured faith.

And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. 1 Kings 19:5 KJV

When our faith collapses

God doesn’t throw up His hands in complete disgust and walk away when our faith collapses and we get it wrong. He didn’t do that with Elijah and He doesn’t do that with us.

Even though Elijah is running from God; running for his life; running from his calling; praying for God to take him out.

Even though his confidence in God has evaporated and he’s lost his bearings.

What does God do with his discouraged prodigal prophet?

He tenderly sends him what he needs most–food and rest.

Mender of bruised hearts

There are no judgements.

No scathing words and “I told you so’s.”

Not at all!

Just tender loving care.

Fatherlike he tends and spares us.

Well our feeble frame He knows.

In His hand He gently bears us.

Rescues us from all our foes.

H. F. Lyte, 1834

Jesus does the same with us.

He sees our weaknesses.

He knows our failures.

He saw the very moment we got off track, lost our focus, and ran from Him.

But Jesus is a rescuer; a deliverer.

He is a wonderful friend to those who lose their way.

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