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Rembrandt captured them well – the Father’s hands. In his masterpiece The Prodigal Son, he expounded in paint the parable that Jesus’ told to some proud Pharisees to make the point that lost sinners matter to God. Rembrandt placed all the key characters in the picture: the prodigal, the father, and the older son, and communicated the essence of the story through his depiction of their hands.
The hands of the prodigal, kneeling before the father, are hidden in humble contrition. The hands of the older son – presumably the one in the black cap who does not even think that grace is worth rising from his seat to celebrate – are clenched in rage. But the hands of the Father are wonderful. Not clasped around the prodigal’s neck in righteous anger, nor patting him condescendingly as a prelude to bondage, but resting firmly on his shoulders and conveying a warm love and a generous acceptance. (One of the old prophets, Zephaniah, used an equally wonderful expression to capture in words what Rembrandt communicated in paint. Speaking of God’s grace to his people, Zephaniah (3:17) said, that God ‘will rest in his love’.)
Sometimes it’s good to remember the Father’s love. In the busyness of living for him, and in the challenge of remaining faithful to him, and in all the rough and tumble of spiritual conflict, it is a great comfort to be reminded of God’s grace and favour, and to feel by faith, his hands at rest upon our shoulders.
DM 30th August 2016