"How precious also are Your thoughts unto me, O God!"

The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him. For He understands how weak we are; He knows we are only dust. Psalm 103:13-14

What feelings on earth are to be compared, in depth and intensity, to those that link a parent to his offspring? Has some member of his family been unjustly wronged? Many a man would willingly himself submit to unmerited injury and ridicule—bear in silence the tongue of calumny and slander—receive in silence the arrows of unkindness, who could not rest thus unmoved under the affront or stigma attempted to be fastened on his child.

Or does the parent see his child in suffering? He could himself bear pain with comparative composure; but when he sees slow, torturing disease ploughing its furrows on the young cheek, and dimming the luster of the young eye, the iron enters into his soul; he would gladly even risk his own life were that of his loved one endangered. Many a father has stood by an early grave, and said, through anguished tears, "I wish I could have died rather than you!"

Behold, in the loving, pitying thoughts and tender pitying deeds of the earthly parent, a picture and symbol, O believer, of God's thoughts and God's love to you. No, more—He identifies Himself with the sufferings and wrongs of His children. Injure them, and you injure Him. He that touches them touches the apple of His eye. He says, as David said to Abiathar, "Abide with me, for he that seeks your life, seeks my life—but with me you shall be in safeguard."

When and where does this pitying love of God begin? "And when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him!" God's thoughts of pity were upon us when we had not thought of pity on ourselves. And at this hour, too, is He pitying us—in our weakness, our sorrows, our temptations, our difficulties, our perplexities. Many an earthly father can make only a little allowance for the weakness and feebleness of his offspring. Not so our heavenly Father. "He remembers that we are but dust." When Job was greatly perplexed and downcast by the bitter reflections of his adversaries, this was his comfort—"But He knows the way that I take."

See how these same thoughts of pitying love, like the ivy clasping the battered ruin, cling even round His wayward, backsliding children—"Is not Israel still My son, My darling child? I had to punish him, but I still love him. I long for him and surely will have mercy on him." Oh, blessed assurance, this great Being loves me, pities me—pities me and loves me even in the midst of my truant forgetfulness, ungrateful wandering—and continues to call me His "darling child." I have in Him a love in which fatherhood, brotherhood, sisterhood, are all combined!

Arise, go to your Father! He is waiting and willing to welcome you to His embrace. He asks elsewhere, in a passage which touchingly describes His thoughts (His loving, paternal thoughts) at work—"How shall I put you among the children?" The gospel plan of salvation has answered that question—solved that Divine problem of parental love. Jesus has opened a way of access to the heavenly household—and made us heirs to all these precious thoughts of a Father's heart. Seated under Calvary's cross, we can exclaim in grateful transport—

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1