RETURNING TO JEHOVAH
13. What can those who see themselves in the position of the prodigal son do to improve their situation?
13 Those who see themselves in the position of the prodigal son, however, need not remain in this wretched state. But, like the prodigal son, they can put forth efforts to return to the house of their Father and to his service. This includes heartfelt repentance, abandoning their independent course and petitioning God for forgiveness of their sin. This agrees with the words of the prophet Jeremiah regarding those who had experienced, not God’s forgiveness, but his adverse judgment for failing to repent of their transgressions: “Do let us search out our ways and explore them, and do let us return clear to Jehovah. Let us raise our heart along with our palms to God in the heavens: ‘We ourselves have transgressed, and we have behaved rebelliously.”’—Lam. 3:40-42.
14. What feelings may some have about returning to Jehovah?
14 For many who no longer share in Jehovah’s service the way back may seem very difficult. Ashamed and fearing that they might not be accepted in a loving manner, they may dread the thought of having to face persons who have continued to serve Jehovah faithfully. Possibly those who have strayed have not prayed to Jehovah for a long time and, in view of what they have done, perhaps feel that they are not fit to live and could never gain God’s forgiveness. Are such fears warranted? Not at all. Jesus’ illustration and the many historical examples of Jehovah’s forgiving the transgressions of his people prove that his mercy is extended to all persons who return to him with a complete heart.
15. How does the case of Manasseh illustrate that Jehovah forgives in a large way?
15 A case in point is Judean King Manasseh. The Scriptural record concerning his sins reads: “He went on to build altars to all the army of the heavens in two courtyards of the house of Jehovah. And he made his own son pass through the fire, and he practiced magic and looked for omens and made spirit mediums and professional foretellers of events. He did on a large scale what was bad in Jehovah’s eyes, to offend him. And there was also innocent blood that Manasseh shed in very great quantity, until he had filled Jerusalem from end to end.” (2 Ki. 21:5, 6, 16) Finally, when Manasseh found himself a captive in Babylon, he repented and kept praying to Jehovah. Despite Manasseh’s former conduct, Jehovah “heard his request for favor and restored him to Jerusalem to his kingship.” (2 Chron. 33:11-13) Few persons have acted as wickedly as did King Manasseh and, yet, on the basis of his repentance, he became a recipient of Jehovah’s mercy.
16. Can God’s forgiveness extend to spirit-anointed Christians who become involved in serious wrongdoing?
16 Centuries later, a spirit-anointed Christian in the congregation at Corinth, Greece, practiced sexual immorality with the wife of his father. The presence of this incestuous man endangered the spiritual welfare of the entire congregation and, therefore, the apostle Paul directed that he be expelled. (1 Cor. 5:1, 7-13) But this man was not cut off from association with the congregation for all time. Evidently regarding this man, after his having repented, we read: “This rebuke given by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary now, you should kindly forgive and comfort him, that somehow such a man may not be swallowed up by his being overly sad. Therefore I exhort you to confirm your love for him.” (2 Cor. 2:6-8) That repentant wrongdoer remained a spirit-begotten Christian, with the hope of gaining life in the heavens.
17. Why would it be improper for anyone to display an attitude like that of the older son in Jesus’ illustration?
17 The case of King Manasseh and that of the unnamed Christian in the Corinthian congregation indicate that wrongdoing does not automatically cancel out one’s opportunity of regaining a proper standing with Jehovah God. One who has become guilty of serious transgression can still pray to God and, if he is sincerely repentant, his prayers for forgiveness will be answered. (Compare Isaiah 1:15-19.) Certainly if Jehovah can be so forgiving, no one who claims to be his servant would want to reflect the unmerciful attitude of the older son in Jesus’ illustration.
21. What blessings come to those who repentantly return to Jehovah?
21 Meanwhile, however, by means of his Word, Jehovah warmly appeals to all who have forsaken him to return to him as their God. A person’s responding to that invitation leads to lasting blessings—freedom from enslavement to the world and its god Satan the Devil, an end to a spiritually famished condition, contentment, happiness, pleasant association with loyal servants of Jehovah, and a purposeful life in the service of a loving and merciful heavenly Father. On earth, Jehovah’s servants will confirm their love for any who repentantly return to him and, in the heavens, the angels will rejoice. If you are among those who have gone astray, do not hesitate to respond to Jehovah’s invitation originally addressed to the Israelites: “Return to me, and I will return to you.”—Mal. 3:7.