Posted by: rcottrill | January 10, 2018

Come Home, Come Home

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Words: Ellen Maria Huntington Gates (b. Aug. 12, 1835; d. Aug. 22, 1920)
Music: William Howard Doane (b. Feb. 3, 1832; d. Dec. 23, 1915)

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: American poet Ellen Gates was from a wealthy family, being the sister of railroad magnate Collis P. Huntington. She wrote a number of hymns. This one, with its haunting and repeated phrase, “Come home,” predates by five years a more familiar song using the same refrain, Will Thompson’s Softly and Tenderly.

The story Jesus told about a prodigal son, reckless and wasteful of his inheritance, is one of the best known of the Lord’s parables. Perhaps it particularly touches our hearts because we can identify with the actions of the young man personally, or we know someone like him.

The story is found in Luke 15:11-32, and the context is important. The Jewish leaders of the day were critical of Christ because, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them” (vs. 2). In their self righteous pride they felt it beneath their dignity to associate with anyone they saw as morally inferior. They even classed Jesus among those they thought were “sinners” (Jn. 9:10). That was not true of course (I Pet. 2:22), but they were wrong in a couple of other ways.

First, they were blind to their own spiritual need. Their skin-deep religiosity masked a deep-dyed sinfulness. In a scathing critique (Matt. 23:13-36) the Lord Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs” and a “brood of vipers”! They were spiritually needy, but refused to recognize it.

Second, that is just what those they were labeling “sinners” were doing. Realizing their sinfulness and spiritual need, they were coming to Christ for help. They “drew near to hear Him” (Lk. 15:1), and many even became His followers (Mk. 2:15). On another occasion, when He received the same criticism, the Lord responded:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Lk. 5:31).

The one we call the prodigal son seems to have felt the restrictions of his father’s house were cramping his style. He was anxious to leave home, be on his own, and have a good time. He therefore asked his father to give him his inheritance right way, rather than waiting until his dad died. The father in the story granted his request (Lk. 15:11-12).

In a few days, the young man took off for “a far country,” away from his father’s care, and there he “wasted [squandered] his possessions with prodigal living” (vs. 13). It was a wild ride, and likely he attracted many companions ready to enjoy his partying. But when the money was gone, he was suddenly alone, and he took a job feeding some pigs (repulsive work for a Jew). He was so hungry he would gladly have eaten pig feed, but “no one gave him anything” (vs. 14-16).

All of a sudden home began to look pretty good to that young man. He was even willing to be taken on as a servant there, rather than being recognized as a son (vs. 17-19). But for his part, the father seems to have been longing and hoping for his son’s return. The fact that he saw him coming “a great way off” (vs. 20) suggests that, day by day, he was watching for him.

Do you see the parallel with the “sinners” described earlier. The son realized his foolishness and longed for his father’s house–on any terms. And just like the father, the Lord Jesus has compassion on wayward sinners, joyfully welcoming those who come to Him and trust in Him (cf. vs. 22-24).

In 1875 Ellen Gates published a gospel song called The Prodigal Child (or sometimes simply Come Home, Come Home, the first line). The song was used with great effect by soloist Ira Sankey in Dwight Moody’s evangelistic meetings (see the story in the Cyber Hymnal link). It touchingly voices the thoughts and prayers of the father, and thus represents the heart of our heavenly Father who longs for sinners to repent and turn to Him in faith. (Note how, in stanza 2, “we,” and in 4, concerned “friends” are pictured as watching with the Lord, hoping and praying for the sinner to come to Him.)

CH-1) Come home! come home!
You are weary at heart,
For the way has been dark,
And so lonely and wild.
O prodigal child!
Come home! oh come home!

Come home!
Come, oh come home!

CH-2) Come home! come home!
For we watch and we wait,
And we stand at the gate,
While the shadows are piled.
O prodigal child!
Come home! oh come home!

CH-3) Come home! come home!
From the sorrow and blame,
From the sin and the shame,
And the tempter that smiled,
O prodigal child!
Come home! oh come home!

CH-4) Come home! come home!
There is bread and to spare,
And a warm welcome there,
Then, to friends reconciled,
O prodigal child!
Come home! oh come home!

1) Do you know of someone who has broken fellowship with his or her family? (Is there any way you could help to restore harmony?)

2) Have you yourself have become estranged from your family? (If so, is there any way you can work to restore fellowship?)

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal


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