Tuesday, January 29, 2013

TWO PRODIGAL SONS - Pt. 1 of 2

We have all read about the prodigal son, but have we considered that there was actually more than one in the biblical story as told by the LORD in Luke ch. 15?

First of all, let’s look at what the word “prodigal” means. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, prodigal is defined as:
“Rashly or wastefully extravagant; marked by rash or wasteful extravagance; a prodigal life. Giving or given in abundance; lavish or profuse; one given to wasteful luxury or extravagance.”

That certainly would seem to apply to the younger son of the father in this parable; but what about the elder son who remained with his father? How would he be considered as a ‘prodigal son’?
That we shall see, but let’s have a look at this parable and examine what it reveals.

Luke Ch. 15: 11-32 - The prodigal son parable

11 And he said, A certain man had two sons:
12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

Just prior to this parable the LORD gave a few other parables, and the two immediately before the prodigal son were the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin. In both cases the shepherd and the woman found that which was lost. Likewise the younger son was lost but then was found (Lk. 15: 32) and so the end of the stories are blessings indeed.

As this parable starts out, the younger brother is living with his father, elder brother and the entire household. All seemed well, until one day the younger son asks for his share of the inheritance. This was entirely inappropriate as this was that which he would inherit upon his father’s death. However, the father graciously grants that which was asked for.

The son was not content with life at home; his relationship with his father appeared to be distant and without intimacy or fulfillment. He hadn’t cultivated a meaningful fellowship with his father that would result in an abiding and growing love; he didn’t seek a depth of relationship with the one that loved him so very dearly.

Rather, what the son wanted was blessings from his father, rather than the blessing of his father himself. Once he procured this vast wealth, he set off “not many days after” which strongly suggests that he had a plan all along.

When the Christian backslides, it’s never ‘by accident’ but by willful and unwise choices. We know that wise choices tend to lead to more wise choices and unwise choices tend to lead to more unwise choices. If one chooses one road rather than another, it’s a matter of course that one will move farther long that way, and meet with whatever may be found on that road, whether good or bad.

So this younger son made the choice to leave home and make a life for himself apart from his father and family. Then what happened? He traveled through the neighborhood and found a home to live in, just a stone’s throw away? No!
He traveled to a different country! “A far country”! It would seem that this unwise son wanted a life as far away from his father as possible. Such is the way with a backslider, one who once walked with the LORD but has turned away.

They desire to get as far away from the LORD, as far away from the Bible and prayer and church; as far away from any godly people and fellowship as they possibly can. They are no longer comfortable ‘at home’ but seek out that country that is indeed “far” from the kingdom of God – that is, the world – this world whose children are of that “spirit of disobedience” and of “darkness” that is diametrically opposed to the will of God, and to such an extreme that any who choose to become friends with this rebel planet and its philosophy is considered an enemy of God!

Ephesians 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: (Eph. 5:8; 1 Thess. 5:5).

James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

What was it that drew the younger son away from his father’s house and to that “far country” anyways? It was carnality, the unspiritual drives and lusts for sin that the sinful nature craves and despises anything that is godly, of the Light of God’s Spirit, of His Holy Word – that fallen sinful nature which we have all inherited from our father Adam that if left unchecked in the life of even a Christian, will propel them into perilous corruption:

Romans 8:6-8
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

Galatians 6:7-8
7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

This is why it’s so important, vitally important that in this contest between our own will and the will of God, the Christian must “die to self” and identify ourselves in the death of Christ (Rom. 6:2-6, 11; 8:36; 2 Cor. 4:11; Gal. 2:20; 5:24; Col. 2:20; 3:3; 1 Peter 2:24), and in so doing allow His life to manifest in us. Concerning our self-will and obstinate determination for our own way and not God’s, read what Oswald Chambers said of the matter:

How Could Someone So Persecute Jesus?

Let’s continue in the prodigal son parable:

LUKE 15: 14-16
14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

One gets the impression that the lot of inheritance granted to the younger brother was rather substantial. Such is the grace and tender kindness of the LORD, His generosity towards His children is unparalleled by any other father. It took some time for his financial resources to dwindle, but it was not replenished because he was in that “far country” and not at home with his father where he belonged, where he would have known continual renewal in provisions.

When left outside of his father’s influences, the wayward son was left vulnerable and subject to the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” as Hamlet once said, and the tremendous misfortunes, misery, mishaps and melancholy that is part and parcel to this world of sorrow and sin.

So likewise when a child of God leaves a life governed by the Spirit, he is left outside of the Father’s domain of holiness and such an obstinate, self-ruled child cannot experience fellowship with the LORD and His love (though the LORD loves them still!).

Such a child knows enough of the LORD that he is never entirely comfortable to be back in the world, and enough of the world is still in him that he is never entirely comfortable with the LORD and His people.

Nothing ends up satisfying them and they begin to experience the famine of the heart . . . just as this son did.

A famine struck and there was no longer the lavish provision from the Father, but even the ordinary provision normally found in that “far land” were gone and he was left with barrenness. He “began to be in want” as opposed to those who remain with the Shepherd where they will know no such want (Psalm 23:1). So desperate was he to merely survive that he joined with a citizen of that “far land” in an unholy union between believer and unbeliever (which the Word admonishes us against – 2 Cor. 6: 14-17) and he began to look with hunger on pig slop, so deficient was he in proper nourishment!

Nothing of this world will ever satisfy the soul. This world, spiritually speaking is a barren desert bereft of life and vitality. As I have often said before in the acronym of O.A.S.I.S. – Only the Almighty Savior Immanuel Satisfies: “In a world of empty, sinful mirages, amidst the barren, bleak desert of parched souls, there is an OASIS”.

When all the while the LORD would desire the souls that He has made bountiful in spiritual health as found only in Him and His Spirit, such terrible blindness in sinners disallows them to see the ‘pig slop’ for what it is, and it can even begin to look desirable! The very fact that the famine struck in that “far land” at that time when the wayward son was living riotously and in rebellion against the father, speaks of God’s Almighty power and grace.

He provides such with the intent of bringing that disobedient child to their senses and makes the return home!

LUKE 15: 17-19
17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

There comes a time when the child of God, rebellious and obstinate and disobedient as they may be to the Word of the LORD, comes to realize the truth; that there is truly nothing in this world that is fulfilling, and certainly not a life of sensuality and pleasure. Even a nobler life of service and social responsibility will prove futile in bringing fulfillment.

Nothing will bring fulfillment to a person except for the very purpose that God created all souls for; until that purpose is fulfilled, the person themselves will never know fulfillment. The purpose of all souls is to glorify God and have a meaningful relationship with Him as our Father, through the grace of Jesus Christ and the propitiation for our sins that He obtained for us by His shed blood on the cross.

How much more so, should this purpose be the very heartbeat, the very conviction, the very compulsion of His child! Here we have this prodigal son coming to reason and he knows he has violated his father’s will, and “sinned against heaven” – he knows that he is unworthy of his father and his home, so he humbles himself with the offer to become nothing so high as a hired servant.

This is so contrary to the haughty son who demanded his inheritance before the acceptable time; we see here that his time away from the father had accomplished the work of humility in his young heart.

Such are all who humble themselves before the LORD; for those who will do this, they have the sure promise that the LORD will exalt them – in due time (1 Ptr 5:5-7).


LUKE 15: 20-24
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

I have often said that “God drags His feet to bring judgment . . . but He sprints to deliver His mercies!” Here we have this very picture in the parable. The son was yet “a great way off” but the father saw him.

One can well imagine that though the distance was great, the father’s heart was yearning so, that he kept a diligent watch out for his son daily. Only a vigilant eye such as this, governed by a heart of sublime love and compassion for his beloved would catch sight of one so “great [a] way off”!

He didn’t wait for his son to come groveling in the dust and beg and plead for forgiveness . . . no, he ran to meet him, and not with a scathing rebuke but with a heartfelt embrace of loving warmth that was as warm as the grateful tears that must have fallen on his beloved son’s neck! The Father’s heart is such for His children.

I have tasted such powerful emotions that the Father has for His wayward children. I have known young disciples who once walked with the LORD and myself, but have since returned to the world (2 Tim. 4:10).
There have been times when I would wake myself with tears and prayer on my lips, interceding for those lost souls. When I considered the emotions I was experiencing I realized that this was not merely my own grief: I was feeling the very heart of God, and His agony for His own that refuse Him (See Proverbs 1) and prefer the way of this world.

This gave me serious pause and I wondered, “Lord, the times that I have been distant, and cold towards You… is this the way You felt for me? Have I caused You such pain as this?” I understood without a word from the LORD that this was in fact, the case.

My heart broke afresh for this realization and I could do nothing but repent before the LORD for this.

The son makes his confession of unworthiness of ‘sonship’, but such was the joy of the father, that he immediately seeks out his servants to adorn his son with “the best robe” and a ring and shoes for his feet. Likewise for the LORD’s repentant, returning children who have learned humility and humbleness, He adorns us anew with the robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10) and brings to us a ring for our hand, denoting family and often royal authority in that culture – such is given to us who are God’s children and heirs of the Kingdom of God (Eph. 1:6; Rom. 8:17). Shoes are granted to us by the LORD, shod with the preparation of the Gospel which alone enables us to walk righteously with unbroken steadfastness (Rom. 8:4; Gal. 5:16, 25).

If all the angels of heaven rejoice when a sinner is saved (Lk. 15:7), what celebration erupts in heaven if one who once walked with the LORD returns to that blessed life of vitality and victory?

Such is the earnest, fiery prayer of my own heart: to see those that I have known to walk with the LORD but have left Him, whether overtly (in a life that has observably forsaken the right way) or covertly (by one who has allowed their hearts to grow cold to the LORD while maintaining all of the outward show) return to our glorious, gracious and majestic and merciful LORD, Jesus Christ!

So what is this other prodigal that I speak of? The elder brother of course, whose own heart had grown cold in his heart towards his father, while still maintaining all of the outward, observable and seemingly right duties of any faithful son. This we will address in Part Two of this article.

1 comment:

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