Thursday, March 7, 2013


We have two sons in this story of the prodigal son (singular) and it is my contention that in a very real sense, there were actually two prodigal sons. The younger son made the bold and unwise decision to leave his father, his family and the blessed life in which perpetual relationship, not merely provisional riches were forsaken.

The elder brother is the focus on the second half of this article.

To any that would observe this young man, he was doing everything right. He, compared to his younger brother, exhibited nothing but commendable behavior and was no doubt, readily received by family and friends (and presumably by the LORD Himself) as an honorable man.

Yet just as the Word tells us that man looks upon the outward, the LORD looks upon the heart (1 Sam. 16:7); no one really knows the human heart (not even The Shadow!) as our LORD knows the human heart and all of its ways (Jeremiah 11:20; 17:9-10).

Thus the LORD would tell us a very different story about this elder brother than his family and other associates would tell. Eventually even the elder son shows his own heart and its cold condition, for indeed, out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).

Getting back to the younger son for a moment, once he came to his senses and realized he had sinned against heaven and the LORD that reigns there, he repented as he returned to his father’s home. Note that the father was standing watch, and waiting (and certainly praying fervently!) for the return of his son; yet where is the elder brother? Was he not concerned for the welfare of his younger brother?

Once the father catches sight of his son, he doesn’t merely wait for his approach, but takes the initiative and runs out to meet him. He would have had to gird up his robe so that he wouldn’t trip over it as he ran; some say that in that culture it was a shame for a man to expose his bare legs, but the father disregards such shame.

Also, since the prodigal son had wasted his father’s living in sinful conduct, he risked humiliation at the hands of the people of his father’s town as the custom was that if any departed from the faith, they could pronounce such a one as ‘broken from the community’ and shattered a clay jar on his presence to demonstrate their rejection of him.

The father, wanting to spare his son that humiliation would want to intervene before the people had a chance to do so.

Such is the Father’s love for us, desiring to save us before the Law could rightfully condemn us and destroy any chance of reconciliation, but condemn in justice those who had sinned against God.

Yet we see no such indication of grace from the elder brother; he only has a sense of justice and how he himself was dealt with unfairly.

Yet here we have another prodigal, who did not yet have the prodigious wealth that was his due one day, but he was prodigal nonetheless! And how was he so blessed with riches unseen to the naked eye as with gold and silver and fine clothes (as his younger brother no doubt enjoyed while off in the wild life)? He was indeed prodigal, and truly blessed (if he knew it) with the ever present fellowship of his father! And in dwelling in peace in his father’s house, afforded every privilege and right as a son – these are in fact, the true riches and remain untarnished by the elements of this world!

Let’s have a look at the situation:

Where we left off before, we saw the prodigal son in contrition and humility confessing his sin, but the father calls for the best robe, shoes for his feet, and a ring for his finger; further he calls for a feast and orders the fatted calf to be slain. In the midst of such celebration with joy filling the father’s heart as well as the son, and the household servants, the elder brother returns from the field, having spent his strength in the labors associated with it. Fatigued and in need of rest and refreshment, he hears a ruckus in the house.

LUKE 15: 25-28

25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.

26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.

27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.

28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.

Putting ourselves in the elder brother’s shoes for a moment: what if a younger brother of yours did what this man’s brother did by showing utter disrespect towards your father, and contempt for the riches that were labored for so diligently by wasting them? Not to mention the fact that the inheritance was to be divided in such a way that the first born was to get a double portion! NOW what would be his inheritance?

What if such dishonor was known throughout the community and as you went about your business in town, you caught the disapproving eye of others as they spied on you. Perhaps they wondered if you would be next to abandon your father.

Yet you dutifully continue in your duties and labored for your father and who’s to say that you weren’t very concerned yourself for your brother’s welfare – at least at first. Then time and brooding took their toll and you begin to resent your brother who was out there having fun, while you bore the brunt of the labors amidst the sweat and grime in laboring in the fields under the burning sun.

Now we consider this parable and can see perhaps, some justification for the elder brother’s offense. The wayward son returned and this is what he receives?? A party with music, dancing and a feast??

He was so angry – not at all joyful – at the return of his brother and the reception he gets; he refused to even go into the house; of course the servants let the master know that his elder son is outside and angry. So what does the father do? Once again, he is the one to take the initiative and seek out his son. His father “intreated him” the Scripture says. He desired to draw him near to fellowship and implored him to join them.
Then we hear the elder son speak for the first time, and what he says is most telling:

LUKE 15: 29-30

29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:

30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.

The elder son is quick to point out his years of faithful service and is bold enough to declare that he never transgressed his father’s commandment “at any time” – if this were not so, the father would know it – and he complains that his father never once gave him a feast that he would “make merry” with . . . who? The elder brother’s friends; how interesting that he would choose his friends, rather than his beloved father, as company to have a feast with.

Such a feast in the elder brother’s mind would be payment due for all the duties faithfully performed for his father. Such is the way of the legalist who recounts all that he has done for God: “I have read Your Bible, five chapters a day! Prayed every morning and night and at every meal! I go to church regularly! I share my testimony and the gospel, I give to charities, I do visitations at hospitals and prisons – and now I lose my job?? THIS is the thanks I get for all I do for You, God?”

The legalist knows nothing about receiving the grace of God, nor the depths of one’s own sinful nature and feels no great need of forgiveness. The same who is forgiven little, the same loves little.

And then what does the elder brother have to say about his sinful sibling? He can’t even bring himself to call this young man his brother! Note verse 30, where he says, “But as soon as this thy son was come . . .” So cold was his heart that it reflected in his work – it was duty rather than joy; it reflected in his relationship with his father – it was more of a business relationship than a familial one; it reflected in his relationship with his brother – he was only “his father’s son” and not a brother. No doubt it reflected in his relationship with the LORD as well – he was without any grace or compassion or mercy.

Such are eager to accuse, to judge, to blame and find fault and then reject with contempt, rather than seeking restoration and healing for those who are wayward and in rebellion.

Let’s hear what the father’s response is to this:

LUKE 15: 31-32

31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.

32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

The father reassures the son that his inheritance is untouched; that everything is kept safe in his hands and ready to be received at the appointed time. Too often we as Christians expect immediate return, but it’s a good reminder that our inheritance is forthcoming in the kingdom that is yet to arrive. If God delays in His blessings for us (even if that delay is as long as this life) it only means greater blessing!

The father states “thou art ever with me” and this is from the father’s perspective: he sees the elder brother in that light which reveals his ultimate end and not the process the son is going through now – the Father of the LORD Jesus Christ sees us in the light of eternity, not in our present condition – even if that condition is presently cold and unfeeling. The plow will do its work and cut deep the fallow ground that requires the seed and resulting fruit.

The father in the parable gently reproves his elder son and says that it was acceptable to celebrate the return of the wayward son who once was lost but now is found; he was who was dead but is now alive.

Note that the younger son was never at any time ‘not’ his son; he never lost his ‘son-ship’ but was only lost, and if dead, then dead in the sense of separation from fellowship with the father, and not dead in his present condition, for he was still a part of the family, albeit rebellious and unreceptive of love, grace, correction and restoration.

We do well to remember that if any of us are in a fault and wayward in our faith, we ought to be restored not with harshness and judgmental attitudes, but with firm conviction delivered in meekness and gentleness, brimming over with grace and truth, and the same love that the Father grants to us when we repent of our own sins.

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

So in closing, may I ask which prodigal son (or daughter) are you? One who was adrift from the close fellowship with the Father in an overt sense – backslidden for all to see, engaged in illicit activities and observable sin?

Or one who has grown cold in a covert sense? Still attending church, still reading the Bible, praying, and engaged in all things Christian with a sense of duty but with no heart behind it?

One who honors God with your lips, but your heart is far from Him (Matt. 15:8)? I must admit that I have at different times in my walk grown cold, left attending to my Father in a tender and affectionate relationship and inwardly left Him behind. To look at me, one could never see (unless you looked with an eye of discernment) that I was adrift, but the LORD always knew, and likewise knew exactly what to do in order to restore me.

Others I know are or were like the younger son; whose backslidings are quite observable. In my mind, while this condition is a lot more alarming and filled with peril of a palpable sort, it’s the other (the condition of the elder brother) that is more dangerous, for such ones as these could deceive themselves for all their outward show that they were acceptable to God and are in no way committing sin. Such is the way of the Pharisee – hypocrisy and double standards, judgmental of others while accepting of oneself; self righteous and holier than thou (Isaiah 65:5).

In either case, repentance is necessary. And we never need fear what our Father may do with us once we do repent, even if we fear the worst as his younger son may have thought when he saw his father running after him. Perhaps he thought, “My life is over; he’s going to kill me.” That is, until he could see his father’s tear streaked face, and his arms began to open wide to receive him in a loving embrace.

Finally, here is a presentation of a modern day Prodigal Son you might enjoy reading!

As I have said before… God sprints to show us His mercy; He drags His feet to bring in the heaviness of judgment. May the LORD preserve us from ever straying from His beloved and Almighty heart of love and grace and truth, as only our ALMIGHTY GOD Whose Heart is that of a True FATHER can do for us, His beloved children!

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