One of the most beloved storied in the Bible is recorded in Luke 15:11-24. It is the story of the "prodigal son.â€ He was sick of living on the farm. He wanted lights, music, action! He actually asked his father for his inheritance before his father died. Talk about rejecting one's father! And get this, his father loved him so much that he actually liquidated half of his holdings and gave them to his son.
Of course, you know the story. The kid heads to the big city, blows his fortune on fickle friends, ends up in a famine feeding pigs and sneaking pig food to stay alive. He finally comes to his senses and heads home.
Here are some key points. First, note that the son intentionally left and rejected the father. He didn't drift away. He left radically. He got his inheritance before his father died. He didn't care if his father was alive or dead. It was finally his condition that drove him back to his father, not his love for his father. Sometimes, God allows us to go our own way until we reach a point where we realize our despair.
It's a pretty funny picture one gets. Here's the kid heading home and he's practicing and practicing the speech he will give to his father to see if he can at least be a servant in his father's household because he knows how well even the servants are treated by his father. He practices until he finally gets the speech perfected. But he never even got a chance to say his well-rehearsed speech. Instead, his dad, who has been watching for him every day, sees him trudging "a great way off.â€ His dad hikes up his robe and RUNS to his son. He gives him a robe and the family signet ring. The signet ring was like a power of attorney. It allows the son to legally bind the family to agreements. He was completely absorbed BACK into the family. Total acceptance. And, just like in the other two stories, it was time for a P A R T Y !
The son saw his father as severe and strict; now he finally sees his father in his true light as gentle, forgiving and tender.
Isaiah 44:22: "I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins.
Jeremiah 31:34 "I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more"
Isaiah 55:7 "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.â€
Are you like the lost son? Have you intentionally left God? God anxiously waits for the return of his children. When they return, He rejoices!
What was the message to the Pharisees and scribes in this story? The message is that God is a forgiving God and you don't have to earn his approbation. This is very hard for people steeped in legalism to accept. How do we know? Because the story doesn't end there. Now he continues the parable but aimed right at the stony hearts of the Pharisees and the scribes.
Stay tuned for the final story that's really only half of a story â€“ the righteous son.