And he said, A certain man had two sons: 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. 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. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 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! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 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. 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. 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: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
There have been many men who have brought forth many wonderful and true messages from this portion of scripture to bless the hearts of many people. Some will preach that this prodigal son was a picture of a lost man coming at last to God. Some teach that the prodigal son is a picture of a saved man who gets away from God and after finding himself unable to survive without God he returns in an attitude of humility and repentance. It would not be wrong to preach this bible story either way, it can accurately portray both. My effort here is not to choose sides or claim that one or the other is wrong.
In looking at this portion of scripture, we see that there are many similarities between this prodigal and many Christians in our day. It will be the purpose of this study to compare this young mans story to that of a Christian who gets away from God.
In looking at him, this young man has a lot in common with all of us at one time or another in our lives. He is obviously in a good home, and has a good father. Looking at the fact that the young man remembers his father’s generosity to his servants in verse 17 we can couple that with the thought that the young man knew when he finally came to himself that he could go back home. No doubt, had he not possessed some hope of acceptance of his father, he would not have returned. But this young man knew that his father was a good man. That tells me that in verse 12 this young man was not what he ought to have been. Just as we have, he had a will of his own and it was taking precedence in his own heart above the will of his father. He was a rebellious and deceitful young man, who obviously just wanted simply to be free of his father’s authority and restraint. If you pay attention, he did not wait long after he got his part before he took off on his own. He was planning to leave all the time, and probably did not explain all that he had in mind to his father. Obviously, the man had taken care of a household, and had accumulated enough wealth to leave to his sons, he must have had some wisdom and been willing to work. Understanding what we do of the character of this father we can safely assume that, had he known what the boy was going to do, he would have refused to do this for him. I believe the boy must have deceived his father, and afterward he departed and all to the surprise of his family.
We see that he “gathered all together” in verse 13 and took off. He got all that he had, packed it all up, took it and got as far from his father as he could. He had been dreaming of this for a long time. He had his mind made up that he was going to be his own man and do his own thing; nobody was going to tell him what to do or how to live. He was going to do as he pleased, and he probably had a great time…for a while. But without warning, the money ran out and he found himself alone. Look at the predicament he found himself in. Here he is, far from home, broke, in a famine, and too proud to go back home a failure for all to see. So we have this young man hungry, needing to work after living in luxury, and stuck in a place where he did not belong. Notice what he did.
In verse 15, he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country. Here he was in a land that he should never have found himself in in the first place, and now he is going to work for some one that does belong there. He would rather go to work for a stranger in a strange land than to go back to his father’s house. Then he was willing to take a job that otherwise he never would have deigned to attempt. He took to feeding swine. Now we must consider that this is Jesus telling this story to Jews. To the Jew the swine was abomination. They were disgusted by these filthy animals. It was an insult to this young man even being there. But at least he was independent! Or was he?
If you look at the sad picture that is painted for us here it makes it even more lifelike when we see that the young man finally became so hungry in this place the he began to remember. He began to remember the kindness and generosity of his father. He remembered that he had a father back home that loved him. He remembered how good life was back on dad’s place. But he only remembered this when he finally came to himself. Notice the wording of verse 17. He had finally reached the end of his rope. You know, the words of a dying man are usually true, he has no reason to lie anymore. Well, this man died to self in that hog pen and when he did, he remembered how good things were at home.
This is one of the reasons I like to say that he is a picture of a saved person who gets away from God. He remembered his “Father’s” house. He did not just remember home, but his “Father.” This young man was already a son. He was in a mess, in a strange land, among strangers, and in need, in want, desperate, yet he had a father that he still knew that he could go back too. As I noted before, had he not had some hope of acceptance, he would never have considered going back.
At times in our Christian lives, we become self-willed and want to go our own way, to do things our own way. God will allow us sometimes to go our own way. Some times God will allow us to make some decisions for ourselves that will teach us. That is one of the way that God will whip us into shape that we may be more of what He would have us to be. He wants us to be dependent upon Him alone, to serve Him alone. Sometimes the only way to get that out of us is to let us fail miserably at doing our own thing. And when we reach that point of realization at last of having no hope within ourselves to accomplish any good in this life, then we can more readily appreciate all that our Father does for us. We can do nothing without Him. He only wants us to know that.
Notice this young man. He finally realized that he never should have left his father’s house. He should have stayed under his father’s care, protection, and guidance. Now that he has lost everything, he is wishing he had.
Look at how humble he is now, but even more, how honest he is in his own heart.
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! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
This trial has become a great blessing to him in that it has shown him just what he is on his own. We see him now humble and repentant, much more of a man than the self willed and independent minded man that left his father’s house.
This is a most accurate picture of the way that many Christians will go at some time in their walk with God. We do sometimes think that maybe God is a little too restrictive in what He tells us in His word. Maybe we don’t see something wrong with this or that, but it is what the scriptures say that should matter to us. It is at these times of unrest and dis-satisfaction that we often find ourselves moving away from God. God has not moved from where He was at the outset. He is still there. It is we that must move away for there to be a rift between us and God. Too often we have to come to the place that it costs us a great deal before we come to ourselves and realize that we should never have drifted and we find ourselves repentant and coming back home to the Father Who loves us.
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. 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. 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: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
Notice now this young man is awakened to his predicament within himself, and he is repentant. He remembers that he has a good father at home that takes better care of his servants than this. He remembers his father’s house, his care, his blessings, and he longs for the opportunity to be back there where he truly belongs.
What a precious thought when a child of God who has gone astray finally comes to the place that they realize they have strayed and they recognize that they truly never had any reason to get away. The blessings of the Father’s house are much more than they may seem sometimes. There are those who will forsake the house of God for a better job, more money, family, recreation, and they will grow colder with every time that they turn away from God. Then one day, all will seem to fly away into the wind like so much dust from the hand. All the joy that you thought waited outside the fold seems to be spent and gone. There seems no hope for further reward. It is at times like this that people remember the God that they have forsaken and many will finally come to repentance and come home. As this young man does here. We see him repentant, going home, hoping for acceptance, and before he ever gets to his father’s house his father sees him afar off. That father had never lost the memory of seeing this precious son leaving his care. He probably watched the young man leave and wept as he passed over the horizon out of sight. All this time, he has been gone, the father has never stopped thinking of him. I can just see a heartbroken father staring every evening into the distant horizon longing for the sight of that wayward boy coming home. Then, one day, there on the horizon, the shape of the distant shadow has something familiar about it. His father begins to weep, and runs to meet him as he makes his way down the road home again. Oh, what a precious picture of our Father’s reception of us when we come back to Him in repentance. That father ran to meet this son who was coming home. And we see that he fell on his neck and kissed him.
According to the law, that son was to come and, face to the ground, allow his father to place his foot upon his neck in submission. This was to show that the young man was defeated, broken. He fell down before his father expecting this gesture of humiliation, knowing full well that he deserved nothing better. But his father, instead of putting his foot to his son’s neck, fell down together with this son and kissed him; So thrilled to have this wayward son back home again, so forgiving and willing to give him another chance. He had forgotten already the pain he had suffered at this son’s straying, for joy that he had returned. So happy in fact was this father, that he did not let this boy finish the speech that he had prepared, but interrupted his word with blessing and reward that he had just been longing to give beforehand. “Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:” He had been saving these gifts for just such a time as this and now he joyfully rewarded this son that he had so missed and was so happy to have back.
God is so good to us. There is no way that this story can compare to the way that God loves and cares for us. He only wants that which is best for us. When we feel that God’s commands and instruction are grievous and we decide to go our own way, He waits for our return as did this father with his son. The Lord wants us back when we go away. And notice also, that the son left, the father was still there where he was at the start. God does not move away from us, but we go away from Him. If you are away from God, won’t you come back to Him. He is always ready, and willing to forgive us if we will return.
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