God, the Father, has been dealing with rebellious children since the Garden of Eden. Adam, the first created son (Luke 3:38), chose to disobey his Father. Once the Father instituted a covenant with Israel, His “first born son” (Exodus 4:22), a pattern of rebellion and unfaithfulness appears. The Father had every reason and right to give up on His son. Instead, time and time again, the Father extends His mercy and grace. God desires for His children to “come home.” It was true in the beginning and remains true to this very day. Read on…
Read Psalm 103: 1-4, 9-12 – Amazing Grace
Our Psalm reading underscores God’s kindness and mercy. Given that “all of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6), the Lord could wash his hands of us. Rather than lock us up and throw the key away, He offers us pardon from our iniquities. Rather than letting us waste away in the disease of our sin, He offers us healing. Rather than letting us destroy ourselves with the growing debt of our sin, the Lord redeems us – meaning He pays our debt for us. God doesn’t give us what we have earned, rather, he crowns us with kindness and compassion.
God has myriad reasons to rail against us. Yet, he doesn’t constantly ride us. He has abundant reasons to be angry with us. Though we have broken His covenant and proved ourselves most unfaithful, God does not retain His wrath forever. His response to us is not in keeping with our depravity, nor does he repay us based on our sins against Him.
If we will return to Him, His kindness and grace to us will exceed the distance from the earth to the highest heavens. If we will repent, God will remove our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west. The Lord is kind and merciful to us. This is the opposite of what we deserve. Read on…
Read Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 – Coming Home
Jesus, as He is wont to do, is spending time with the social outcasts. Jesus is speaking with the tax collectors and sinners who have all gathered close to hear. Despite Jesus’ noble mission to, “seek and save the lost” (John 3:17), the Pharisees and scribes don’t see His cause. They choose to criticize and condemn. “How can Jesus welcome these dregs of society? He even eats with them!” Their pious arrogance is on full display. These religious elitists represent Israel, a most unfaithful son. Surveying the scene, it is not Jesus, the only begotten Son of God who has strayed from the Father. It is the religious leaders in all their self-righteous judgment who demonstrate their outright rebellion.
In response to the “holy” men, Jesus offers a parable. In Jesus story, a man had two sons. The younger son does the unthinkable. He asks to receive his inheritance now, while his father is very much alive! How must the father have felt? And yet, his son wants to receive “what’s coming to him.” It’s as if the father is already dead and gone. Without hesitation the father fulfills the request. Perhaps his way of dealing with rebellion children, was similar to what Harry Truman believed. The late president said, “I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.”
Even worse than the rebellious act of asking for his inheritance, tragically we see a relationship surrendered. In verse 13 we read, “Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country…” To go “into a far country” is covenant language. It means to depart the protection of the covenant land and it means to venture into the place of the pagans. The son was cutting himself off from his father. In effect, he wanted all the blessings of the father without having to bother with the relationship. Pastor Simon Perry noted, Many who claim to be Christians want to have the blessings of obedience without walking the pathway of obedience. As we consider this rebellious son, recognize that there are many like him, maybe even some of us. We want the benefits from the heavenly father without the relationship. We want the promises of the Bible, without the discipline to read it. We want the best of the faith, without the commitment of believe it or live it. We want the assurance of heaven, without the call to holiness. We want the blessings of Calvary, without having to carry a cross. we want to be wise and discerning, without the practice of prayer. We want the sense of belonging and purpose, without making church a priority. We want the pot luck and the perks, without preparing and bringing anything ourselves. We desire the benefits of religion, without giving ourselves to the relationship. How heart breaking for the father. The younger son collected the father’s riches and he left home to seek his own way. Can this also be said of us?
What the younger son failed to realize was that this path would lead to profound poverty. All too soon, the son would find his father’s riches squandered. Soon after leaving the father, the son’s life begins to go downhill. Jesus tells us that in that far country he wasted his inheritance recklessly. His older brother would later accuse him of squandering his resources on prostitutes. Don’t you know that once the money was gone, the party was over! His newfound friends disappeared like dust in the wind. How far he has fallen. From the covenant embrace of his loving Father into the alluring arms of prostitutes and pariahs. His was a life of desperation and depravity. And then, to make matters worse, famine grips the land! Just how low could he go?
His next step leads to righteousness sacrificed. In his desperate need for food, the younger son takes a meager job feeding pigs. Oh, the depths to which he has fallen! There is a reason there were no Jewish pig farmers. The law included a strong prohibition against eating pork. Pigs were unclean animals. After living “high on the hog” now he is feeding the pigs!! In fact, he was willing to sacrifice any pretense to righteousness if he could eat some of the pigs food! He was self-exiled…outside the covenant…in a pagan land – but he was actually beneath the pagans. He was longing to eat the supper of the swine, but no one would even give him the pods of the pigs. He is desperately destitute. The lost son has hit rock bottom, stripped of all pride.
It is from this utter humiliation we see hope of the return of the son. Verse 17 says, “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!'” What an amazing statement of self awareness. “He came to himself”. He had a sudden return of his senses. In that instant, the truth became clear. It was a moment of metanoia – a transformation in his thinking! His life, done his way had led to complete disaster. The same is true for us! The lost son remembered his father’s love. Even the servants in my father’s house have it better than this!! Those hired by the father have plenty of bread while I am starving for the slop of the swine. The lost son then took the first step away from rebellion and toward restoration.
What happens next is critical, as the Psalmist pointed out in our first reading. The son repented of his sinfulness. Verse 18, say, “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.’” Peter preached at Pentecost, “Repent…for the forgiveness of sins!!” Repentance is absolutely necessary if restoration is to occur. For repentance requires a change of direction. And that’s exactly happens with the lost son. “I will arise and go to my father!” In his book, I Surrender, Patrick Morley claims that many folks who attend church today believe incorrectly, “that we can add Christ to our lives, but not subtract sin. It is a change in belief without a change in behavior.” He goes on to say, “It is revival without reformation, without repentance.” So, the prodigal son heard the still small voice of the Father within, “Softly and tenderly…come home, come home.”
And, while he would have been content to become a servant he was about to receive full restoration to sonship. While his son was in the far country, the Father was looking for his lost son. While the son was heading home, but still “far off,” two things happened. The father was looking for his son. No doubt, he was longing for his son to come home. When the father saw the boy coming, dispensing with propriety and protocol, he ran to welcome his lost son! There on that dusty road the son’s prepared mea culpa had to wait. As the arms of the father engulfed his son, his kisses revealed his heart of mercy and love. After the son cried out for mercy the father rejoiced. His son would NOT be a servant. He would be fully restored to sonship. This required the best robe and a ring and shoes.
Jesus’ parable should speak to all of us. It reveals the love of the heavenly father. For we were all created to be sons of God. But, by our rebellion and sin, we were cut off in the far country of own depravity and desire. God had blessed us with every blessing, but we squandered it in riotous living. He even gave us His only begotten Son, and we crucified Him. I wonder if we have come to your senses. Have we repented of our sins. Have we heard the still small voice? Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me. Come home, come home, all who are weary, come home! If we will repent and return to the God, the Father, He will wrap us in His divine embrace! He will restore to us what was lost because of our sin. We, too, can receive a robe and a ring. And like the lost son, we can have a seat of honor at a feast prepared for us! We can be what we were meant to be – sons of God!
As we walk the Pathway to the Passion, may we repent of our rebellion. God is gracious. He is longing for us to come home!