February 16, 2015
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
In Scene III of Act One of the Three-Act Play the Prodigal Son finally makes it home from the pig sty in “…a far country….” (Luke 15:15). Well, as Scene III opens, he has almost made it home!
• Luke 15:20 – “But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” Now we have to understand a bit about appropriate behavior for older Jewish men – especially a wealthy and respected Jewish man. He would be wearing a long outer robe down to his feet. In order to run to his son, we get an idea what he would have to do from the example of Elijah in I Kings 18:46: “And the hand of the LORD came upon Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran ahead of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.” The father would quickly have tucked the hem of his robe into the sash around his middle so he would not trip on it when he ran to greet his son! By this action he would have bared his legs for all to see! And this was not considered proper behavior for an elder man of means in that day! But – caution to the wind – he did it anyway! His son was more important to him!
There is something implied here that is important. It says “… when he was still a great way off, his father saw him….” His father was watching for his boy to come home – probably ever since the Prodigal Son left! How long was he gone? A month? A year? Several years? It does not say. But the young man was away long enough to completely go through his inheritance, and to be miserable for awhile in that foreign pig sty! All this time, his father kept vigil – watching for his son to come home! No wonder he saw him “…still a great way off…”!
And no wonder when “…his father saw him… [he] had compasson…” on him! His heart had been filled with love and compassion for his lost son for a long time! We can learn a lesson here: If we are going to have compassion on the lost of this world, we need to determine to love them before we encounter them – because God already loves them!
Again, proper behavior be gone, “…his father…fell on his neck and kissed him.” We can just see the old man grab and embrace his son – his son smelling of pigs! – burying his head against the neck of the young man, and just bawl! Do you think God might bawl with joy when we come home to Him through faith in Jesus Christ?
• Luke 15:21 – “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ ” The young man had carefully planned out just what he would say upon meeting his father (see Luke 15:18 and 19). And he started out according to plan! But he only got half way through his speech of repentance before his father cut him off! But he got it right in what he did say! “…I have sinned against heaven….” Yes, he had sinned against his father also. He admitted that next. But all sin is first of all against God!
David confessed the same in Psalm 51:4 when he told God, “Against You, You only, have I sinned….” Considering what he had done by committing adultery with Bathsheba and then having her husband Uriah murdered to cover it up, such confession might sound strange. But primarily sin is breaking God’s laws! So I think the young man realized this, and carefully – and correctly – thought out what he would say.
But it is really not the exact words that matter so much! David, in the same psalm of confession tells us, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, You will not despise.” (verse 17). And the Prodigal Son certainly had a change of heart – a broken heart, from proud, selfish and independent to humble, broken and now very dependent upon others. “…a broken and a contrite heart….” is what God wants, not precisely chosen and correctly repeated words!
But let’s further consider the young man’s planned out speech to his father. According to the last half of Luke 15:19 he was going to request, “Make me like one of your hired servants.” A hired servant was a day-laborer, and Matthew 20:8 through 10 tells us he would be paid a denarius – the going laborer’s rate – at the end of the day. What this young man was going to say implies that he was somehow planning to pay his back his father for the inheritance he had squandered. The plan was not a good one! If he had been given only one talent of wealth for his share of the inheritance, at the rate of half a denarius a day (he would have to have some money for living expenses – bare minimum, the other half danarius) it would have taken him 12,000 days to pay his father back – almost 33 years! And what his father had given him was most likely a lot more than one talent!
On what basis do we often come to God? We bargain with Him! “God, if you will just get me out of this mess, I will serve you for the rest of my life! I will give you ______________ [fill in the blank]! ” But Isaiah 64:6 says this: “…We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags….” Our righteousnesses are the very best we can do! If they are like a filthy rag, what do our not-so-righteous deeds look like to God? In other words, we have nothing to offer God – nothing to even begin to pay Him back for what He has given us! And what has He given us? Complete forgiveness of sin, eternal life forever with Him, abundant life now through the fruit of the Holy Spirit. How can any price be put upon such an inheritance? It can’t be! It is priceless! And it is freely given to us by the Father! All we have to do is reach out the empty hand of faith and receive it – receive Jesus Christ as Savior, the One who purchased us for such salvation at the cost of His very life on the cross!
So the Prodigal Son apparently had it in his mind that he would somehow buy back a humble position in his father’s household. What was his father’s reaction to his wayward son’s arrival? We shall see in the next blog.