We usually term this amazing parable to be, The Prodigal Son but one close look at it unveils that the story is meant to be The Compassionate Father or The Wonderful Nature Of God In Dealing With His Rebellious Children. Having the title as a picture of the prodigal son hides the most important part of Jesus’ parable and how he changes or deals with men.
When the youngest son approached him, he heard his request and shared all he had with both sons. The younger son took it all, walked out the beautiful gate into a strange world where most things were done outside the Laws of God. He partied, drank and ate until all he had was gone. He decided to be a hired man, ate pigs’ meal and rested on the bare floor. The requirements was too high that he finally saw his father’s love.
With all sincerity, he finally returned to his dad confessing how sorry he was and he readily was already forgiven.
The younger wasn’t the only rebellious son, for the elder also was. So why call it, The Prodigal Son? The older brother had jealousy in his heart and couldn’t also see his father’s love. All he could see was his brother being robed with a beautiful garment. He was in real hunger for the riches his dad had, rather than knowing the love of his father.
Therefore, The Compassionate Father or The Wonderful Nature Of God In Dealing With His Rebellious Children should be the appropriate title for this parable.
As we move on, we will look at the following:
1. They didn’t lose the relationship
2. The sin of the older son
3. The sin of the younger son
4. Who is safer among both sons?
5. His compassionate heart
They Didn’t Lose The Relationship
Certainly, the younger son losed so many things he would have gotten had he remained with his father but he never losed his relationship with him. He left for a distant land but the relationship which his dad had with him was constant. He’s still father’s son, still had his love, still related to his father by blood. So how could he lose it?
If anything else seemed to not grow the moment he left, it was his fellowship with his dad. They hardly get to meet to talk with each other. That didn’t end the father’s hunger for fellowship with his son; for he was still longing to talk with him, just as David was longing to talk with Absalom. However, his father’s reaction wasn’t akin to the king’s; for the king never wanted to see Absalom once he returned but while he was away, he still longed to fellowship with him.
Just the opposite, the younger son’s father didn’t wait for his son to get to the gate. He rushed out to embrace him, expressing that love once more. That moment, the fellowship he had longed desired to have with his son was restored and ready to grow.
The bible had it this way, in Luke 15:20; So he got up and came to his [own] father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness [for him]; and he ran and embraced him and kissed him [fervently]. With this expression which his father shew toward him, it’s clear that the son never lost his relationship with his father. What he had lost was their close fellowship.
On the other hand, even though the elder son was just so jealous, that doesn’t mean he losed his relationship with his father. He also had the fellowship and was able to tell his father his feeling toward everything which had just occurred. He couldn’t believe his eyes but the words of his father still pointed out that they still had fellowship: And the father said to him, Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32But it was fitting to make merry, to revel and feast and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and is alive again! He was lost and is found! (vs 31-32).
Imagine God’s words to us who are caught in selfish motives; self-righteousness, and self-glorification: Son, you are always with Me, and all that is Mine is yours. That shows the presence of fellowship with God.
We never lose our relationship with God. Each of us are caught in either the self-righteous attitude of the elder son or the prodigal life of the youngest son. Both do affect our fellowship with him, and have our eyes clouded from seeing his love. Though, we’re not of those who abandon the Father, when we see our fellowship with him weakening and we discover we are caught in any of the two, all we have to do is RUN TO HIM. When we do, we will begin to see how much he loves us even more.
The Error Of The Older Son
The elder brother’s error was nothing else but Religion. He was upgrading himself; outlining all he had been doing for his father, expecting a reward. He wasn’t doing all that because he loved his father but he was expecting a gift. In that case, he was doing all that as a servant, rather than a SON.
A servant work for wages but how is it with a son? He works each day, doing all he can because he loves his father. A servant mayn’t recognize the love his master has for him but a son first see that love, then begin to love his father more and more.
Walking with Jesus in this relationship is that way! Playing the religious game with him is just too harmful for us. Yet, he’s right beside us, feeling our pain and freeing us from it. Some of us have experienced the stage where we try doing all the works for him but with a wrong motive: working so as to earn his favor. In that case, we aren’t different from the elder son as we look for every means to use as a tool to getting something from him.
We work for God, not because we believe that if we do so, he will supply all our needs, but we do his will because we love him. Religion omits the desire to love God and others more than ourselves. It blinds us from recognizing his unchangeable love toward us. Just like the elder son, our view of God become blackened with untrue descriptions of who God is and how he works in our lives. We won’t be able to see beyond our activities; our selfish priorities into the glorious and compassionate heart of God.
Religion doesn’t distinguish us from self-righteousness. It opens our heart to become self-righteous (righteous in our own eyes), not minding the way Father sees us, even if we are that good or bad. However, as far as we’re concerned, none of us is good. We’re not just qualified to be robed with the cloak of righteousness because there’s always a level of imperfection in each of us. However, when Christ died, he became our righteousness. Thus, in following Jesus in this relationship a day at a time, he begins to humble us and help us live away from the strings of self-righteousness.
Father opens our eyes to see beyond our own position, priority and even selfish ambition. Even in our relationship with him, we ignorantly strive to earn a place in Father’s heart but have we paused a day to hear him say this again: “Son, you are always with Me, and all that is Mine is yours”? You’re already a son, so why play religious games? There’s nothing you can do to earn a place in his heart. He’s included you already without a working on your part. A place in his heart can never be earned.
Like the elder brother, struggling to have position will always lead to jealousy; pride; unnecessary comparison between ourselves and others. When we do that, we’re trying to criticize others because of their failures, instead of looking at them as wonderful children whom Father is drawing so near to himself. If you find yourself in the shoes of the elder son, understand that it’s more beneficial to know how much your heavenly father loves you rather than seeking to gain all his blessings.
The Error Of The Younger Son
All the younger son had done toward his father was Rebellion. He had simply wandered off his father’s presence, seeking the perishable things of this world above the wonderful fellowship which he treasured with him. Though the elder brother had a selfish reason for fellowshipping with his father, the younger never had a respect for; selfish reason towards; or even desire for that fellowship. The last time he could fellowship with his father, it was for personal gain, rather than growing closer to his father. He neither respected nor valued it.
He was truly a rebellious son but no different from the elder son in the early parts of his life before he came to his father’s feet to repent.
Both religion and rebellion corrupt our view of God’s compassion toward us. While the elder was being self-righteous, the younger was being rebellious, but both attitudes lead to one poison: unable to recognize the Father’s affection toward them.
Being rebellious doesn’t shove God away from us. Rather, it shoves us away from him. God is never scared to see our imperfection. He’s with us, ready to help but most times, he mayn’t offer a helping hand but just the protection we need. He would let us go, until we get to the end of ourselves. Getting to the end of ourselves means humility. Humility gives us more room to see his love for us and embrace that love. It was after he had been broken, before he was fully convinced about his Father’s love toward him.
Again, he was unable to love his father and remain with him because he wasn’t convinced that his father always had loved him. It’s the same with us! In our relationship with him, we mayn’t be convinced that he loves us but the moment we get convinced, we find ourselves beginning to love him too. John made it clear that God first loved us before we were able to love him. As we grow in fellowship with him, we will find him opening our heart to see and embrace that love; for the more we don’t realize it, the further we become rebels.
Who’s Safer Among Both Sons?
If I was asked this question in an interview, Yeah, get to think of it, Bob. Which among the King’s sons is safe? I would reply the following, First, we know that his two sons had errors each. The first was self-righteous and the other rebellious. However, speaking in view of the past life of the younger, none of his sons is safe. Both were just rebellious. The younger had his rebellion expressed before his father’s presence, which makes him quite free from the one who hid rebellion in his heart. Rebellion was also present in the older son’s heart. Therefore both are rebellious and unsafe. Rebellion isn’t safety. It eats up our fellowship with God, beclouding our heart from fully realizing his love toward us. Before you can recognize if someone loves you or not, fellowship is necessary; and when you discover it, fellowship becomes even more necessary. The elder isn’t safe in the sense that he had fellowship for a wrong reason and the younger isn’t safe because he abandoned the fellowship.
Thus, none is safe!
A Compassionate Father
The end of the story reveals how God deals with us, lovingly embracing us, and welcoming us home after our long wandering away. I used to think that when we come to Jesus, he would stay some distance away to have us clean, before he takes us close to himself. Those teachings just fell off some months after my own experience of wandering away from him. I was thinking I would still be kept waiting distance away until I’m clean. It was all lies! God doesn’t distance himself from us but we distance ourselves from him. I still can have a couple of pictures in my mind: First, the Lord withdrawing from me as I realize my sin and begin running closer in my torn clothes. Next, the Lord seeing the prodigal son who wandered away and immediately ran to him, gave a hug and more kisses. The son had a rag on, rather than a sparkling cloth. The father ran to him inspite of the rag his son was wearing. I still wondered why!
Therefore, the question is “Why did the father not command the guards to stop his son at the gate, change his clothes before taking him in; before giving a hug and multi-kiss?”
He wasn’t after anything else but his son’s return. Look the joy Jesus has when we return to him to renew our fellowship with him. He runs to us even before we get to the gate and gives us a hug and more kisses, assuring us of his love again. He isn’t after our torn clothes but our changed hearts and the return which he had hoped for, since the moment we left. He throws a party with his angels and many other believers who had long prayed for our return to him. He has more to offer us even if we had ignorantly wasted many.
The picture that the Lord oft will withdraw whenever we return with dirty clothes is all lies! Jesus never shy away from his own. It’s them who shy away! Now that they have returned, would he also shy away? Is that the compassionate Father we are talking about? Or someone who loves pleasure for himself as to get his people lost in the lie that they can change themselves? That’s what we mean when we picture him that way. We’re simply pointing out that he believes we can change ourselves.
How was the son fully convinced of his father’s love? It was when he saw his father run toward him. Isn’t that what encourages us too? The further we get to approach him, his light, his love is enough to convince us of how much he loves us. We begin to see the heart of a compassionate father who treasures our relationship and fellowship with him more than our works. The prodigal son didn’t hide his pain and sorrow; for he used the clothe which he had on him since his days of suffering, to approach his father. It’s like saying, Father, look at my clothes! I have been suffering from my own rebellion. Now, I realize I can’t change myself. Take me as your servant and I will be satisfied with that.
Then, we’ll realize that all we need is to return to him the way we are, without any attempt to change ourselves or hide our pain.
This blog post was written in his yet-to-be-published book: THE FATHER’S HEART CRY which is presently on Editting process @ Harvesters Online Publishers, New York, United States Of America.
Bob Hernandez: Lovestream Of Life Blog
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