11 And he said, A certain man had two sons: 12 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. 13 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. 14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 17 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! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 20 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. 21 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. 22 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: 23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
This is the last of a trilogy of parables the Lord offers for the comfort of the lost sinner and the dismay of the scribes and Pharisees.
As you will recall, each of these three parables is addressing the issue of being lost – the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son. Each cast a different light on the state of lostness.
The sheep is like a little child with no means to direct its path, but must be led by a parent, or shepherd. It has no foresight, no self control, no bad or evil intent. It wanders away due to a lack of knowledge and vision. The Shepherd will leave the ninety and nine to go in search of this little lost lamb. It becomes His great obsession to find it. Thank God that Christ will never leave us for the greater numbers. He cares deeply for each of His own.
The second parable describes a woman who has lost one silver coin out of the ten she possesses. It seems a small loss compared with the nine remaining; however, this one lost coin becomes the center of her attention. She takes a candle and searches into the late hours of the night, she sweeps and garnishes her home in a desperate search for this lost coin.
This coin can represent those who are ignorant of their lost estate. They have no mind of their own, and are unable to think clearly. They are as good as dead:
Col 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
Eph 2:1-6 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
And now he gives us this third parable of the prodigal Son who was the apple of his father’s eye, was owned by him as his son, and who rebels and becomes lost to his father.
He desired his inheritance early beyond the provision of the law (at death of the benefactor).
The father, being full of love for his son, overlooked his childish desire and complied with his request.
The son, not many days after, gathered his new found wealth and went off into a far country – perhaps Alexandria, Rome, or Babylon.
Material wealth became more important to this youth than the father’s love.
When he had established himself in the far country, he lived lavishly, squandering his money on riotous living. When we go out of the Will of our Father in Heaven, we will likewise squander our resources on frivolity and sinfulness. When we find ourselves out of communion with the father, we have gone off into a far country – far from the father’s oversight and provision.
The very last verse of the book of Joshua describes our state of rebellion:
Judg 21:25 – Ruth 1:1
25 In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
1:1 Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.
t is clear from the above passages that the result of living according to our own desires, and not those of God, results in a famine of both spirit and sustenance.
The young man began to be in want. When we have spent all seeking joy apart from our Father, we, too, will began to be in want – in grave need.
When we become desperate, we seek help beyond ourselves even if it is from a stranger.
A stranger cares nothing for our well-being. He will only use and abuse us. But we, like the sodium element in salt, will always be joined to something else whether it be God or mammon.
This young Jewish lad found himself feeding pigs. Pigs are classified as unclean by the Holy Bible, yet this young man lived among them and even coveted their food. What a depth of depravity to which to sink.
He was doubtless filthy and his clothes stank of the waste of pigs and dirt.
17 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!
No child is in his right mind who deserts his parents and goes off into a far country. No sinner is in his right mind when he is away from God.
God calls such persons ‘fools.’ In Psalm 14:1 – the fool hath said in his heart, “There is no God.”
When we awaken to our lost estate – separated from loved ones, from home and hearth – we are perishing from a hunger that grips our souls and will not be satisfied with anything except a return to home.
We begin to recognize the value of love and truth. We hunger in our being for our Father.
When one awakens to his lost condition, he must resolve to make a remedy to it. Before his feet will move in the proper direction, the idea must be born in his heart, soul, and mind.
So, the young man determines what he must do, first by a mental resolution:
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
We must repent of our great evil.
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
(We must recognize our depravity.)
And our new found hope and resolution must be followed by a willingness to act upon them.
20 And he arose, and came to his father.
He returned to the Father who had been patiently awaiting his son’s return. He had knowledge of the son’s great wickedness, yet, he never gave up on his beloved son. He sat and mournfully watched the same sad road on which his son had departed – days he waited, months passed by, and finally years – yet his father sat and waited. Watched and hoped.
He knew that the son must return of his own volition and not be forcefully returned to him. His heart was weary with worry. His eyes heavy with the loss of sleep in his worries, but he watched the Road.
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.
One day, as the old man watched, he saw a small speck appear on the horizon where the road topped a distant hill. Something inside him leapt with hope. Could it be his son. The man was old, and his vision poor, yet, hope had made his vision keener to see his son.
Suddenly, with certainty, the old man recognized the careless gait, the casual shuffle that identified his son even though he was a great distance away. No matter how far we go out of God’s Will, he watches and waits. And when he spots us returning – even though at a great distance – he knows us, and rushes to meet us.
He could not contain himself. He jumped to his feet and started to run toward the visage. Though old and failing, his great joy overcame his aged deformity.
You will remember that this son was penniless and smelling of the hog pen, yet, his father fell on his shoulders, ignored the terrible odor, and even kissed his son. When love is strong, the superficials matter not.
21 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.
It is only when we are aware of our unworthiness, that the Lord can receive us – dirty and smelling as we all are.
The son followed through with his previous resolution. He repented to his father and told him that he was no more worthy to be his son.
The love of the father stopped his ears from hearing of the unworthiness of the son. That was not important to the old man. The only thing that mattered at all is that the son was home at last.
When a lost son or daughter returns to God, he doesn’t ask how dirty you have been, or how far away you have gone from Him. He simply is overjoyed at your home-coming.
22 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: 23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
Note the gifts of the father:
A ROBE: A robe designates worthiness. See Isa 61:10
10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
He covered the filth of his son with a beautiful robe.
A RING: to signify authority. He gave his son his own authority to act. See Gen 41:42-43
42 And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck;
43 And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt.
2 And the king took off his ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it unto Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.
SHOES: to demonstrate liberty.
In the days of Rome, the first item taken from a captive were his shoes. This reduced his freedom to run away. When a captive was set free, his shoes were returned signifying his liberty of movement.
In Christ, our sins are covered by His white robe of righteousness.
We are commissioned and given authority to preach the Gospel.
We are let loose from the chains of sin that bound us and are made free.
Please remain in the house of our Lord, but if you wander away, remember that He is vigilant to find you and to receive you though He will not come to you as long as you persist in a “Far Country.”