“Jesus continued: “there was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father."
This is a story of redeeming love. It is a reflection of the Father’s heart and the love that reaches out to offer another chance.
Imagine the situation. This was a father who loved his two sons. He was a man of means, and he had an inheritance for them. There was much he had laid up for his sons, but the time for them to receive their inheritance was still to come. When the second son decided he wanted his share of the property immediately, his father complied. It may have grieved his heart that his son was not willing to wait until the death of his father (if those were the conditions for inheritance), or to reach a certain age or maturity. The father blessed him anyway. He longed to please his son and make him happy. It pleased his heart to make his children smile, so he sold some of his assets, and gave this boy his inheritance ahead of time. Parents would identify with this desire, which is a reflection of the Father heart of God. It is a desire to bring joy, fulfillment and satisfaction to their children, even at cost to themselves.
There is no distance too far to go!
I would imagine that this father knew his son better than anyone else. He knew he was wild and willful and prone to disobey. He had set a future date to give him his inheritance, because he did not want him to fritter it away irresponsibly, and destroy that which was precious and valuable. God has amazing blessing in store for us His children, but there are times when we do not receive what we desire and ask for, simply because we are not ready for it, or because God knows it is not the best thing for us. Psalm 106:15 says that when the people of Israel kept craving meat in the desert, God finally gave it to them but with “leanness to their soul”. We may sometimes satisfy a temporal desire at the cost of an eternal benefit or blessing.
In the Father’s dealings with us, He has seasons in which He brings us to new levels of growth and fulfillment. Certain revelations, material blessings, or spiritual gifts and ministries are only manifested into our lives at a particular season or time, when the Father has seen that we are ready. However, it is possible that (like the people of Israel), we can seek and crave something which was not for us to have, and lose something eternal in the process of getting it. There are always choices and trade-offs in life, and the son made a choice. He could not get far enough from the father who had loved, protected, nurtured and provided for him all these years. He wanted to spread his wings and be free of the limitations imposed by parental discipline and boundaries. What he did not realize was that these boundaries provided a spiritual covering, which kept him safe. It was evidence of the love of the father!
The boy packed his bags. He probably planned to go away from the father’s house forever, because the Word tells us that he got together “all he had”. He set out to the farthest place he could go – “a distant country”. Things went well for him at the start. He had money in his pockets and plenty of friends. He probably partied with the ‘in’ crowd each day, set on a reckless journey of abandoned discovery, trying out all the vices he had never known when he lived under the covering of his father’s house. He was saying ‘no’ to life and yes to imminent disaster. He thought things were going well for him. When thoughts of his father crossed his mind, he laughed to himself, thinking he was ‘free’ at last, life was good, and he really had no need for his dad. However, the path of rebellion is a short lived one. God in His grace permits us some slack. He gives us time to repent, to experience conviction, to come back to the foot of the cross, to choose the right way rather than the path of sin. He is the most wonderful and loving father, but we cannot hold His grace in contempt. Proverbs 29:1 tells us that “A man who remains stiff necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed without remedy”. God speaks to us, through people, through His Word, through life situations, through dreams or visions, and through His voice upon our hearts. He gives us time to understand and change direction. He gives us every opportunity to turn. But when we continue to disregard His warnings, and keep walking a path of rebellion, like any good father, He chastens us, sometimes so strongly that we know without a doubt that He means ‘business’ and we can never walk that path again. “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from Heaven…” (Hebrews 12:25). Also Hebrews 12: 5 & 6: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son.”
The boy was getting deeper into sin, and farther away from everything he had learnt was holy and true. There came a day when he stepped too far out of line. It was time to make a decision about where he had to stand. His life seemed rosy as long as he could use his credit cards, and had plenty of money in his pockets. But one day, the bars refused to give him credit, and his landlord threw him out of his apartment. The ‘friends’ who had enjoyed his money and his parties now ignored him and did not take his calls. He tried to sell his designer clothing at the street corners but no one wanted to buy them. There was a recession in the city; it was hit by famine. He was weak and hungry, he had no one to turn to. He was sleeping on the streets, lonely, unloved, lost in a distant city so far from home. As he sought employment, door after door was shut to him, until he was finally hired to look after a herd of pigs.
The heir of the wealthy father had sunk to the lowest of the low. Sin, which seemed so attractive when he first stepped into it, had him bound, down on the ground, hopeless and stuck in the miry dirt. Jews regarded pigs as unclean animals. They do not eat their meat, touch them, or keep them on their land. They were symbolic of sin and impurity, and what is abominable in the sight of God. As he watched the pigs and took care of them, this young lad was so desperately hungry that he longed to eat the food the pigs were eating! It could not get any worse. He suffered alone, and nobody knew the plight he was in.
However, this boy suddenly “came to his senses” one day! He woke up from his helpless spiritual stupor, and realized that the devil had been lying to him all that time, and he had been accepting those lies. He did not have to live like this. He realized that the only way to make things right was to go back to the Father. He knew his father had a staff of workers, who were all better fed and clothed than he was, while he, the son of the house was starving, lost and alone. He decided to go back and seek his father’s forgiveness. He felt he was not worthy to be received as a son, but he would ask at least to be an employee, or slave in the house of his father. The Word of God tells us that he got up and set out to return home. It was the best step he could have made!
Friend, the father’s house is symbolic of the will of God and all the blessing there is in living within His will. The Father has good things for you and me. If you are experiencing a famine in your spiritual or physical life, sickness, financial difficulties, sorrow, or relational problems, chances are that you have been throwing away your inheritance in a place far away from the Father’s house. Ask the Father to show you how to get back Home. Ask Him to show you where you deviated from the path He mapped for you, and when it was that you stepped out of His will and began to follow your own. It will be clear to you. You will recognize where you stepped out of the Father’s house. It will be that first time you made a conscious decision to obey your own mind or flesh, and walked away from the perfect covering that divine obedience brings. However far down the road you feel you have gone, know that God has been speaking to you, and waiting for you to come back home. He loves you, He is delighted that you are reading this message, and He is speaking to you today! Come back to the Father’s house. Come back into the closeness of His arms. Return to the intimacy you once knew. He is waiting for you!
You may be a parent who is longing for your child to return home, as the father in this message was, or you may be praying for your son or daughter to come back to the Lord. Take heart today, and be assured that it is the will of the Father that they come back home to Him (and to you). May you see your heart’s desire fulfilled in these weeks and months to come! You are so precious to the Father. He loves and cherishes you!