Prodigal Father?

The translation of the Bible I am using, the New International Version (NIV), calls the story in Luke 15:11 the “Parable of the Lost Son”.

I can identify with the pain of this story on some level, because my daughter is on her way back to her adoptive country Australia today. You may have someone you love dearly, and because of circumstances, are not able to be with them as much as you would like. When you do get to see them…all that matters is what is right before you. Old problems are insignificant. Current issues must be resolved quickly. Time is short. Each second counts. Forget personal needs like sleep. When our kids are home, the focus is on them.

So, when I read this story in Luke, some call the Prodigal Son, I understand the father’s love.

If you don’t know the story, Jesus tells about a man who had two sons. One of the sons comes to him and wants his inheritance “early”, before his father passes away. He takes the money and runs off, to another country. He picks up some scurrilous friends along the way who help him spend his money on whatever they can imagine will give them pleasure. When the money is gone (along with his friends), he has to find work, any work, to feed himself. He ends up working as a farm-hand feeding pigs. He’s so hungry, he dreams of eating the pig’s food, but can’t even have that.

The way Jesus words verse 17 is so interesting, “When he came to his senses”. It suddenly dawns on the son, that his father would treat him better as a hired man. So he goes back to his dad.

The use of the word “prodigal” can be applied to either the son or the father. The word prodigal is defined as lavishly or extravagantly doing…either in a negative sense such as the son, or the crazy love of the father.

The son must have looked dreadful. His life was living with pigs. When we lived in Iowa, the farmers would fertilize with liquid pig manure.

hogmanurespreading

For miles around, the aroma would fill the air in the spring, as the farmers would “shoot” this delightful substance across the fields. I can’t imagine what this man smelled like after living with pigs! The other piece of the puzzle is the Jewish culture. Not only were pigs an unclean animal not fit to eat, but to be around this animal and their waste material would require a cleansing and purification period prior to engaging in any physical contact.

Contrast this with the father. Men in those days wore flowing garments. He was also a landowner, a man of distinction. None of that matters as he gathers up his robe, maybe tucks it into his belt and RUNS to his son as he sees him coming. 220px-Pompeo_Batoni_003Now, remember the smell, he could have stopped ten feet away and said “welcome back, let’s get you a bath and some clean clothes!” Instead, he “was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20 (NIV)

The son blurts out his well-rehearsed apology, “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:22-24 (NIV)

The father fully accepts his apology, probably a long time before he even hears it from his son. He immediately restores his son to the family. The robe, ring, and sandals restore his position as son. The meal seals the relationship. Totally undeserved, the wasteful son is restored into the family.

As Jesus was telling this story, “I wonder if it was so quiet in the crowd, you could hear the wind blow, as the people understood the connection. The heavenly God we have been worshiping is this same loving father who is running towards his child.”[i]

Do you need for a loving father to wrap his arms around you today? He will. He has already forgiven whatever it is you think is too “prodigal.” Your heavenly father already paid the price to restore you to his family. He allowed the blood of his son Jesus to be poured out as payment for our rebellion.

 

[i] Mitchell, Victoria L. Thicker Than Milk. Pittsburgh, PA: HyeINK, 2017, Kindle 1088-1089

Why can we hope to be healed by God?

Peter saw his opportunity and addressed the crowd. ‘People of Israel,’ he said, ‘what is so surprising about this? And why stare at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or godliness? For it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of all our ancestors—who has brought glory to his servant Jesus by doing this.'” Acts of the Apostles 3:12-13 (NIV)

There was a woman who went to Africa in 2013 with a group of missionaries called Mission S.O.S. Their goal was to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. The word ‘gospel’ can be translated ‘good news’. The Good News is what we have talked about in this book, that Jesus, the Son of God, was sent to be a perfect sacrifice for the rebellion (sin) of Mankind. While on the festival grounds one evening, this woman prayed for a young teenage boy who was deaf. Listen to her relate what happened:

“I was 60 years old at the time I first went to Africa to help preach the gospel of Jesus. To say I was inexperienced is an understatement. The other missionaries I was with believed that Jesus was really who He said He was. They also believed Jesus was ready to prove it by healing people who called out to Him for help! Their faith was so infectious, it bolstered our confidence when we prayed. The first person that came up to me for prayer was a young man who had lost his hearing about 8 years prior to this night. We had been told to pray simple prayers because Jesus is the One doing the healing…it is not the eloquence or length of our prayers. I placed my hands over his ears and said, ‘be healed in the Name of Jesus’. He said, instantly he felt a ‘pop’ and he could hear! I have to say, I was just as shocked as he was. It certainly was nothing special I had done. Jesus had healed this young man of his deafness!”1

Stories like this make us wonder. What is the formula for healing? Does it depend on who is praying? Does it depend on the expectations of the sick person or their family? Is healing related to a specific religious group or denomination? Or even more basic, why does God allow illness anyway?

When Adam turned away from his relationship with God and accepted the terms the ‘snake’ (Satan) offered him, he received the benefits of that new relationship with Satan. Satan was evil and had only evil to offer Adam. Adam had been given dominion over the earth and sky and all the wildlife and vegetation in them. Now with this agreement came an exchange. Satan had everything which was in opposition to God: hatred, lies, sickness, pain, depression, death and every other disease and plague. For his part, Adam now shared what he had been given by God: dominion over the earth and sky. Adam entered into a covenant with Satan by partaking of food under this condition that Satan presented:

“‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked;” Genesis 3:4-5 (NIV)

Mankind must now be redeemed from this meal covenant, by the only thing stronger, a perfect blood covenant. A holy sinless sacrifice must be offered to erase the cost of the rebellion (sin) of all Mankind.

Until the necessary time for this perfect sacrifice, God established the law for the Israelites. He gave them a list of guidelines in order to live a life within the bounds of righteousness. This law was necessary to set them apart from other people groups in the surrounding territories who practiced behaviors deemed immoral and unholy by God. In Deuteronomy chapter 27-28, the conditions of the established covenant between God and the Israelites are stated. The blessings for upholding the law of God are to be read each year on Mount Gerizim. The curses for disobedience and breaking the covenant of God will be read on Mount Ebal each year. These lists encompass anything good and anything bad we experience.

The lists of curses ends on this note:

The Lord will also bring on you every kind of sickness and disaster not recorded in this Book of the Law, until you are destroyed.” Deuteronomy 28:61 (NIV)

God looks like a cruel despot by outlining the horrible conditions that will befall anyone who doesn’t follow His law. This view is a human one. From God’s vantage point, He is establishing the law for protection for His beloved Israel. He understands, better than they, the repercussions of breaking the law. God is describing in starkly naked terms the wages of sin. But…hundreds of years later, these curses of sin will be broken. And just as sin was brought into the world by one man, so the power of sin will be broken by another man, Jesus.

For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:15-17 (NLT)

…”for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ” This is the formula for healing. Belief in Jesus Christ as the One sent by God heals our hearts, our spirits. The wording in this passage is interesting to note. Another translation, the NIV says “how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” Not only are our spiritual lives restored to a relationship with Holy God, but we also have triumph in our physical lives. Remember, we know the death of Jesus secured our eternal life. 

Jesus said in John 6: 47-51 “Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (NIV)

The teaching of Jesus in this passage, was confusing to His audience. Jesus was talking metaphorically about eating His flesh. He was making the point that belief is more than mental knowledge. Belief means to agree wholeheartedly that He was sent from heaven. Believe and agree. Dedicate yourself to this belief so intensely that it is as if you are eating ‘my flesh’! This is the point Jesus is making. Also called faith, this belief restores our part of the covenant with God.

Also restored is the life Mankind had before relationship with God was broken. But how can physical healing take place? Because Jesus also redeemed us from the curse of sin.

Galatians 3:13 says: “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.'” (NIV)

In addition to restoring spiritual life to mankind by the forgiveness of sin, the power of evil was also broken. What is this curse pronounced by the law? The curse pronounced by the law are the physical curses pronounced every year from Mount Ebal. What do we have instead? As covenant partners, believing in the Messiah Jesus, we have been given all of the promises announced on Mount Gerazim!

2 Corinthians 1: 20-22 “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (NIV)

As God’s covenant partner, any promise you find in the Bible, because of what Jesus did through His life, death and resurrection, is yours. It is like a wealthy relative who dies and leaves you the keys to his series of high-end collector automobiles. You own the keys to the cars. And just as it takes a key to start a car, so it takes prayer of faith to release the healing power of God. Prayer is such a gift. Anyone can pray. It demands no special outfit, no particular place, not even specific words, only a believing heart poured out to God.

Unfortunately, Satan has not given up entirely. He is still the prince of this world as well as ruler of the kingdom of the air. (Read Ephesians 2:2 and John 16:11) He still lies and discredits God and the Word of God. He wants you to believe that your prayers are futile. He knows that prayer unleashes the power of God in our lives.

In Genesis 15:10-11 Abraham takes an active role protecting the animals sacrificed for the blood covenant with God.

So Abram presented all these to him and killed them. Then he cut each animal down the middle and laid the halves side by side; he did not, however, cut the birds in half. Some vultures swooped down to eat the carcasses, but Abram chased them away.” (NLT)

Sometimes praying for healing is similar to beating back vultures. When Jesus prayed and taught the disciples how to pray in Matthew 6:10, He prayed that the Father’s will would be done…on earth…as it is in heaven. In the book of Genesis we see God’s will when He created Adam and Eve; they lived in perfect harmony with Him. Mankind had perfect peace, a perfect spiritual and physical existence in a perfect world. With the entry of sin into the world, this perfect harmony was lost. As believers in Jesus we intercede for each other in prayer for this perfection to be realized again here on earth…as it is in heaven. We have the position as covenant partners to request healing from God. Because of this, we should exercise our rights by diligently reading the Word of God (Bible) so we understand what God’s perfect will is and by releasing His healing power over one another.

What do we do when we have done all there is to do…and the healing does not occur?

“Once my husband was diagnosed with an aneurysm in his brain. We were certain that God was going to heal him. He was in a perfect position to tell many people about the healing when it happened. And, we were sure that our plan was the best plan for him. Well, God had other plans. He is God after all, and we should let Him have that position. However, I went through a crisis. I imagined that maybe God wasn’t good after all. I reasoned that when the Bible relates Job’s struggles, that God and Satan were just playing with him. God would give up control and Satan would inflict another terrible evil on poor Job. However with this trail of thought I felt myself falling deeper and deeper into hopelessness. Finally, I realized I had a choice: either stay on the path I was, or believe that God is a loving God. It took an act of my will when I could not see a positive outcome, to trust in God. My husband was eventually ‘healed’ by a wonderful surgeon.”2

The Bible is explicit in its teachings about healing. It speaks about Jesus redeeming us from sin and the curse of sin. And we have very concrete evidence in Scripture that healing is part of God’s promise to His people. The obvious example is Jesus Himself. He NEVER told a deaf, blind, leper, or crippled person that it was good for him to endure his illness–NEVER. What it does say is He had compassion. He wept. He was exhausted because of the crowds. (Matt 14:14, 20:34, Mark 6:34, John 8:31, Luke 8:34-37) Jesus also told us we would do mightier works than even He did.

But, people still have illness and most don’t live to see 100 years. So what course should we take? We pray. We encourage. We pray again. We encourage again. The battle is fought in the mind as well as the body…it is work to think positively and courageously. Ephesians tells us to put on the armour of God: then stand firm and pray!

Eph 6:10-18 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devilʼs schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lordʼs people.” (NIV)
  • Belt of truth: God wants our well-being, not sickness and death
  • Breastplate of righteousness: we are righteous only because of Christ’s death
  • Some versions say ‘Boots of Peace’, the Gospel is the ‘Good News’ that Jesus died for us so that we can be reconciled with the Father
  • Shield of faith: believe in what you cannot see–believe God is on our side
  • Helmet of Salvation: when you have believed in your mind Jesus is Lord
  • Sword of the Spirit: the word of God–even Jesus, when tempted in the desert by Satan, rebuked him with Scripture!

If these things are true, how do we have enough faith? Sometimes we don’t, plain and simple, that’s why we keep trying. But, not everyone in the Bible had great faith, either. (I’m so glad the Bible includes stories about normal humans!)

Mark 9:23-25 “What do you mean, “If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil spirit. “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” he said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!”
Jesus tries to explain faith in the following Scripture: notice FAITH IN GOD, not our prayers, not our strength, not our good deeds, just faith in Him. Believe that He is who He says He is, that He loves us, that He is faithful. Pray with faith. The old-timers used to say pray until you know heaven heard you; they called it ‘praying through’. I would say pray until you have peace. Peace is from God, when you are confident HE has heard, you can rest.
Mark 11:22-24 “Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, “May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.”

Believe God is good. The alternative to faith in God leads to hopelessness.

In summary:

The rebellion of Adam in the Garden of Eden brought sin, sickness and death into the perfect world God had established. The covenant relationship between God and Mankind was now broken. The only way to erase the power of sin was a perfect sinless blood sacrifice offered to God. To be ratified, each person who wants to restore covenant with God must believe in the sacrifice of Jesus. With the restoration of spiritual wholeness Jesus also secured the restoration of physical wholeness. He rescued us from the ‘curse of the law’.

And this is true, not just in our own lives; we have also been given the power and authority to heal the sick by Jesus.

Luke 10:9 “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.'”

Mark 16:15-18 “And then he told them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.'”

John 14:12-14 “‘I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!'”

When we understand that the blood sacrifice of Jesus has made us covenant partners with God, we can be comfortable bringing our requests to God and expect that He will answer us.

Prayer:

Jesus, you delivered us from sin and the curse of sin! Because of our covenant relationship with you we are able to rebuke sickness and evil spirits in your Name, Jesus. May we walk in the path you have given us. May we point to the work you have done to restore Mankind to the Father. And may your Name be glorified by signs and wonders of healings and deliverance from evil spirits. Amen.

Footnotes: 1 and 2 taken from my own experiences, just told here in narrative voice.

This piece taken from a book that should be published by this fall. Thanks for reading…please don’t hesitate to be very honest with questions/critique. Thanks! Vicki