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

Perfect Relationships Demand a Choice

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16)

To a Muslim, his Quran is a sacred text. To a Jew, the Tanakh or Mikra contain his sacred writings. To a Christian, the Bible contains the Jewish sacred writings, and the writings following the birth of Jesus through the end of the first century A.D. The passage above, written by Paul the Apostle in the first century A.D. confirms to his young disciple Timothy, that ALL scripture comes from the very breath of God and is useful for us in some manner. In fact, the original word used here was the Greek word “theopneustos” or “God-breathed” and eventually became the foundation for our English word “inspiration” and meant to “infuse animation or influence…especially by divine influence.”

The Bible never takes the position of explaining the existence of God. He is. The Bible is his way of explaining himself to his creation. Across centuries, the text of the Bible has been been preserved with crazy accuracy. You see, like the Muslim and the Jew, the Christian also believed his sacred writings needed to be precisely preserved.

Read Genesis 1:1 – 2:2, some parts are excerpted here.

Listen to the description of the creation of the earth:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2 NLT)

Let your imagination picture what it was like. How long did the Spirit of God hover over the waters? Think about how peaceful and calming water can be, or how strong and awesome. Which do you think it was?

The book of Genesis has several lines that begin with “And God said.” Dwell on those words for awhile. Is it possible for you to just speak a word and something happens? Maybe, for some, a spoken word will force others to spring into action. But when God spoke our known world was formed. He has enough power in his words to create, to give life, where there was only formlessness and void.

And God said, “Let there be light”…And there was evening, and there was morning–the first day…And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from the water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. And God called the vault “sky.” And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.”…And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:3-10)

Nine times in the first chapter of Genesis the words “And God said,” are recorded. What comes to mind when I ask you to imagine a “beautiful day?” The sky? Birds singing? A waterfall? A herd of wild animals grazing on an open plain? Enjoying these situations alone or sharing them with someone you love? None of us were there in the beginning. But, God wanted us to know what it was like. Have you ever made anything, fixed something, or written something? You want to share it with someone who can appreciate it, right?

The book of Genesis is attributed to Moses as the author. How did he know what to write? Who told Moses how everything we call “creation” happened? Did God show these pictures of creation to Moses like a movie flashing before him? Did he allow him to dream the scenes? Why did Moses leave out these details? It seems like it was just something everyone understood, why explain how God delivered the information? It would be like explaining “evening” and “morning.” Everyone knows what they are, no need to go into detail. Other Biblical passages describe Moses in direct conversations with God. This is an example of their conversations.

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name? Then what shall I tell them?'” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I am has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:13-14)

Conversations like this lead us to conclude Moses knew God personally. Interesting isn’t it, this passage sounds like we have a personal God, a relational God. Maybe this helps us believe it was God that gave the earth and all living creatures to Adam to rule over (Genesis 1:26-28).

Wow, six times God steps back and calls what he is creating “good”. Finally, on the sixth day, he says “it was very good”. He had just created mankind in his own image and put them as stewards over the earth and everything in it. God doesn’t stop there though. What happens next? Creation wasn’t complete, not yet. One piece was missing. Watch what happens in the next chapter.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:15-17)

God put a condition on Adam’s existence in the garden. Why? Why did God draw a line? Why did God mess up a perfect situation? Or, did he? God created Adam in his own image. God is in relationship with Adam. He has given him the position of authority over all creation with one caveat: Adam must respect God’s boundary. All creation depends on this fact: Adam must remain in harmony with God. This harmony rests on one condition. Adam must not eat of this one single tree in the garden.

God is simply saying to Adam, you may have supremacy over this place. It is yours. I put you in charge. But, just so we are clear, just so I KNOW you will honor our commitment to each other, there is a condition. You must not eat the fruit of this one tree.

Early in my career, I was working with a company, where I held a data entry position. I was curious, and figured out how to get into the back-end of their software to see if I could make it run more smoothly. When I proudly let them know how they could increase the efficiency of their software, I received a stern response. They reminded me, in no uncertain terms, that I had violated our agreement. This agreement, that I had not read very closely, stated that I was not to alter the software in any way. I had violated an agreement, even if I had not intended any harm; I had still broken my word. It was a barrier the software engineers had established to maintain security, and I had broken it.

An agreement with a condition in the Bible is an oath covenant. An oath covenant requires at least two parties. It is entered into by choice. There is some sort of understanding with at least one condition. Also, with the breaking of the covenant comes a consequence. Adam’s covenant with God required Adam not to eat of the tree God chose. The consequence of failing to follow this condition would be death.

God had made Adam in his very own likeness. God had given Adam the Garden, something of his own to take care of, to cultivate. Now with this added condition, they also have a relationship, because of free will. Without a choice they were not free. A true friendship, a love relationship, cannot be forced. If I say “YOU MUST LOVE ME” there is no love. With a choice, with the ability to choose, they can now love. A master-slave relationship was not what God desired. His desire was a love relationship.

–taken from chapter two of an “almost published” book, Thicker than Milk, by yours truly