When it seems it's over: Devotional Commentary for October 21-27
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us Wisdom and Insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
This is the story of the prodigal son, his forgiving father, and his judgmental elder brother. This is how Jesus continues to tell the story in Luke 15:17-24.
17“Finally, he came to his senses. He said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more food than they can eat, while I’m starving to death here?
18I’ll go at once to my father, and I’ll say to him, “Father, I’ve sinned against heaven and you.
19I don’t deserve to be called your son anymore. Make me one of your hired men.”
20“So he went at once to his father. While he was still at a distance, his father saw him and felt sorry for him. He ran to his son, put his arms around him, and kissed him.
21Then his son said to him, ‘Father, I’ve sinned against heaven and you. I don’t deserve to be called your son anymore.’
22“The father said to his servants, ‘Hurry. Bring out the best robe, and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
23Bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let’s celebrate with a feast.
24My son was dead and has come back to life. He was lost but has been found.’ Then they began to celebrate.
As noted in last week's Devotional meditation, the devastation suffered by the prodigal son was self-inflicted. It was caused by two closely related behavioral factors, which seemed right to him in his own eyes. He consulted with himself, and, exclusively trusted his own wisdom.
First, he looked exclusively to himself for direction. Not God. Not his father. Not even his elder brother. Second, he trusted his own thoughts and completely surrendered himself to his own impulsive ways. Disregarding his father's authority over him and leaning on his own wisdom and understanding, the young man took matters into his own hands and followed his own direction to the place where he squarely faced the raw consequences of his own actions.
But finally, the young man was drawn back to his senses having been awakened by the bitter experiences of abandonment, humiliation, destitution, and starvation. He finally saw the vanity of his hollow confidence in material wealth and his foolish ways. He remembered the good life he left behind at his father’s house. He thought about the abundance in which even hired servants lived in comfort and security. He understood that his life turned into a contradiction of his own making. He came to his senses and acknowledged that he alone was responsible for the predicaments that had come upon him.
The young man finally acknowledged his sin against God. He realized he defied God Who blessed him and disobeyed his father who provided for him. The troubled young man was overwhelmed by a profound conviction. He admitted his sin and repented. He acknowledged and confessed his sin against God. He sought God's forgiveness and his father's acceptance. Viewing himself with a spiritually awakened conscience, the destitute prince was content to be received as a hired servant. He felt he did not deserve restoration to his position as son.
The young man was ready to return home because his heart was free at last. His conscience was renewed. His spirit was uplifted. At long last, he started his journey home knowing that things would only be better at his father's house, even as a servant. He could not be certain of the outcome, but he hoped to receive mercy from God and compassion from his father; his father whom he had defied, offended, hurt, and disappointed.
While the son was still quite a distance away from home, his father saw him and was filled with compassion and sorrow for his son. The father was deeply moved when he observed the pitiful condition to which his once royal son had now sunk. Nevertheless, moved even more with fatherly love, the father hurried to meet his son while he was still a distance away and received him with hugs and kisses in spite of his repulsive physical condition.
The son immediately began to confess his sin and ask for his father’s forgiveness. He confessed that he had sinned against God and his father. He lamented that he no longer deserved to be called his son. He asked to be hired as a servant. His remorse was real. His repentance was genuine.
The father's direct response to his son's petition is not recorded in the text. It would be safe to conclude that the father expressed genuine words of forgiveness and acceptance as he brought his son home with the embrace of his warm love. It won't be wrong to surmise that, implicit in his instructions to his servants, were expressions of forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration. The father forgave the young man and accepted him as his son and not as a hired servant, as requested by the remorseful penitent. The father did not judge him.
The father directed his servants to outfit his son with the best robe, a ring on his finger, and shoes on his feet. After having his son cleaned up and dressed, the father put on a feast to celebrate the young man’s return. He ordered his servants to prepare the fatted calf and serve choice meat at the party. Indeed, there was unspeakable joy in the father’s house because the lost son had finally returned home. The father could not contain his joy. It was a miracle. The facts of the recent past were replaced by the new realities of repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration. The son, who was as good as dead, is now alive and well.
Death and loss were once and for all replaced by life and redemption. There was a cause for celebration in the father's house. The son had come home. The dead is alive and the lost is found. This is the story of the prodigal son, and in many ways, our own story. We were lost but we are found.
When the prodigal son finally found himself looking for life and survival at a pig farm, when he realized that no one would feed him even the leftover from what the pigs ate, he knew that he had lost everything and every contact he had. He knew that he was alone and utterly abandoned. He was at the end of himself. He had no one; he had nothing; so it felt to him.
But not quite so. In spite of the devastation the son suffered, he remembered his father whom he had left behind. He realized he can never lose his connection with his father. It can never be undone. They were blood-bound. They were flesh and blood. In that connection, yes, in that unique and one-of-a-kind haven, there resided a father's heart filled with overflowing love and enduring patience. In that realization, the son saw a glimmer of hope and held on to it. Ultimately, he followed the hope which was resurrected deep in his soul and received restoration from his father's loving heart.
In somewhat the same sense, when we as sinners are awakened by the Holy Spirit from the state of spiritual death, when the heart of the redeemed is convicted of ungodliness, the first thing we recognize is the connection we have with our Father in heaven Who is also our Creator and Redeemer. Even though we were dead in our trespasses, even though our sin-nature continues to displease God, the connection we have with God is never lost. We will finally face Him either as our Judge or as our Redeemer.
When the Holy Spirit cultivates the spirit of repentance in our spirit and sinful heart, we acknowledge our sinfulness and call upon God for His forgiveness as prompted and directed by the Holy Spirit. Like the prodigal son, we return home to our Father as sons and daughters redeemed and secured by Jesus Christ. There will be a celebration in heaven on the occasion of our deliverance from death and judgment, or the renewal of the redeemed. Indeed, we were dead but are now alive. We were lost but are now found.
Ultimately, every sin is committed against God. The prodigal son was prompted to repent of his sin, first against God and then against his own father. When the conscience of the young man was awakened by the Holy Spirit, he recognized that he rebelled against the life that his Creator had given him under the care of his earthly father.
The young man directly offended his earthly father with his unruly conduct. But he was made fully aware that his self-centered conduct was actually a deep-seated sinful attitude against God. He actually believed he can provide for himself better than God. So, he went his way to accomplish just that. He learned that his competition with God was a bitterly consequential transgression. Only after the son acknowledged his sin against God and sought His forgiveness, was the young man able to go and face his earthly father.
Sin's deeply entrenched grip on our soul can only be overcome by the One Who conquered sin, death, hell, and the devil. That Victor is Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. This is the story of the prodigal son, and in many ways, it is our own story. Like the prodigal son, we find the road to destruction available, familiar, broad, easy, convenient, and attractive. But it leads to death, destruction, emptiness and a Godless life. But the Voice of God's Love, Mercy, and Grace continues to echo, calling the lost to His Salvation and drawing the redeemed to Restoration.
There is nothing to miss in the world we left behind. But there is everything to gain in our Father's house. Incredible as it may seem, unbelievable as it may sound, our Father no longer looks at us as wayward children, but as His precious children redeemed by the precious Blood of His Son. We are forgiven. We are reconciled. We are restored. Praise God from Whom all blessings come.