And from our other readings:
What is death? Why do we call an unbeliever spiritually dead? What is the second death?
And what about you … Are you a talker or a doer? Talking about God isn’t living for God. Talking about winning souls is not sharing the Gospel. Talking about prayer is not prayer.
Judges 7 & 8
The Care and Feeding of Prodigals
Prodigals, Older Brothers & Us
Yesterday I talked about the danger of having a “ho-hum, I’ve heard that before” attitude about the stories in the Bible that are familiar to us. Today’s reading is another very familiar story, that of the “prodigal son.”
11 Then 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 falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.
So often when we read this well-known parable, our minds go to all the prodigals we know. Or maybe we think about our own testimony, how we were once prodigals. Certainly, those are important things to think about.
We need to identify those prodigals we know so we can pray for them, but we also need to take a closer look at some of the other important points in this parable.
Let’s start with the father in the story, how he responded, not just to his son’s homecoming, but also to his prodigal years.
Perhaps you have a prodigal, a son or daughter you have prayed for and wept over. You probably look forward to the day you can say, “My son (or daughter) was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (v. 24).
We often fret and push and prod our prodigals to repent and come home. And, all too often, instead of letting them spend enough time in the pigpen to come to the end of themselves, we keep “feeding them”—bailing them out of many of their problems, not understanding that the “hunger” they are experiencing is God’s method of helping them come to their senses.
14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then 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 gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
This father was watching for his son, but he didn’t go after him, he didn’t send him money or help him in some way when he was “down on his luck.” It’s important to remember, the father in the story represents God who knows everything that is going on in the lives of His prodigals, yet let’s us go our way and lovingly allows us to suffer the consequences of our actions.
A whip is for the horse, a bridle for the donkey,
And a rod for the back of fools (Prov. 26.3).
It was the consequences that brought the prodigal son to his senses.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’
But his father saw him coming and ran to meet him. Instead of making him one of his hired servants, he threw a party to celebrate his return. His older brother’s response, however, was quite different.
28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”
The older brother represents the Pharisees and others with their self-righteous, self-sufficient attitudes. But sometimes they’re easy to miss.
That child who didn’t “rebel,” who finished college and has a good career is just as lost as the prodigal, apart from a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. And often, like the older brother in the parable, they think they are “righteous” and see no need to turn to God. While we must entrust both of them to Him, we should be just as faithful to pray for the “older brother or sister” as the prodigal.
And let’s love our prodigals. Let’s be ready to rejoice with all of heaven when they really come home. But let’s not get in the way of God’s important work in their lives. Let’s allow them to see their need for the One True Savior.
Today’s Other Readings:
Judges 7 & 8:
“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1 Cor. 1.27).
We see the truthfulness of that verse in the story of Gideon. It would seem like foolishness to send 32,000 men home and keep only 300 to fight an enemy whose army was “as numerous as locusts” and who had “camels without number.”
But when we feel the weakest and the least able, or even foolish in comparison to some people, that’s when God shows up!
Received by God
Verse 15, “But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He shall receive me. Selah.”
Remember “selah” means pause and think.
Unless Jesus comes back before then, all of us will die—saint and sinner. But death is not the end of our existence. Death is separation.
Unbelievers are said to be spiritually dead, because they are separated from God.
When we die physically, our body is separated from our spirit.
And those who die without being spiritually regenerated, will die a second death, being separated from God for all eternity in a place where the fire is not quenched and the worm never dies (Mk. 9.44-45).
But those of us who have received Him here, have the promise that He will receive us into everlasting glory!
Not Just Talkers
Verse 23, “In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty.”
That is true of spiritual things, too. Too often we talk about the things of God, but don’t do the work that goes along with it. Talking about God isn’t the same as walking with and living to please God. Talking about winning souls isn’t sharing the Gospel. Talking about prayer isn’t prayer. Let’s be doers of the Word and not just talkers.
What about you?
Ask yourself the questions we talked about the last couple of days. What is God saying to you personally in today’s reading?
Are you a talker or a doer?
If there’s a prodigal in your life? If so, how are you responding? Are you helping him (or her) stay relatively happy in their pigsty or are you letting him get hungry? And what about the older brother? Are you one? Do you know one? Are you just as passionate about praying for him?
Where do you connect with this story or our other readings? What key truths do you see?
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