In the 15th chapter of the book of Luke, Jesus gives us a parable of the Prodigal Son. You may have heard or read this parable several times before, but this time read it by putting yourself in the place of the younger son and the father as God. Also consider all the different things that the son would have thinking about at every stage of the parable.
He (Jesus) said: ‘There was once a man who had two sons; and the younger said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the property.” So he divided his estate between them. A few days later the younger son turned the whole of his share into cash and left home for a distant country, where he squandered it in reckless living. He had spent it all, when a severe famine fell upon that country and he began to feel the pinch. So he went and attached himself to one of the local landowners, who sent him on to his farm to mind the pigs. He would have been glad to fill his belly with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they can eat, and here am I, starving to death! I will set off and go to my father, and say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned, against God and against you; I am no longer fit to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.’” So he set out for his father’s house. But while he was still a long way off his father saw him, and his heart went out to him. He ran to meet him, flung his arms round him, and kissed him. The son said, “Father, I have sinned, against God and against you; I am no longer fit to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! fetch a robe, my best one, and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. Bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us have a feast to celebrate the day. For this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And the festivities began. (New English Bible)
The father had a party for his son when be turned from his sinful ways and came home humbled from the far country where he wasted his substance with riotous living.
Put yourself in the story. Think of yourself as the son and the father as God. You may or may not have sinned like the son in the story. However, if you have ever felt separated from the love of God at any time, you will be able to relate to this story.
Now with you in the place of the Prodigal son, God is having a party for you. God is so overjoyed that you have come home to Him. He has arranged the best party you ever imagined.
You stand outside the place of the party ready for God to announce you. You hear God say in a load voice, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17) This is what God said of Jesus when he was baptized by John the Baptist. This is true about you as well and Paul saw this truth about you when he wrote: …thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Gal. 4:7)
You may be thinking, “How can God be pleased with me after what I have done? My thoughts were so far away from Him and all that God represents! God was pleased with Jesus because he had done no wrong but like the Prodigal son, I have done wrong.” Remember that it was Jesus that told the story of the Prodigal to teach us that God loves you unconditionally. You have only to turn to Him to feel His love. Paul writes the following that answers this concern:
God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (Eph. 2:4-8)
“He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” (Song of Solomon 2:4) As you walk into the room, everyone sees that you are wearing the best robe that your Father put on you. This robe represents the fact that He has restored you to all your former privileges. There is no memory of the past, only the joy of the present. You are not considered second class to those that have not left the presence of God. You have left the past ways behind for the ways of God, your Father, and with that God does not remember them because they are no part of you. Isaiah wrote:
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. (Isa. 61:10)
You remember when God put the best robe on you, He showed His love for you by running to you when you arose from thoughts of self-will, self-justification and self-love. God fell on your neck and kissed you. You say to God:
“Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day. Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy loving-kindnesses; for they have been ever of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord.” (Ps. 25:1,5,6,7)
God then says, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3) I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. (Isa. 43:25) The thought of this fills you with so much joy and love for God, that all at the party see it in your face and how you walk. You are greatly loved!
As part of that love, you are also honored. The ring He put on your hand symbolizes that honor. God said: “Since thou was precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee.” (Isa. 43:4) This fills you up with love and God’s honor for you that you reply:
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels and has crowned him with glory and honor. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: (Ps. 8:4-6)
You walk up to the front of the room feeling the shoes on your feet. When you turned away from the far off country to come back to God, you took your shoes off your feet and walked barefoot to symbolize your distraught feelings of grief for the way you behaved and how far your thoughts have been away from God. It pained you to walk without shoes, but you felt that you deserved the pain.
However, God didn’t want you to grieve anymore. You turned away from your thoughts of self-will, self-justification and self-love, which is often the source of sin. Now that you turned away, don’t look back and regret. Look forward and rejoice. You say to God: “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee forever.” (Ps. 30:11,12)
God called for the fatted calf, food that is held in high esteem to further honor the occasion. “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” (Ps. 23:5) What a contrast to husks or pods that the pigs did eat. When you turned to God, every aspect of your life improves, including the food that you eat.
While the party is going on, your brother is outside feeling angry. There are those that feel that they deserve a party more than you do because they feel they have never left God. Even though the brother didn’t leave to waste his substance with riotous living, he was still sinning by thinking thoughts of self-righteousness and jealousy. It is important for all of us to remember that we are all on our own individual journey to salvation and that others may not know or understand where you are in your journey.
God says: “This, my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:24). What a contrast! Just by turning your thought from material and self-centered thinking to God-like thoughts, you have turned from dark to light, death to life, lost to found. Peter wrote: “whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” (II Peter 1:19). That is certainly an occasion for celebration.
The merriment begins!