The Prodigal Son


Thoughts on a backslider


Luke 15:11-32



  
And he said, A certain man had two sons:  And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.  And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.  And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.  And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.  And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.  And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,  And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.  And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.  And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.  But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:  And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.  Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.  And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.  And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.  And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.  And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:  But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.  And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.  It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

Luke 15:11-32

1 The prodigal: a backsliding son

This passage of scripture  known as the 'Prodigal Son' is actually the third  part of one parable of  the fifteenth chapter of Luke. The first two parts being that of the missing sheep and the missing coin. The common theme is about those who are lost and then found, and that there  is great rejoicing in heaven on the repentance of one sinner. ( vv7, 10 ).

There is one difference, however, with the record of the prodigal son and the  other parts. In the case of the sheep and coin the lost items were actively searched for by the Shepherd and the woman; with the son the father did not search for  him, but rather he waited for him to return. What do we make of this then? We can conclude  that this third  part of the  parable refers, not to sinners who have not known the way of salvation in the first place, but to a backslider: one who leaves his father's house panders to the  lusts of the flesh before being  laid low, coming to his  senses and then returning home and finally being restored; the prodigal was a son when he left the home, and was still a son when in the far country, and certainly when he returned. The only difference was his relationship to his father at each stage.

We will, therefore, look at this part of the  parable  from this point of view, that of  a backslider.

2. The prodigal, a wasting son


And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.  And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

Lk.15:11-13

Just read the verses quoted, how long did it take? Seconds? But look carefully at the events, they unfolded over a long period of time. It would have taken time for the son time to gather and leave home, to have spent all the wealth;  but, and this is the first point, it would have taken time for the events leading up to his demand for his inheritance.  For a son to come to that point there must  have been a history of events.

What the history was that led up to his demand to leave we are not told. But consider: the son must have been fed up with his lot. He had no lack, for all that his father had was his, as a son  ( vv 31) to enjoy, as the elder son was reminded. Perhaps he looked and considered what those outside had, and desired it above his father's provision. Perhaps he had known no other  way, and wanted to see what he was missing. We are not told but he certainly saw that the grass was greener on the other side.  Over a period of time this dissatisfaction would have grown until eventually it came to a head. The origin of his backsliding was there in his heart for sometime, and it was only time before it worked itself out into action.

The son wanted his inheritance now, he was impatient, he couldn't wait until the appointed time. The reason? So that he could use it all on his own lusts. This son did not want to remain under his father's authority, but rather wanted to live under his own power, controlling his own  goods without any outward restraint.

And the lesson? Backsliding doesn't come out of the blue, from nowhere, there is always a history lurking in the background. Wanting what the world can give, being dissatisfied with what our heavenly Father provides, seeing that the grass is greener somewhere else, thinking that we are missing out because we belong to the Lord.  And  of wanting to throw off the Father's authority in one's life.

Is this a  description of you, dear reader? Then be warned, the seeds of backsliding are there already, and unless you repent  they will germinate, grow, take root and take you away from your Lord. If this is in your heart deal with it now before you find yourself in the far country.

Having demanded and received his portion, the son left for a far country; the father did not attempt to stop him but gave him his request. The elder also received his due (which would be the 'double portion')  but he chose to stay with his father. So the son went into the far country; away far from his father, he outworked what was in his heart. And there wasted his substance.

 God will not stop you from going your own way, like he allowed Israel to follow their paths, so if you insist he'll do so with you. But beware! That chosen path will lead, like it did with Israel to ruin. The son forgot what his father had already done for him: bringing him into the world, feeding him, looking after him, caring for him at every turn;  his lusts drowned all those thoughts of home out and forced him to follow his own counsel.
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They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel:  But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert.  And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.
Ps.106:13-15

Having taken control of one's own life with what God has given, whether it be talents, money or whatever, all is spent on one's own lusts in the far country. All  to the satisfying of  the flesh rather than to fulfil the purpose for which  God gave them. Is this  true of you? Have you forgotten that you have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus? Have you forgotten His care and provision for you already? Have you allowed your lusts drown out all these thoughts of what God has done? Have you wasted what God has given you?  If so then turn round and come back to your heavenly Father now. Waste no more time nor substance on riotous living in the far country, instead return to the one who died for you. You can be still going along to 'church' and be in the  far country, for this is a condition of heart. How is it with you reader?

3. The prodigal: a returning son

And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.  And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.  And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.  And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,  And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.  And he arose, and came to his father.

Lk.15:14-20a

After he spent all! This son had  to learn the hard way, Could he not see the problems ahead as his resources dwindled? Or was he so concerned for the  present that he was blinded to it all? Sometimes God  has to let people go to the extremes before they  come to their senses. How long it took before the son came to this point we are not told.  Common sense tells us the more he had  the longer it would be before his substance would have  been spent. And when it was spent, there arose a famine. Where were his friends? Those with whom he had enjoy the 'high life' - all gone! He was totally alone. And he had to feed with the swine, that which was abominable to any Jew. Then and only then he came to himself and realised how foolish he'd been. He repented, turned round,  and returned to his father.

What about you reader? Are you now in the far country; are you 'resources' running out? Or has it all gone, and those whom you considered friends have now left you. Perhaps you are doing that which you previously considered an abomination, that which you never thought in your wildest dreams you would even touch.  You have been brought low, stripped of  everything. Are you in this position now? Then it's time to come to your self and consider your position.

Think of what you had in the heavenly Father's house; think of the love, Joy and peace that was yours in the Holy Spirit, and now consider how wretched your state is!  All is not lost, even now you can come to you senses and return to your Father. Swallow your pride and turn back to the one who died for you.

4. The prodigal, a restored son

But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.  And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:  And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

Lk.15:20b-24

His father didn't seek him, but waited. At times it is necessary to leave alone until people see sense for themselves; indeed here is a case of not being able to put a wise head on young shoulders! But think how painful it was for his father. Day in day out, weeks, months if not for years his father would be thinking of his errant son. Enduring the pain of one who had  gone astray. Wondering why he had  thrown away all that he had; why he preferred the grass on the other side of the fence, when all that he needed was there at home! Friend, if you are a backslider consider not just you own state, but what pain you have caused to your God.

But on returning the father  ran out, met him and restored him to his rightful position. How he loved him! What rejoicing we see at the prodigal's return! Not just a welcome but the whole household made merry ( except the elder son, but that's another consideration) He  had no right to expect this welcome, but his father could do no less. The one who waited all that time  couldn't wait any longer when he saw him afar he just got up and ran to welcome him home.

And God is the same, waiting for the errant child who has gone off on his own. What about you? You may fear the consequences of returning, you may feel unworthy,  but  God is full of compassion and mercy; He is more willing to forgive than you are to return. All He wants is for you to come to your senses and return to Him, the one who bought you with His own blood, at such a terrible cost to Himself. Just turn now, repent and return the bishop of you soul.

If we confess [=acknowledge]  our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

I Jn. 1:9