The God Who Runs

prodigal: adj. wastefully or recklessly extravagant​, a spendthrift (dictionary.reference.com)

​I am dividing The Parable of the Lost Son into two parts.  The first part focuses on the prodigal son.  The second part will be about his older brother and I’ll write about that tomorrow.  Part one has to do with a young son who wishes his father were dead.  By asking his father for his share of the inheritance before his father’s passing, the son is, in essence, telling his father that he wishes he were dead.  This young man then packs his bags and takes off for a distant land.  There, he acts like a prodigal and wastes everything he had been given “in wild living” (Luke 15:13, NIV).  A famine comes upon the land where he was living and he realizes that he’s in trouble.  So he hires himself out to a farmer and is forced to feed pigs for a living.  Imagine the disgust in the minds of Jesus’ audience at the thought of a good Jewish boy feeding the vile, unclean pigs!  Scandalous!  this kid is quite a piece of work!  But wait, it gets better!  The young man has an epiphany and decides that life at home as a servant in his father’s household would be better than starving to death among the pigs.  So he works up a speech and heads for home.
I’ve heard it said that a better name for this parable would be The Parable of the Waiting Father.  Because that is just what this young man’s father is doing.  He is, day after day, waiting and wondering worriedly about his son.  He is waiting for him to come home.  This is his son.  How could he not be worried?!?  Then, off in the distance, a figure appears on the horizon.  Could it be?  It’s him!  The father begins to run as fast as his feet will carry him to his son!  This is yet another scandalous part of this parable.  Men in Jesus’ day did not run.  It was a sign of a lack of dignity.  In fact, the more important you were the slower you walked.  So filled with love for his son, this man runs to him.  He then throws a party in his honor!  This is not what the son deserves!  He didn’t deserve to have a party thrown for him.  No!  He deserved to have stones thrown at him!

18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid. – Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (NIV)

This part of the parable is about mercy and forgiveness.  We have wronged our Heavenly Father in so many ways by our sin and rebellion.  We wander away from home (not by accident, either – the son willfully wandered away).  God is waiting for us to return in loving patience.  Pastor and author Timothy Keller writes about this God in his book, The Prodigal God.  Notice the definition of prodigal at the beginning of this devotion.  God is a prodigal lover of His children!  He loves us in a recklessly extravagant way!
If you are wandering away from His loving arms and wondering, “Can I go home again,” the answer is yes!  He is waiting for you to return.  He will not force you to come back home, but He will joyfully welcome you with open arms.  He will run to you and throw His arms around you and as you sob tears of repentance, He will whisper, “My child.  Welcome home.”

Luke 15:11-24 (NIV)

The Parable of the Lost Son

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “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. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.


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