Mothers for Prodigals

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Urging Father

True to his word, the father organized a party for his son. He planned for it to commence once he returned from the city with his remorseful son. And what a celebration it was!
Many of the parents’ friends and family members attended. During the time of waiting, they had supported this distressed family with their prayers. Now together they all gave thanks for God’s blessings upon their lives. They praised Him for His protection and provision, and they expressed their love to a young man who thought he deserved only rejection. 
Later that evening the older son returned home from work, wondering why so many cars were in the driveway, why the house lights shone brightly, and why noise blared so loudly. He spotted several couples leaving and asked them what was happening. They enthusiastically said, “Your long lost brother came home and your parents are throwing a party.”
“What!” he screamed. “They never gave me a party and I’ve been here all along. Maybe I should leave and see how much my father cares for me.”
One of the men that the older son had spoken to suddenly turned and ran into the house looking for the father. “Come quickly! Your oldest is outside and refusing to come in. He seems very angry,” he said.
The father ran out of the front door, joined his son on the lawn, and begged him to calm down. “Son, what’s happened? Is something wrong? Talk to me; then let’s go in and celebrate because your brother is home,” he said. 
“Dad, why do you have to give that good-for-nothing a party. What’s he done for you except to cause trouble? I stayed here the entire time, helping you out, giving up my life because of his stupidity and selfishness. Don’t I deserve something from you?” the older son said.
“Son, everything I have is yours for the asking. You’ve been a great help and I thank you, but your brother decided to come home. Yes, he made many foolish mistakes and caused misery for himself and our family, but he’s decided to turn his life around. He’s so ashamed of himself and is asking us to forgive him for all of his wrongdoings. Won’t you come inside and celebrate with us?” the father pleaded.
This is my version of the continuing saga of the prodigal son. He returned with a humble and repentant heart, asking for forgiveness from his family. But there was another son and his heart revealed his true feelings when he realized his father celebrated the return of a “loser.” Does this son’s reaction to the situation reflect the beliefs of most people who try to walk the straight and narrow with self-righteousness? Before we address this situation, let’s read Jesus’ account of the older son found in Luke 15:25-32 (NASB).
“Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’” 
The older son represents many people who think nothing is wrong with them, that their good works should be applauded. They are those of us who point fingers at all the sinners out there instead of worrying about our own sin within (Matthew 7:2-4). The older son portrays the Biblical Pharisees who believed they were sinless because of their obedience to all the rules for right living. Read Jesus’ compelling parable of a Pharisee who compared his righteous acts to the sinful acts of other people like the tax collector in Luke 18:9-12.
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.‘ (NIV)
Because they fasted and attended the Temple regularly, followed all the ordinances for cleanliness, and gave back a tenth of their earnings, the Pharisees considered themselves righteous. But Jesus knew their hearts and He saw their wicked attitudes. He recognized their unclean thoughts. Hear what He says to them in Matthew 23:25-28.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. (NIV)
Jesus firmly spoke to the misguided hearts of the Pharisees. His heart was saddened by the self-righteousness of the teachers of the law. He knew His mission was to exchange the sin and self-righteousness of His creation with His own holy righteousness; all they had to do was believe in Him. But His message of grace was (and still is) rejected by many people. This is His gut-wrenching conclusion of the warnings to the Pharisees in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ” (verses 37-39 -- NIV)
The father in the story of the two sons rejoiced when his prodigal son returned with a submissive and repentant heart. But sadness crept in again when he realized the anger and jealousy of the older son over the celebration of his brother's return. The father extended his compassion to this son as well and pleaded for him to come celebrate, but he would not. Rather than enjoy fellowship with his family, the older son preferred isolation, not restoration. 
God longs for us to come to Him with humble, repentant hearts just like the prodigal son did when he returned to his father, asking for forgiveness. When we puff ourselves up with our self-righteousness, we cheapen the grace offered to us by our merciful and compassionate Heavenly Father. Only His righteousness poured into our humble forgiven souls will set us free to celebrate His grace.  Thank you, Jesus. 
Remember the two men that went up to the temple to pray. The Pharisee spoke words that placed himself above the tax collector. How sad God must have been when He heard His prayer! Listen now to the prayer of the tax collector. God heard that prayer and prepared to celebrate the homecoming of another sinner. Praise God!
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:13-14 (NIV)
Is the Father at the fence urging you to come home? Will He find you a willing recipient of His grace, or not? 
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts; 
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way. 
Psalm 139:23-24 (NASB)


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