Rembrandt’s Meditation on the Younger Son

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Painting by Renbrandt, 1606-1669
“And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to  one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
Luke 15:11-24, ESV

Three hundred and twenty-nine words– these describe the life of every man, woman, and child who has ever lived. These 329 words reveal to us a God who forgives much, and loves easily; the Father loves far too much, way too easy— and far too extravagantly for human beings to understand. Perhaps we sort of expect that he will ‘appropriately’ punish his son— at least put him on probation at least. It only makes sense.

“Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” Many of us have lived in prodigality, some  of us for a very long time. We have spent our inheritance like ‘drunken sailors’ and have nothing at all to show for it. The prodigal, completely destitute, takes the only work he can find. (Imagine a good Jewish boy feeding hogs.) He is so far gone that he starts inspecting the slop pails for something to eat.

Many of us will understand his despair. But there comes this crystalline moment of amazing clarity. The prodigal—filthy and impoverished, has  a memory of the Father’s house. The servants there had far more than him. Sometimes in our captivity we instinctively want to go home, if only to be a slave.

The Father has dreamed of this moment. The parable says, “He saw him–felt compassion–ran out to him–embraced him–and kissed him.” In moments we see a swirl of servants who completely overwhelm an already overwhelmed son. I’ve read the Parable of the Prodigal Son a hundred times or more . It never loses its punch. I simply want to bring you for just a few moments back into its light. I expect that the Holy Spirit may have business with you. rembrandt-prodigal3 (1)

We see that his father receives him with a tender gesture. His hands seem to suggest mothering and fathering at once; the left appears larger and more masculine, set on the son’s shoulder, while the right is softer and more receptive in gesture. His head is downy, almost like a newborn’s. Standing at the right is the prodigal son’s older brother, who crosses his hands in stoic judgment; we read in the parable that he objects to the father’s compassion for the sinful son.

Rembrandt had painted the Prodigal before, when he was considerable younger. And it is a very good painting. The prodigal is happy and gay; there is absolutely no indication of the consequences of sin. He is charming young man at a happy party. But Rembrandt chooses at the end of his life to re-paint it to reflect reality. This is one of the last paintings he will do, and it is the Prodigal Son–destitute and repenting. I can only imagine; the years have taken a toll and he doesn’t really feel his first painting is enough. He wants to paint what is true. He is painting us.

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The Apple Tree

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“Like the finest apple tree in the orchard
    is my lover among other young men.
I sit in his delightful shade
    and taste his delicious fruit.”

Song of Solomon 2:3, NLT

Jesus is the subject of many different metaphors. We know him as a shepherd, a door, and bread. There are many other ‘pictures’ in Scripture, that speak of his ministry and life. There is one that strikes me today, that of Jesus Christ as a life-giving tree— an apple tree. Song of Solomon 2:3 and Revelation 22:1 are the ‘roots’ of this wondrous thought.

“On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.”

Rev. 22:2

To think of Jesus as ‘the tree of life’ or an apple tree is both a honor to Him and a strength for us. We can swirl metaphors around all day and never exhaust their truths. Jesus (a.k.a. “the apple tree”) is seen imparting life and healing by his fruit. He is the source of everything good and grand in our lives. Eating his fruit is not only recommended, but  encouraged. (Like most things in God’s Kingdom.)

The young maiden in Song of Solomon has given us her take on Jesus— her shepherd, lover, and king. She sees him as the finest in the forest. He provides shade to her, as she eats the fruit of his branches. Oh what a worthy picture of Jesus our savior. We can look at this all day. As we come to him we can see One who is gifting each of us of his blessings. We do well to consider him this way.  The first few lines set the tone for us.

“The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.”

 

The song, based on an anonymous poem, first appeared in a New England hymn collection by a New Hampshire preacher in 1784, so it has a history. Many people sing this as a Christmas carol, although there is nothing in the words that refers to Christmas. Go through each stanza. See if it fits for you. Perhaps it will cause you to see Jesus in a new way. Here is the poem in its entirety:

Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,
His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

 

“Consider Jesus. Know Jesus. Learn what kind of Person it is you say you trust and love and worship. Soak in the shadow of Jesus. Saturate your soul with the ways of Jesus. Watch Him. Listen to Him. Stand in awe of Him. Let Him overwhelm you with the way He is.”   

John Piper

 

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Lord, Undo Me

 

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29 “For our God is a devouring fire.”– Hebrews 12:29, NLT

“Brother, I know you labored,  So hard to please,  But I cut you down.  And I left you on your knees, Well I know it must be Time to get down on my knees and pray “Lord, undo me!” Put away my flesh and bone’ ‘Til You own this spirit through me Lord I am wanting, needing, guilty and greedy… Unrighteous, unholy; undo me. Undo me!

Abba Father, You must wonder why, More times than Peter I have denied. Three nails and a cross to prove, I owe my life eternally to you!   And it’s time, To get down on my knees and pray, “Lord, undo me!” Put away my flesh and bone, ‘Til You own this spirit through me Lord, Undo me.”Jennifer Knapp

 

phpThumb_generated_thumbnailJennifer Knapp wrote these lyrics.  The song itself is wonderful.  She develops and then understands the deep struggle we believers go through.  Her deep cry is for God to undo her life.  I really think that is impressive, and I know, deep-down I fall very short.

We look at the relationships we have.  And in so many ways we must admit that we need to be dismantled, to be taken apart.  And then, to be put back together, in a better way.  Ms. Knapp points us into a better way, of showing the deep heart of Jesus to all those we face.

What can we say, we know we are falling apart.  We know we fall short as His witnesses.  We vainly attempt to be honest and right.  But it seems our weak and feeble efforts are really at their basic sense, pathetic.  Simply put, we must come to the point where we understand our desperate weakness and deep failure.

Father, dismantle me, and then please put me back together again.

We must pray the prayer, “Undo Me.”  Reorganize me, and reestablish me.  I simply give up my claims of being exceptional and all-together.  I am none of these things.  I admit I falter and stumble in so many ways.  “Undo Me.”

Our deep lostness, is His opportunity for His deep grace.  ‘I will not leave you dear one, without hope.’  He has promised that He would come to the desperate and weak.  When we pray “Undo Me” we come with a weakened heart and a disturbed soul.  He will make certain that He will connect with you and draw you to His side.

When our hearts begin to cry out “undo me” we will enter into an exceptional place.  From here we expect to be dismantled, remade, and then re-established.  Our hearts will be remolded.  We will probably not recognize our selves.  His work in us is quite intense, and certainly quite complete.

Our change is significant.  We will not operate on a mediocre plane, or level.  He has directed us deeper.  We will actively understand things on a more intense place.  We haven’t done anything, we only have prayed, “undo me.”  That simple prayer, from the heart is most significant.  Please Father, “undo me.”

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”

Matthew 5:3, NLT

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Jennifer Knapp is a gifted songwriter to the Body of Christ.  When we examine her songs/lyrics we will be blessed and encouraged.  Quite recently she has come out and admitted she has a struggle that necessitates leaving her ministry.  Although that is a deep, and considerable shock, we still need to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit has used her and her gifts to bless His people.  Somehow, it seems fitting. “Father, please take us to the place where we will understand.” Kyrie elesion.

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The Day Jesus Sang

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“Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.” 

Matt. 26:30

This is the only place in scripture where it was recorded that Jesus sang.  There is no question that He sang on other occasions, we just don’t know the specifics.  The hymn on the way to the Mount would’ve been from the Book of Psalms, and most likely one of the Psalms of Ascent that would of coincided with that particular date. These hymns were known as the Hallel Psalms (meaning “Praise” psalms), and consisted of Psalms 113-118.

Jesus ‘singing’ tells us a lot of His frame of mind while heading for His death in just a few hours.  When a man is about to be executed at a definite place and time its unlikely that you will find him to be musically inclined.  Yet Jesus joined His brothers in singing to the Glory of God. He sings from darknesses depth.

“But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.”

John 4:23, NLT

The search in on!  The Father looks into our hearts to find something special.  Is it there?  Will He choose you?  Let’s not foolishly think that because you play the piano or the guitar you’ll be a “shoe-in.”  “Spirit and truth” is the awareness needed.  Being ‘filled with the Spirit’ is the only thing that is really necessary.

“Be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.”

Ephesians 5:19, NLT

An insincere heart can’t worship sincerely.

God is looking for worship that’s sincere and strong.  If we are not “spirit and truth” worshippers we can’t fake it. It is malfunctioning. But we can commence to begin.  We can start by preparing our hearts.  Putting them under the spigot of the spirit and of truth.  Let them soak like a sponge in God’s grace.  Things that are dry, will saturate themselves in God.

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