“God never punishes his children in the sense of avenging justice. He chastens as a father does his child, but he never punishes his redeemed as a judge does a criminal. It is unjust to exact punishment from redeemed souls since Christ has been punished in their place. How shall the Lord punish twice for one offense?”
“He remembers our frame and knows that we are dust. He may sometimes chasten us, it is true, but even this He does with a smile, the proud, tender smile of a Father who is bursting with pleasure over an imperfect but promising son who is coming every day to look more and more like the One whose child he is.”
“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”
Luke 15:20, NLT
The actions of the prodigal are worth considering. At a specific moment of time he stood up, looked around, and then decided to return home. But he is no longer a ‘rich man’s son’, the pig-pen crushed that idea. Truly, the devastated prodigal still has a small spark left– his set belief in his father, and it is that which gives him propulsion to go home.
The trip is a long one, lots of walking, and it’s hard, but then, he is seen! Please understand, the love of God is a searching/seeking kind of l,ove. It simply will not shut down, or go away over time. It is never shut-off. It is a 24/7/365 kind of love.
Think of it like high intensity radar that sweeps over extreme distances, it is always seeking, and it won’t be denied. The Father is always seeking for His sons and daughters. He intends to find them, at last. You can think of it in another way. It’s like having a warrant for your arrest, (in a good way.) It will never expire, and it will find you. You will always be a ‘wanted’ man, or woman. Always!
The compassion of the Father is an aggressive and reaching kind of mercy.
He reaches out and penetrates through a whole lot of sin. But as I read this, and think, there seems to be a lot momentum coming from the Father. He is far from passive, or ‘ho-hum’ toward His son. He is fully into reclaiming His lost sons and daughters.
The Father recognizes His prodigal son. Gross sin has a way that disfigures a person’s countenance. Look at the wino or meth addict on the street. The boy who abruptly left home is not the son who returns. There has been damage done. His face has changed. The Father understands this, and yes, it has been terribly hard and brutal.
The Father shows a delightful compassion for His son. We see Him running. He drives Himself to chase down the Prodigal. He could have easily step back and just waited for the Prodigal to prove himself. But we see a ‘running love’. He has a real ‘running love’ for His son, and that is worth considering.
Notice dear “broken believer,” that all the actions are the Fathers. The Father is doing everything. He runs at the Prodigal, He embraces him and He kisses him. We see a Father that will do anything for His prodigal son. On the other hand, the prodigal brings nothing but himself. He simply receives from his Father.
This parable is the greatest of all. It show’s the deep love the Father has for prodigals like us. It gives us the reality of the spiritual in the physical.
It very well could be that the Church will falter and be confused over the presence of the prodigal at the door. When we see love like the Fathers, lavished on silly fools, we can grow skeptical. If the Church can keep pace, and accept the actions of the Father toward ‘prodigals’ of all backgrounds, we will be doing His will in the world.
“And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.”
When a man or woman gets to this point, we shake our head at that one’s future. Often they will make a long journey, without comfort and aid. And yet the prodigal will not be dissuaded or relent. He leaves it all behind, with a gleam in his eye for the future pleasures ahead. He thinks it’ll be different for him.
‘The far country“ is his vague destination. He has been told of the ‘bed of roses’ that can be his. He has anticipated this moment and savored it. He will finally be free to pursue everything that might come his way. There is a deep sense that he has arrived. He is now a man, with all the prerogatives and benefits of manhood.
The prodigal fully intends to savor these moments of freedom. He has broken free from his past which only stifled him. He has come to the place where all that really matters is being ‘cut loose’ from his old life. He is a man who is running, trying to escape all that he was, and actually looking forward to a future separated from his father’s influence.
He has burned all his bridges. He intentionally will not look back. In his mind he is free, and he will never again have to serve his father. He doesn’t walk, he struts. There is an arrogance and confidence that he has taken control. In his small world we find an ignorance and a foolishness that is truly an astonishment. We see his precarious situation. We want to shout to him, ‘watch out’, be very careful! But he fully intends to press through, and to make his fantasy work.
Several months ago I met an old friend outside Safeway. He is a prodigal who is still ‘slopping pigs.’ He is a gifted musican and played in a worship band. He was so happy to see me; he gave me a big hug and introduced me to all his equally lost friends. He has been drinking a lot lately, but he called me his ‘pastor’ when he took me around to meet everyone. It’s been cold here and I worry about him. He is now homeless.
For every prodigal there are ‘bumps in the road.’ Over time the prodigal gets ‘taken in,’ and is vulnerable. He rationalizes and attempts to figure it out himself. This only increases the tension. He realizes nothing, and will receive nothing. The prodigal has been sabotaged by his own choices.
Often we are confused as we come to this terrible place of personal weakness. We were the ones who made the awful choices; we did it to ourselves. We have become, truly desperate and needy. We are at a place where only Jesus can make it work.
Our machinations and maneuverings have brought us to a lostness and desperateness.
The prodigal teaches us, and we learn from his commitment that brings us to an authentic walk with Him. Our pretenses will dissolve. There will be nothing which will penetrate or advance over Him. He has conquered us, and has brought us to this rich and lush place. The Father is eager to bring him all the way home. The Lord will finish what He has started. Isn’t it time to return?
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”