When Jesus tells the parable of the ‘Prodigal Son,’ I wonder if He did so with an ear to the words of Proverbs 2? The story of the ‘Prodigal’ is about two sons, for Jesus explicitly says, “There was a man who had two sons.” The Father’s message to both of them in the context of Jesus’ discourse could be, “My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God. For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity. He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him.” (Proverbs 2:1-8) Both sons broke the Father’s heart by not ‘receiving His words nor treasuring His commands within themselves.’ If they had, they would have known the preservation of God’s perfect way and saved themselves a lot of trouble… one wallowing in the filth of pigs and the other wallowing in self-righteousness.
Jesus tells us one of the sons does come to his senses. He realizes the foolishness of his thoughts, motives, and actions and responds with repentance, recognizing he has sinned ‘against’ Heaven and in the ‘sight of his father.’ It is unfortunate that it takes wallowing in the filth of poor choices to get us to realize this truth. It is also sad that the older brother could never see past his own self-righteousness to come to the same conclusion, for the parable leaves him wallowing in his own pride, blind to the joy of resting in Heaven’s grace.
Many have condemned the Father for being unwise in his response to the sons, but this ignores the reality that love cannot be dictated or legislated. It requires an unconstrained choice. This underlies Paul’s writing, ‘Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.” (Romans 1:28-32) Sounds a lot like the pigpen the younger son found himself in… Only in the pigpen was the younger son able to discern his situation and allow ‘wisdom to come into his heart. Ironically, among the filth, he found knowledge of Heaven’s way, which is pleasant to our soul. Alone and hurting, he realized, “discretion will watch over you, and understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech.” (Prov 2:10-12)
Redemption is much harder to attain for those who stand in self-righteous judgment, not recognizing that in their condemnation, they judge themselves. Pride is a silent creature… one that hides within the veil that separates us from God. It keeps us from relying on or even seeing God’s way and trying to do things as we think is right; Thereby leaving God out. Pride is not always arrogant and loud… it’s simply not waiting on God… not being patient… not trusting His Word. We all do it…. so thankful He loves us, thankful He is faithful and patient with us as the Father was with his two sons.
It breaks a Father’s heart to see his children wallow in the filth and pride of sin. The Father pleads with them to ‘receive his words and treasure Heaven’s ways in their hearts.’ But in the end, he must let them choose whether to love God and obey His Word… or leave God out of their motives, choices, actions, and responses.
You can have all that God desires to fill your life with… you only need to come to Him in faith, repenting of leaving Him out of your life and accepting His grace. When we do, “I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)
There is hope, and His name is Jesus. Choose wisely…
Praying 4 U
Written by David Brown: David Brown is a husband, father, grandfather, Pastor with a Masters of Religious Studies and a Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Religions. Dave is the Associate Pastor of Pemberton’s First Baptist Church. He is the author of two devotional books, “From a Chair by the Window.” And “#PrayerWinsThe Day”.
Think About This: “Our deepest problem is that we seek to find our identity outside the story of redemption.” – Paul David Tripp