The story in Luke 15 has been one of my favorites. Jesus is speaking to religious people, tax collectors, and sinners. Understanding the story would completely shift what they believed about themselves, and God. I’m sure that most of you have heard about the prodigal son; how he ran away to chase his desires and his experience returning to his father. Today I want to look at the father, how he prepared and reacted to his lost son. Understanding the prodigal father will help you understand who God is as your Father.
People often believe God to be an unknowable, loud, angry being, somewhere in the sky that doesn’t care. He does whatever He pleases, and is usually unapproachable. I chose to stop believing in God when I realized that I could never see Him. Then, and today, I believe in plenty of unseeable things; wind, electricity, love, joy, etc. But, I never had the care to understand who God is. Today we have God’s written Word that provides us with the foundation of who God is, and who we are.
And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry. Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’ But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’Luke 15:20-31 NKJV
God is Expecting The Best
The first thing you’ll notice is that the father sees his son when he is still a long way off. I imagine that the prodigal son was gone for many years. The father had no idea what the son was doing, or even if he was still alive. He never lost his hope. Every day the father would look off into the distance, expecting to see his son returning home. Even after losing half of his wealth, the father kept a fattened calf ready for the day his son returned. The father kept a robe, signet ring, and new sandals ready for his son.
God will never give up on you, or anyone else. It doesn’t matter what situation you’ve found yourself in, God is expectant. God always wants the best for you. It doesn’t matter how far away you are, the Father never loses His love for us. God doesn’t give up and neither should we.
As soon as the father saw his son off in the distance he ran through the field and embraced his son. He didn’t listen to his son talk about his unworthiness, he only had a heart to restore him. God is never interested in making you remain in your brokenness. The father didn’t leave his son in the filth of his past. He always sees our potential and immediately restores us into right relationship. We don’t need to stand afar off from God. He promptly provides a brand new robe, ring, and shoes on us when we come to Him. The Father does everything necessary to make us worthy.
God Isn’t Angry
There was never a point when the father was angry or disappointed with his son. The prodigal’s father had given the son half of everything he owned and didn’t question the son when he retuned empty handed. The father wasn’t worried that the son had lost everything he was given. Imagine how difficult it must’ve been for the father to give the son his inheritance.
When the son demanded his inheritance and left, he was telling his dad “I wish you were dead”. But the father didn’t hold his son accountable for his past mistakes. He was just overwhelmed with gladness that his son had returned home alive. There was nothing the son could’ve said or done to make the father love him any less. The father didn’t care that his son was covered in unclean pig mess. He looked past all of his son’s brokenness.
The son realized that what he needed could only be found at his father’s house. He realized that everything he experienced left him broken and hungry. The son wasn’t experiencing his father’s love, provision, or protection until he realized that what he’d been doing was wrong.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:38-39
God Doesn’t Force Love
A loving relationship can’t be forced. A loving relationship can’t be based out of fear or intimidation. One of the sad parts about this story is the father’s interaction with his other son. The reality is that both of the sons are lost. Remember that Jesus is teaching the sinners and religious people. The sinners relate to the prodigal son that returns to his father, and the religious people are relatable to the other son. When he hears about his brother’s return, the other son gets angry. He came near to the house, but wouldn’t go inside. He never developed a real relationship with the father. He didn’t know his father’s heart.
The son explains that he has faithfully served the father and never disobeyed him. He expects that he would receive some kind of reward for that. The father tries his best to explain that his love isn’t earned by good deeds. He tells his son that everything he owns is available, and he really just desires a relationship. The father was willing to celebrate with his son if he had asked, or if he had stopped working to spend time with his father.
When the father notices his other son’s anger it break his heart. The father goes outside pleading with his son, explaining that he can also enjoy the celebration. The father explains that his door remains open, that his son could enjoy the same party as his brother. Even after the son accuses his brother of being completely unworthy of the celebration, the father still wants him to come inside. The father is so loving and knows that if his son would join him, he would find the healing he needs.
The son refuses the father’s offer. He decides to stay at a distance and not experience what the father desires, a real relationship full of joy and celebration. God can’t force you to enjoy everything he has. He can’t force freedom, healing, or intimacy that come from a relationship.
My hope and prayer is that you’ll discover what’s truly seen as important in the Father’s eyes. God isn’t scared or worried about your past. He will always run to you when you’re at your very worst. God loves your heart to serve, but more than that His desire is for relationship with you. He is always willing to express his bountiful love to you.