The Father’s House Part 1 of 3
by John Lowe
May 6, 2006
The Father’s House
11 And he said, A certain man had two sons:
12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.
29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
The young man in this story that Jesus told left his father’s house. And I’m sure that some people wish it was that easy to leave the Father’s house, but anyone who really has run away to the far country knows that it’s not that simple. The results of living away from God are always disastrous, and nothing can prevent the ultimate consequences from catching up with us. The reason is that God’s ways are the way of life and joy, and the way of rebellion is the way of self-destruction and ruin. The farther away we run, the worse the destruction becomes. As exciting as the outside world appears, the Father’s house is where real life and love are experienced. The world is the illusion; the Father’s home is the reality.
This evening we’re going to take a look at this very interesting story that Jesus tells. I want us to look at the three main characters of the story, and as we do, we will learn something about ourselves and our heavenly Father.
FIRST, LET’S LOOK AT THE FATHER IN THE STORY.
The father represents God, our Father. But we’re surprised that God would act like this father. He does nothing to stop the son from taking advantage of him. He doesn’t lecture him or warn him. He doesn’t even try to keep him from leaving home and engaging in behaviors he knows will be destructive to the young man’s life. In no way does he keep him from doing anything he wants to do. When he asks for the estate to be settled before the father’s death —and that was the ultimate insult in that culture — the father doesn’t object or put up any arguments. He simply gives him what would have eventually come to him in the estate.
One of the disturbing things about God, for some people, is His refusal to step in and stop us or others from doing what is wrong. He has a non-interference policy. We hear people say, “Why doesn’t God do something about the evil in the world? Why doesn’t he stop people from hurting other people or doing evil things?” But God has given us the awesome gift of free will. If He interfered in any way, it would no longer be free will. We think we would like God to be more controlling — that is, when it comes to other people. We would like for Him to force them to do the right things and stop them from doing wrong things. But when we want to rebel we don’t want anyone trying to control us. However, God knows that the moment he forces us to do his will, it is no longer we who are obeying, and therefore it means nothing. If obedience is something that happens because we are forced to do it, then it’s pointless. If we do God’s will willingly and from the heart then we delight the heart of God.
One thing that is important to understand in this story is that in the culture of Jesus’ day, children didn’t leave home when they got married and became adults. The father simply added on to the house, especially if the estate was large. To leave home was to leave everything — your extended family, relationships, work, and the future. The father in the story didn’t want his son to stay home if the son did not want to stay. He didn’t want him to be there out of some kind of obligation. And the father certainly didn’t want his son to be there just waiting for him to die so that he could get his hands on the inheritance. The father didn’t give in out of weakness. He was not just being a lenient parent. He was giving the son what the son thought he wanted, in the hope that someday he would want something else — something better. Only if he saw the emptiness of living away from the father would he want to return to the father willingly. Only if he experienced what it was like to be away from the father’s love would the desire for that love to begin to grow.
In the story, the father doesn’t go to the distant country in search of his son. He won’t rescue him against his will. He’ll let him go until he discovers for himself that the world isn’t the great and wonderful place it seemed to be. In his pursuit of pleasure, pain will be the young man’s constant companion until the images of the world’s attractions are replaced by the images of a home where he was loved and valued. We can look at this story and see the foolishness of this boy. The error of his way is so clear, and we can see the results of his destructive lifestyle before they even come about. But when you’re in the middle of that situation, it isn’t so easy to see. The world looks so appealing, and people seem so free and having such a good time. You think you’re invincible, and that you’re immune from the destruction that takes place in other people’s lives. You’re smarter than they are. Those things will never happen to you. But they do happen to you. What goes around comes around. Or, as it says in Galatians: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8).