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Father of the Prodigal
While Mother’s Day is one of the largest attendance days in churches, Father’s Day, unfortunately, is one of the least attended. And to me this is sad, because while mothers should and need to be honored, because they put up with so much with such grace, Father’s Day messages are usually about how we as fathers need to do a better job.
And yes we do! But what I want to look at with you on this Father’s Day is our heavenly Father, and our honor of Him, which honestly needs to be every day of the week, and especially every time with gather together in church.
I love what the Bible says about our heavenly Father. Take a look.
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1 NKJV)
The type of love that God the Father bestows upon us is unconditional. That is the meaning of the word used here by the Apostle John in the Greek language. God in His unconditional love has made us children of His.
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NKJV)
Here we are told that while Jesus comforts our hearts, and establishes every good work and word, it is our heavenly Father who loves and consoles us, giving us hope through His grace.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.” (Matthew 10:29 NKJV)
There is absolutely nothing that is hidden from our heavenly Father, and He knows everything that is going on in our lives, even down to the number of hairs that are still left on our heads, which is the very next thing that Jesus says (Matthew 10:30). Nothing escapes His notice, and there isn’t anything we’re going through that He doesn’t care about.
“Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:36 NKJV)
Jesus is telling us that we are to be merciful to those who have wronged us. In other words, were not to bring judgment upon others by remembering that our Father in heaven is merciful, that is, not giving us what we deserve, which is judgment and death.
“Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” (Galatians 1:3-4 NKJV)
Here is Paul’s blessing upon the church in Galatia, and how grace and peace come from both God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. And then how it was by the will of our heavenly Father that Jesus, His Son, should die for our sins.
Honestly, how does it get any better than that?
In fact, if we were to take all that the Scriptures have to say about our heavenly Father, what we would learn is that
Today, in honor of Father’s Day, I’d like to take some time and look at the father of the prodigal son and the attributes that he exhibits, and what they can teach us about our gracious Heavenly Father.
The story is found in Luke 15:11-32, and we’ll visit the story as we proceed through these various attributes.
The first attribute is the giving nature of our heavenly Father.
“A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.” (Luke 15:11-12 NKJV)
Now, consider the hurt and the pain this must have caused the father. He knew that his youngest son wanted to leave home, perhaps forever. It surely would have broken his heart, because he knew, just as all parents know and fear, and that is, the pain and sorrow our children will likely experience in a world that wants to gobble them up for lunch.
But still he did as the son requested. The father knew that he didn’t have to do it, and that he could have even forced him to stay, but he also knew that he couldn’t force nor compel his son’s love. Love has to be desired and freely given. And so with a broken heart, the father gave to his son his inheritance.
Often time out of His love for us, and knowing of our need to learn a valuable life lesson, God will give us what we are whining for. And I truly believe He does it so that we can learn that being a child of God is far greater than anything the world can offer.
Yet, when we look at what the father of the prodigal son did, what we see is a father who gives to His children. This is especially true with our heavenly Father. He desires to give to us as well, especially when our desires match up with His.
“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4 NKJV)
The word, “delight,” in the Hebrew primarily means to be pliable. And so, it is when we become pliable to the will and way of God, God will give us our heart’s desire, and that’s because it matches up with His.
But here in our story, the father of the prodigal gives the son his inheritance, which leads me to this conclusion, that God gives to us, those who are a part of His family, His sons and daughters, our inheritance, not only heaven when this life is over, but our inheritance of an abundant life right now.
Jesus said that while Satan, the thief, comes to steal, kill and destroy, that He, Jesus, has come that we may not only have life, but abundant life, that is, life to the fullest (John 10:10).
How does God, our heavenly Father, provide this, by giving to us the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus promised.
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13 NKJV)
And so the first aspect we see from the father of the prodigal that reveals one of the attributes of our good and gracious Heavenly Father is that of giving.
Look at what it says about the father when he sees his son returning.
“And he (the prodigal son)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.” (Luke 15:20 NKJV)
The father accepted his son just the way he was, and with no conditions attached, lovingly welcoming him back into the family.
Do you realize just how dirty and smelly this young man was? It says that he served on a pig farm, wishing he could eat what the pigs were eating.
Let me share a couple of thoughts about this.
First, there were no showers, scented soap, or antiperspirants for the son to get himself clean prior to his return. He smelled bad, and yet the father hugged on him and even kissed his dirty smelly cheek.
Second, the son worked on a pig farm, an animal the Bible calls unclean. But the father didn’t care about religious rules; instead he loved and accepted his son unconditionally.
Our heavenly Father is just waiting for our return. For us to come back to our senses and from out of the pigsty of this world, and He puts no conditions on our having to clean ourselves up.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NKJV)
Also, there isn’t anything we can do that will ever disqualify us from our return. In our maxim we quote every Sunday, we look at what the Apostle John’s first letter says that while our heart may condemn us from all the bad stuff we have done, God is greater than our heart, and knows what really lies inside, and that is our desire to be forgiven and accepted by our heavenly Father (1 John 3:20).
The story of the prodigal son goes on to say that the father waited for the son’s return. In other words, He kept his eyes peeled for just this event.
Years ago, a dear friend and pastor, John Parenti, wrote “When God Ran.” The lyrics go, “The only time I ever saw Him run was when He ran to me. – Took me in His arms, held my head to His chest and said ‘My son’s come home again.’ – Looked in my face, wiped the tears from my eyes with forgiveness in His voice He said ‘Son, do you know I still love you?’”
God the Father never takes His eyes off of us and always sees. But, our heavenly Father doesn’t sit up in heaven waiting, but actively searches us out, and delivers.
“For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” (Titus 3:3-6 NKJV)
Notice it says that He saved us; we didn’t save ourselves. Yes we need to come to our senses about our sinful condition, but it is our heavenly Father that delivers.
“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14 NKJV)
Therefore, the second aspect of the prodigal’s father, one that reveals another of our heavenly Father’s attributes, is that of accepting and delivering, which leads me to the next attribute, or should I say attributes. You might say it’s a two for one deal, or a two-fer.
3. Cleansesand Clothes
“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.’” (Luke 15:22 NKJV)
Here the father has his son’s dirty filthy clothes removed, and clothes his son in his very best robe, and placed upon his finger a ring, but it wouldn’t have been just any ring, but most likely a signet ring showing that his son is a part of the father’s family once again.
We see these new garments given to us by our heavenly Father.
Isaiah said that when the Messiah would come that the Lord would give to the people beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3).
But there would be more as Isaiah went on to say.
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.” (Isaiah 61:10 NKJV)
We see a very beautiful picture of this clothing process as the Lord gives the High Priest Joshua a whole new wardrobe. It says that Joshua stood before the Lord, with Satan by his side accusing him.
The Lord said, “‘Take away the filthy garments from him.’ And to him (Joshua)He said, ‘See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.’” (Zechariah 3:4 NKJV)
Here we see another aspect of God’s re-clothing process, and that was the removal of Joshua’s inequity. God said, “I have removed your iniquity from you.” And so the re-clothing process is also a cleansing. But this only happens when like the prodigal, we confess our sins and our unworthiness.
Before he was clothed, the son confessed, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” (Luke 11:18-19 NKJV)
Look at what we are told in the Apostle John’s first letter.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NKJV)
And so, it is at this point, that is, when we are cleansed and forgiven, that the old person we once were is taken off, like an old set of clothes, and we’re clothed in God’s robe of righteousness, and we become a brand new person in Christ.
“And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry.” (Luke 15:23 NKJV)
After the father gives, accepts, cleanses and clothes his son, he now prepares a feast in his honor.
In much the same way God prepares a feast before us, both now and in the future. What does God give to us now to feast upon; nothing less than the best spiritual food available, and that is, His word!
When Satan was tempting Jesus with the food of this world, Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4 NKJV)
It is God’s word that gives us the strength to continue when everything else falls by the wayside. This is what I believe David was referring to in his Shepherd’s Psalm.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” (Psalm 23:5a NKJV)
The food God gives at His table makes us secure, that is, secure from the sword at our backs, from the arrow aimed at our hearts, and the hammer that is poised to bash in our heads.
And God gives us this food freely and without reservation.
“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26 NKJV)
But, there is even greater food and a feast waiting for us, and that is in heaven at the wedding supper of the Lamb.
Here our Father clothes and feeds us. This is what the Apostle John saw in his vision in the book of Revelation.
“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:7 NKJV)
Who is this wife, it is the church, as we as God’s church are called the bride of Christ, who is not only the bridegroom, but who is also the Lamb of God.
And it goes on to say, “And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” (Revelation 19:8-9 NKJV)
And so, what can we take from our study of the father of the prodigal son about our own heavenly Father?
First is that our heavenly father gives to us the best, gives to us our eternal inheritance of heaven, and an abundant life right here and now through the giving of the Holy Spirit to all those who believe.
Second, our heavenly Father accepts us just as we are, warts and all. But doesn’t leave us in that condition, but cleanses us when we come back to Him and confess, and then clothes us in His robes of righteousness as our forever wardrobe in heaven.
And finally, He feeds us only the best, and I am sure that when we’re up in heaven at the wedding feast, that the angel food cake will taste a million times better than it tastes down here on earth. But, while we are down here on earth, our heavenly Father seats us at His table, and we are secure knowing that He will keep us until the end.
And so, for all of those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, I think we can say, without hesitation, that our heavenly Father is very good, and that He is our good, good Father.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study