And He said, A certain man had two sons.
And the younger of them said to the father, Father give me that part of the inheritance falling to me. And he divided the inheritance between them.
And not many days after, gathering up all things, the younger son went away to a distant country. And there he wasted his property, living dissolutely.
But having spent all his things, a severe famine came throughout that country, and he began to be in need.
And going, he was joined to one of the citizens of that country. And he sent him into his fields to feed pigs.
And he longed to fill his stomach from the husks which the pigs ate, but no one gave to him.
But coming to himself he said, How many servants of my father have plenty of loaves, and I am perishing with famine.
Rising up, I will go to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I sinned against Heaven and before you,
and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants.
And rising up, he came to his father. But he yet being far away, his father saw him and was moved with pity and he ran andfell on his neck and fervently kissed him.
And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you, and no longer am I worthy to be called your son.
But the father said to his slaves, Bring out the best robe and clothe him, and give a ring for his hand and sandals for hisfeet.
And bring the fattened calf, slaughter and let us eat and rejoice;
for this son of mine was dead, and lived again, and was lost, and was found. And they began to be merry.
But the older son was in the field. And having come, as he drew near to the house, he heard music and dances.
And having called one of the children, he inquired what this may be.
And he said to him, Your brother came, and your father killed the fattened calf, because he received him back in health.
But he was angry and did not desire to go in. Then coming out, his father begged him.
But answering, he said to the father, Behold, so many years I serve you, and I have never transgressed a command of you. And you never gave a goat to me, so that I might be merry with my friends.
But when this son of yours came, the one devouring your living with harlots, you killed the fattened calf for him.
But he said to him, Child, you are always with me, and all of my things are yours.
But to be merry and to rejoice was right, for this brother of yours was dead, and lived again; he was lost and hewas found.
When his resources run out, then the famine comes. God will use anything to move us back to Him. We don't know what the future holds and the unexpected will trip us up everytime. The famine makes the son's situation far worse. Interesting statement, "and he began to be in need". He was in need before. He just didn't know it. All human beings have a tendency to be self sufficient. We are oblivious to how dependent we are. Of all the creatures in the animal kingdom, man is the most dependent and the most needy. We are more needy than we realize, especially when it comes to God-related things. Like teenagers, we all think we are invincible and bullet proof, only to learn that we are dependent on Him for everything. Farmers especially know there are just too many things that can go wrong between planting and selling what they planted. This boy was in need from the beginning, he just didn’t know it.
In Gemz 1045 yesterday, I commented more on the significance of him leaving his community and family. But stop and think for a moment. If he takes a journey abroad, he by definition ends up with Gentiles, non Jews. He has turned his back on his own people and gone to the Gentiles. Now the text tells us, "he was joined to one of them". [kollao] means to glue oneself to, to join to, cleave. Oh, no son. You have got the idea of leaving and cleaving wrong. Instead of leaving father and mother and cleaving to his wife, he leaves his people and culture and cleaves to a Gentile. He clings to this man, attaches himself to him like glue. Where is his independence now? He has quickly exchanged his sense of independence for dependency again, but of the wrong kind. Luke uses this word 7 times in his two books (Luke 10:11, 15:15, Acts 5:13, 8:29, 9:26, 10:28, 17:34). That is 58% of the usage of the whole of the New Testament. This is an important word. We are made for relationship. We are made to "stick like glue". That is how God has created us. "No man is an island" as John Donne once said. You need other people. Choose your friends and acquaintances wisely.
In attaching himself to a Gentile, the son has gone all the way across the dividing line between Jew and Gentile. Peter told them, "You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you." Acts 10:28. This Jewish boy was now following a Gentile around, totally dependent on him. Seeking to please him at every turn, all the while hoping for a hand out of some sort. Living in Indonesia, I meet those kinds of people frequently. The people who come to my car with a dry cloth or duster and seek to clean my windscreen for me with a rag dirtier than my windscreen currently is, or holding my door open for me when I have already opened it. All the while hoping that I will throw some money their way. They are constantly trying to find any little thing they can do for me – finding a need and meeting it. Yes, that is a principle of business but in this case it is annoying at best because "the need" they are meeting is not a real need. They are only getting in the way. I am sure this Jewish boy drove the Gentile he glued himself to, crazy.
When you think of pigs in the context of this story, don't think of pigs in the Western context, living in a pristine farmyard with grass all around them. Many of us think that pigs like the mud hollow, a bit like hippos wallowing in mud to stay cool. There is that picture in our minds, but these pigs in ancient times in Palestine and currently in Asia are left to scavenge. They roam around the village or the city seeking to scavenge anything they can eat and they eat some pretty awful shocking things. (I am thinking more of what I have seen in Papua or Papua New Guinea than in the rest of Indonesia. Pigs don't roam the cities here in Jakarta – just to set the record straight.) Like the pigs this boy ends up feeding, he too has become a scavenger, a gleaner to put it in nicer terms. But it is merely the actions of someone who has come to the bottom of barrel.
I am amazed at times, how God drops resources in my hands at the perfect time. While in Australia, on our way to New Zealand, I saw a book by Kenneth E. Bailey called The Cross and the Prodigal. This has often happened; talk about timely. Bailey, in this book, suggests the citizen would not have wanted the prodigal hanging around him as I have described above. He suggests the Gentile would have "tried to get rid of him by offering him a job he was confident the beggar would refuse." It would have been clear to everyone in town that this boy was an upper class Jew by how he was dressed. It would have been known that he abhorred pigs. That abhorrence continues today in Jewish and Muslim communities. They are filthy dirty animals which eat anything. So the man would have figured that to offer an upper class Jewish boy a job feeding pigs, would have been sufficient to get rid of him. But wonder of wonders, shock horror, he accepts. How the mighty have fallen and so quickly. We don't know how long the interval was between him leaving home and sinking so low that he would feed pigs, but the thrust of Jesus story is on the speed of it happening. The story is cut down to bring the beginning and end together, closer in time.
Wild pigs or famished pigs will turn and attack you. I have seen it happen. A cornered wild boar will turn and attack the one who has cornered it. Kids in villages in PNG are frequently bitten or attacked by the pigs they feed. This is the background to the current plight of this foolish Jewish boy. Everything about this story is contrived to contrast what the boy has turned his back on, with his current situation. When is he going to wake up to reality? Remember again the contrast between the stories of the prodigal and Jacob. Jacob also travels far from home and is deceived by Laban. The connection of Laban to the Abrahamic family is kept hidden at first until the news is dropped on us that this man is family - “and Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban.” Gen 24:29. We are told in Gen 24:3-4"Swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not allow my son to marry one of these local Canaanite women.Go instead to my homeland, to my relatives, and find a wife there for my son Isaac."Intriguing isn't it. In these two stories that are so parallel, there are contrasts too. In the Jacob story the servant sent to search for a wife for Jacob, leaves the land of the Canaanites and heads back home. In the prodigal story, the younger son leaves the land of Palestine and goes to the Gentiles. This one has gone to extraordinary lengths to shun his own. The reverse of John 1:11 where He came to His own but His own did not receive Him.
Having experienced all of this, the younger son finally COMES TO HIS SENSES, and finds himself. But look what it took to bring him to his senses. Sometimes the drive to sin or to kick over the traces to "be free" is so strong that it takes a huge reversal to bring us to our senses. Our human propensity to self destruct is scary. There is one more cultural element I would like to draw out from this passage before I close this Gemz. Here is this young son of a Jewish nobleman living amongst the Gentiles and sitting amongst the pigs, wishing he could eat what the pigs are eating. Have you any idea of how degrading that must have been. It was expressly forbidden for a Jew to go near pigs. To end up feeding them is the epitomy of depravity. To go further and wish you could eat what they are eating is worse than disgusting. I am sure he must have come to his senses and stopped himself by considering that in his weakened state, if he attempted to steal the food from the pigs mouths they would tear him apart. But notice there is one more element in what he says. "But coming to himself he said,My father's servants have enough bread, and I am perishing with famine."
Take a look at Jer_38:9"My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet whom they have cast into the cistern; and he will die right where he is because of the famine, for there is no more bread in the city."
We think of there being no bread in the city, as meaning it is in the grip of a famine or perhaps the bakers have gone on strike. Bread to many of us from the West means a lack of the staple food. Many Indonesians think we eat bread just like they eat rice. Rice is the staple food. I would say in the west, at least New Zealand that potatoes would probably be the substitute for rice rather than bread. But yes at some meals it is bread that is used as the sustaining core element of the meal. Perhaps at breakfast with toast or lunchtime with sandwiches. But in the middle eastern situation in ancient Palestine (and today) we are talking about a lack of cutlery – edible cutlery. Bread was the means of eating the food before you. Dipping the bread in the bowl or using the bread to transfer what was there to eat, to your mouth. When Jeremiah says there was no bread in the city, the inference is that the famine had become so bad that they didn’t even have the eating utensils, let alone the food to eat with it. This is what the younger son is contemplating. Here he is starving to death and he thinks of the fact that the hired hands at home on his father's estate have plenty of bread. "They don't lack for bread to scoop up the food they have to eat, and here I don't even have the bread to eat anything with." It is a sad statement on the depth of his plight. Not only do I have nothing to eat but I don't even have bread to eat it with. No edible knives and forks.
Tomorrow we will look at his conclusion and the little speech he rehearses for his father.
The reason we have rules is to protect freedom. The greatest threat to freedom is freedom itself. A R Bernard
It’s never too late for grace. Your stack of sins is never too high. You're never too old, too messed up, or too worn out. Max Lucado
The best thing in life is finding someone who knows all of your flaws, mistakes, and weaknesses and still thinks you're completely amazing.
When God sets our spirit free then our emotions and body begin to fall in line.We determine how long the process takes by our submission or resistance. Bob Gass