Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday, September 27th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Timothy 4; Proverbs 23; Isaiah 55-56.
Today's scripture focus is Luke 15:11-16.

Luke 15:11-16

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: The Tale of Two Sons Part 1
Accompanying Mark Driscoll sermon: The Parable of the Prodigal Son
Accompanying Matt Chandler sermon:  Deconstruct/Reconstruct

God rejoiced over repentant sinners.  That was the point of both the preceding parables - the lost sheep and the lost coin.
Verse 7, "I tell you in the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance."
verse 10, "In the same way I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
That was the point.  Along with the fact that Jesus was pointing out to the Pharisees that they were so far from the heart of God that they didn't even understand what brought God joy.

this story is intended to demonstrate the same thing, the joy of God over the recovery of a lost sinner. But this story goes even beyond that and it identifies the nature of repentance. Repentance has been mentioned in verse 7 and mentioned in verse 10, but never defined. In this story it is fully defined and for the first time in this story, the Pharisees and the scribes actually appear. They are a character in this story and we see them in all their ugliness, and so did they see themselves. And that's the surprise ending of the story. Up to that point, they were pretty much in agreement with the story. And that was always Christ's approach, to get them to buy into the story in terms of interest and understanding, and then to get them to understand the ethical issues in the story because they celebrated their own high level of ethics. And then to take their own ethical understanding and turn it on them and make the theology of the story like a knife that penetrated their sinful hearts....

The first two stories, about the sheep and the coin, emphasize God as the seeker, the one who finds and the one who rejoices. But the third story looks not so much at the divine side, but at the human side...sin, repentance, recovery and rejection. ...

Now the story doesn't contain everything that needs to be said about salvation. It's not the whole of salvation theology. But it does lead us to the cross which is yet to happen because it's a story of reconciliation and there is no reconciliation apart from the death of Christ who having paid the penalty in full for the sinner provides reconciliation. But the cross is not in the story, it's yet to come. And so this is not a full theology of salvation, but it deals with some of the essential elements of sin and recovery and rejoicing and rejection.

Now, this is a story about a loving father and his two sons.  It's termed the Prodigal Son, but it's actually the story of two sons.  And, in fact, it's almost more about the second son than the prodigal.

When the younger son goes to the father and asks for his inheritance, the Pharisees and all those listening to the story, would see this as utter, blatant disrespect.  The son is really telling the father that he wishes his father was dead.  In the middle Eastern culture of the day, this was utter shame.

The system was very clear to everybody. The father was at the head of the honor list, then came the older brother, then came the younger. This is shameless at its highest level. The lowest in the family, the lowest in the line of honor expressing aggravation and irritation and hatred about his father that he's even still alive and standing in the way of him getting what he wants is the highest degree of shame imaginable. There was no way that Jesus could portray greater shame upon a person than that act. In the social structure of Israel, that was the supreme act of shame.

Notice, too, what the son asked for.  He asked for his share of the property or the estate (his share would've been 1/3 because 2/3 would go to the older brother).  He didn't actually want his full inheritance.  An inheritance would include the responsibility to manage the estate for the family and build it for the family's future.  He didn't want that.  He didn't want responsibility, leadership, accountability.  No, he wants his freedom, his independence - and he wants his father to finance his leaving.

At what would the father's expected reaction be?

They would expect him to be furious with his son. They would expect him to slap the boy across the face, to rebuke him, to shame him, to punish him, to dismiss him from the family and perhaps even to hold a funeral.

This would not have gone over well, to say the least.

Now, the father could have done this as a gift, if he had wanted.  But for a son to request it was utter disrespect.  The son was telling the father he'd rather his father was dead.

I cannot even imagine what it would feel like to have your son say that to your face.  But what does this father do?

Rather than strike him across the face for his insolence, the father grants him what he wants. He extends to him this...this freedom because he is willing to endure the agony of rejected love. And this is the agony that's the most painful of any personal agony, the agony of rejected love. The greater the love, the greater the pain when that love is rejected. This is God. This is God giving the sinner his freedom. There's no law in the customs of Israel that would forbid a father to do this. He's not doing this because...because he thinks this is best. He's giving the sinner his freedom. And the sinner's not really breaking the law but he is demonstrating the absence of a relationship. And that's the point.
The sinner has no relationship to God whatsoever. Doesn't love God, doesn't care about God, wants nothing to do with God, nothing to do with the family of God, wants nothing to do with the future of the family of God, wants no accountability to God, wants no interest in God, doesn't want to answer to God, doesn't want to submit to God, doesn't want any kind of relationship at all. In fact, has none. And God in the agony of rejected love lets the sinner go.
And so the father divides up the property.  Now, normally, if he had done this as a gift, the father would still be the one responsible and in charge, until his death.  But in this case, he lets his son go.

And this son does not take long to leave.  So, he liquidates all his assets.  He sold his portion of the property (even though, in that day, the new owner would not be able to take possession until the father died, the son did have the legal right to sell it, and the new owner would likely be willing to buy now anyway because the price would only go up in the future).  And when you liquidate your assets in a hurry - you inevitably take a loss.  That's how badly this kid wanted out.  This son had no relationship with his father, no relationship with his brother, and he just wanted out of there.

This is the foolishness of the sinner. He wants to get away from God, he wants to get away from God now. He wants no accountability to God. He sells cheap all of the opportunities that God has provided for him, all the good gifts, all the gospel opportunities, everything that's good that God has put into his world. All that goodness and forbearance of God that's meant to lead him into a relationship with God he spurns 

And he left.  To a Gentile land.  This kid couldn't get any worse.

Then MacArthur makes a very interesting point I hadn't considered before.....

where's the older son in this? Why doesn't he ever rise to the defense of the father's honor? Why doesn't he ever step up and protect the father? Why isn't there a verse in here about "But the older son went to the younger and rebuked him for dishonoring the father?" The answer: because he didn't love the father either. He was happy to get his share, stay home. Never came to the father's defense, he has no love for the father as we shall see.
The whole scene is filled with shame. It's a totally dysfunctional family, a loving generous father who's provided massive gifts to two sons. One is a flagrant rebellious irreligious sinner, the other is a religious one who stayed home but neither of them has any relationship to the father or to each other. They both hate each other and the father.
So the son left, and squandered his money on a reckless and sinful lifestyle. That's his fault.

And then a severe famine hit.  That's not his fault.

But when those two combine, it can be devastating.  And life is like that sometimes.

Now, a severe famine hit.  We can't even imagine that here.  We think "recession", but that doesn't even come close.

In the OT, the Jews were under siege for such a long length of time that the women ate their afterbirth and even cannibalized their own children.  That is a severe famine.  It's a level of desperation that we cannot even imagine.

This son made some horrible choices, and circumstances combined to make the situation even more desperate.

And the Pharisees and the scribes listening to the story now are feeling the weight of...of the horror of the life of this young man. From a wonderful place under a loving father in a generous environment, he has come to this. It is life at its lowest in the pits at the most desperate. He has no family. He has nobody left. He's in a foreign land, nowhere to turn. All his resources are gone. He is destitute. He is on skid row. He is penniless. He is alone. The party is over for sure.
But he's still not ready to go home. That's a big one. Still not ready to fully humble himself, to eat crow, to go back, to be shamed, to be humiliated, to face his father and the resentment of his older brother for having wasted the substance. The older brother knows that once the thing was split, he no longer could draw resources from the other third and therefore it would cheat him out of what he would get and that elevates his hatred. He doesn't want to face any of that. 
He thinks he can pull himself up by his bootstraps.  So, he manages to get hired on - feeding a Gentile's pigs.

Just when they thought the situation couldn't get any worse. Pigs were unclean animals.  For this Israelite boy to get a job working for a Gentile, feeding pigs - and not only feeding pigs, but fighting them for the pig slop to eat - it just couldn't get any lower than that.

What is the lesson here? The lesson is that sin is rebellion against God the Father. It is not rebellion so much against His Law, it is more rebellion against His relationship. It is the violation of His Fatherhood, His love. Sin is disdained, sure, for God's Law, but before that it's disdain for God's person, God's authority, God's will. Sin is shunning all responsibility, all accountability. It is to deny God His place. It is to hate God. It is to wish God was dead. It is to not love Him at all, dishonor Him. It is to take all the gifts that He's surrounded you with in life and squander them as if they were nothing. It is to run as far from God as you can get to give Him no thought, no regard, no concern. It is to waste your life in self-indulgence and dissipation and unrestrained lust. It is to shun all except what you want and it is reckless evil and selfish indulgence that ends you up in the pig slop, bankrupt spiritually, empty, destitute, nobody to help, nowhere to turn, facing death, eternal death. And then the foolish sinner has exhausted plan A, I'll fix my own life, I'll go to psychology, I'll take drugs, I'll drink alcohol, I'll go to some self-help group, I'll move to a new neighborhood, I'll marry a new person. When all that stuff is exhausted, the sinner wakes up at the bottom. And this is where the young man is

Thankfully, repentance is coming!

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 15:17-24
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Timothy 5, Proverbs 24, Isaiah 57-58

1 comment:

Miriam said...

I so like it when the cultural inferences are explained. I find that the meaning of the story is fuller or more complete when you understand how the original audience would have viewed the circumstances.