One of my favourite parables in the Bible is that of ‘The Prodigal Son’. It is the story of a loving father, who has two sons.
I have always thought that this parable should actually be called ‘The Extravagant Father’. Jesus uses the father in this story as a metaphor for God our father.
To summarise the parable, the younger son, rudely asks for his inheritance early. This was basically like saying, ‘You are dead to me, Dad!’. The son then left the protection of his father’s house, and, wasted his wealth on wild living. He soon found himself with the pigs where he then had a revelation that even his father’s servants were in a better position than he now was. Feeling worthless, he returned to the father in the hopes that he just might, maybe get a position back in the house hold even as a mere servant for his Father.
And this is my favourite part!… ‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.’
In the culture of that time, to run as an older man was quite the undignified thing to do. It would require you lifting up your long tunic, to reveal your ankles, which was seen as being inappropriate. What a beautiful picture of the love of God for US! God doesn’t care about etiquette, when it comes to loving us. Even when we are far off, He is undignified, uninhibited and wholehearted in His affection toward us. Before we even get to Him, He has run to meet us!
Understandably the son felt unworthy, and struggled to accept the love of the father. Yet the father didn’t stop. He put a robe, a ring and sandals on His son. These seem like lovely gifts, but do you know what they actually represent? These presents had a powerful message.
The robe represented restoration of the son to his original position, the ring a sign of both affection and authority – allowing the son to make continued financial transactions in his father’s name (what a gift of grace after the son had only just wasted everything!), and finally, the sandals a picture of sonship. Only slaves and servants were barefoot and this son needed to be reminded of who he really was. He wasn’t to think like a slave, he was to think like a son!
What an overwhelming picture of the love of Father God for us. When we fall short, we feel worthless and find ourselves trying to claw our way back to God, full of timidity and shame. Jesus shows us that in fact the Father only restores. When we step away, He reaffirms our sonship and our place in Him as we repent. He celebrates our reconciliation. He meets us! And He doesn’t walk to us, He runs! God reminds us that we aren’t slaves trying to regain approval, but we are given authority again, and the beautiful affection of the Father.
A daily devotion for a better way of living.