Death – the ultimate loss
The departure or death of a loved one is probably the most painful circumstance for any human being to handle – the ultimate loss. Of course, if the particular circumstances are tragic or unresolved, then it can be even more devastating.
The first tragic death and murder is that of Abel, murdered by his elder brother Cain in a fit of jealous rage. (Genesis 4). Imagine, how his parents, Adam and Eve, must have grieved and regretted their own sin – which had started this deadly ball rolling!
Joseph and Jacob (Genesis 37)
Later on, and in the same book of Genesis, we have another family tragedy: Joseph (again the younger) and the favourite of his elderly Father Jacob, is betrayed by his jealous elder brothers and sold into slavery into Egypt. The guilty brothers trick Jacob into believing that Joseph is dead (killed by a wild animal). Poor Jacob the deceiver has been deceived. He is heart broken and grief stricken. Fortunately, the story has a happy ending, as several years later Jacob is amazed to find that his son is not only alive and well – but the ruler of all Egypt!
The Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-14)
If I was left on a desert island and I could only have one portion of scripture, the parable of the prodigal son would be it! I believe that this parable is one of the greatest illustrating the Gospel of Grace.
In previous articles, we looked at the two previous parts: the lost sheep, and the lost coin but in the parable of the lost son we are at the momentous climax. Indeed, this whole three part parable in Luke 15 suggests that the divine trinity is fully involved in redemption: the Shepherd (Jesus) ; the Women (Holy Spirit) and the Father (Father.) For those that don’t think that the trinity is found in scripture – “put that in your pipe and smoke it!”
Luke 15: 11 Then 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 falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.
The parable begins with an unreasonable demand from the younger of two sons. He wants his inheritance and he wants it now. Effectively, he is saying: “Father I want you dead!”. Personally, I would have told him where to stick it! I mean, didn’t the Father guess how the son was going to spend his money – wine, women and song; in other words prodigally or wastefully!
Of course, every Jewish boy would have learnt the commandment: ” honour your Father and Mother”, so, he’s not just rebelling against his Father but against heaven (God). By the way, where is the mother in this story? If the Father was recently bereaved then this would make the story even more poignant!
Proverbs 15:20 “A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother.”
Just to add insult to injury though, a few days later after receiving his portion of the inheritance, he’s up and out the door. What about his responsibilities on the farm? Maybe, that’s why his elder brother is so furious on his return?
How we treated God
Isn’t that a picture of how we treat God though? Arrogantly, we turn our backs on God or as the famous song says: “I did it my way.” We don’t want to retain God in our knowledge and yet we blame natural disasters as ‘acts of God’?
Romans 1:28 “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;”
Hiding from God
Indeed, you get the feeling that this younger son just wants to escape. He wants to blot out all memory of his Father’s house. Now he can live as he chooses. No one to tell him what to do. No one to ‘rain on his parade’. Now he’s free to live it up – and that’s exactly what he does!
Certainly, this typifies the human race from the moment that Adam and Eve sinned and hid in the garden. Did God separate himself from them or did they become enemies in their minds -separating themselves?
Genesis 3:10 “And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
Does sin separate us from God?
Does sin then, really separate us from God as many Evangelicals preach from the pulpit? Habakuk 1:13 is often the verse quoted as a proof text. However, you can see that it’s in the form of theological argument as to justice rather than proof that God can’t go anywhere near sin!
“Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”
I mean, if God couldn’t go anywhere near sin or even look upon it, then why would God himself come in the person of Jesus to live amongst sinners? Indeed, what upset the religious and pharisees (separate ones), was that Jesus called himself the friend of tax-gathers and sinners!
We separate ourselves from God
A better explanation therefore, is that sin negatively effects our minds and we separate ourselves from God. We cannot stand his presence. In other words , sin engenders a degeneration in the whole of the human psyche. We become alienated in our minds; building up a negative picture of God. We were created for relationship with God; instead God becomes our enemy!
Colossians 1:21 “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled”.
Ephesians 2:17 “You walk no longer just as the Gentiles walk in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them because of the hardness of their heart and they having become callous have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness”
This separation complex, can be seen in the mind of the first murderer Cain. Even though God is very gracious to him – under the law he would have been put to death – he seems to be blaming God for his situation, when it’s the shedding of innocent blood at his own hand that has brought a curse on the ground (his lively-hood). Notice, how Cain adds (high-lighted) to the pronounced judgement from God.
Genesis 4:14 “Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.”
Conclusions so far:
Back to our parable though, surely this verse has echoes of the departure of the younger son from the Father’s house?
“So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.”
“And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.”
Fortunately though, that’s not the end of the story but it does get worse before it gets better. However that’s the topic of the next post!
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