The Prodigal's Reception

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IN Luke 15:11-2411And he said, A certain man had two sons: 12And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. 13And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. 14And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 15And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 17And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 20And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 21And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. 22But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. (Luke 15:11‑24), the blessed Son, here on earth, is telling out the nature of the Father's love. It is a parable of the Father's feelings about a prodigal son. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, only knew the extent of our ruin, and He only knew the love that is in the heart of God. These two things were known to Him alone. There is no use in a person going to pay a debt unless he knows the amount of it. This blessed One came to bear our sins, to put Himself under the whole judgment that was on us, and to declare the love of God. Nothing can be more wonderful than this. The Son of God comes into this world, knowing the whole extent of our offense against God, and suffers for it. He only knows the heart of God, and He declares it to us. I may see that I have offended a person, but I must be in that person's mind in order to know how he estimates and feels the offense. Christ knows this, and suffered for it. A sinner could not know what Christ endured, because he never knew the countenance of God. The One who best knew that countenance could tell of the terrible agony it was to have it hidden.
Man's sin began with distrust of God. Satan came into the garden of Eden. And there in that wonderful group of divine mercies the doubt of God's love was engendered in the heart of man. Satan suggested to Eve that the reason God would not allow her to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was because it would advance her position. He poisoned her mind with the thought that man could do better for himself than God would do, and thus Satan gave man an evil idea of God. Then Christ comes to declare God, to vindicate Him whom Satan has maligned. What delight it was to Christ to tell out the heart of God to a returning prodigal here on earth, to a thief on the cross, to a Saul of Tarsus, to bring the saved one into the sphere of the Father's delight! Christ was beside the thief upon the cross, to disclose to him the heart which Satan had maligned.
In this parable (Luke 15) it is the Father's way of receiving back the prodigal. Who unfolds it? His own Son, the only One who could. The prodigal is not a person who has fallen from grace. It was not grace he squandered. Not one single thing of what he squandered was restored to him. What he gets is all new. His first thought is that there is bread enough and to spare in his father's house. He is thinking of WHAT IS IN GOD for him, and that is faith. It is the beginning of all blessing. Thus we see the point of departure is the point of recovery. In the garden of Eden the point of man's departure was distrust of God. To count on God is faith, and that is the point of recovery. If I think a friend who has power will not use his power on my behalf, I think worse of that friend than if I know he has no power to do anything for me. The point of man's recovery is to believe in God's nature-that He is love.
Dear reader, have you still Satan's opinion of God? It is terrible to think that by nature we as sinners are lost, because we hold to Satan's opinion of God. What a fearful thing to be going about the world with Satan's thought of God! Now, to have the best opinion of God is what His own blessed Son teaches me, and to receive it is faith. Faith is-that I reckon, not on what is in me, but on what is in God. The moment you turn to Christ you see that there is love in God. When the prodigal was yet a great way off his father saw him, and had compassion on him, and ran and fell on his neck, and kissed him. The vagrant son is surprised; yes, at every step is a surprise, so great, so unexpected, the love that met him. The Father first greets him with a kiss-the figure of that which was accomplished when Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor, was saluted by Jesus from the glory. The prodigal never thought he would be kissed. No more did Saul of Tarsus think a light above the brightness of the sun would shine upon him, and Jesus appear to him. I give God credit for His love; I have faith and He surprises me. The moment you trust Him He surprises you. He tells you you have touched a reality that is beyond all measure. The prodigal comes back from necessity, but the Father, in His love, runs to meet him. The kiss is the intimation of the love of God. It is an immense thing to know what God is. God is love. Two things Christ came to do-the one to suffer for our sins, the other to tell out the Father's joy in being able to receive into His own sphere the poor returning wanderer. Oh what delight to learn it! I must let love have its way. The greatest favor you can render love is that you answer to it; the greatest pain is not to value it. Confidence builds on the feelings that I know exist in another; presumption is acting from my own feelings; nothing gratifies the heart that truly loves me more than confiding in it. Confidence is greater than devotion. It is a greater thing to know that Christ gave Himself for me than that I would give all for Him. Nothing love likes so well as to get credit for its existence. Therefore God commends His love towards us, “in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."
The defect in souls is the making their necessity the measure of God's grace. “But when yet he was a great way off his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." When kissed, he exclaims "I am not worthy," and then a fresh expression of love comes out to meet that distress. Again he is surprised, and now completely silenced. The Father says, “bring forth the best robe and put it on him." He is not to carry relics of the far country into the Father's dwelling-place. "Bring forth the BEST robe." Invest him with new and beautiful garments. Declare him in every way fit to come into the Father's house! He must enter in all the consciousness of his welcome, and of his meetness, too. The robe is brought to him from within the house. It confers on him a new condition; we now put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man. Many a one says, “I am a poor unworthy creature." Have you the best robe on? If you have you are in a new condition, you can say, "I am a magnificent creature, one of the very highest order; an order above angels, so that Christ is not ashamed to call us brethren." You are "a man in Christ." Is that a poor, miserable creature? “Oh," you say, "we are all sinners." True, the old man is all sin, hence it is the new man that I have to think of, and of the Father who has made us meet to be partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. Then we read “that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." All the counsels of God open out to me. “Filled with all the fullness of God." What a wonderful condition!
"Put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet." He is not to be like Moses, who was told to take off his, shoes in the presence of God. No, the prodigal is to have shoes put on; he is to be thoroughly at home in his Father's sphere, and he enters it in the condition suitable to the position. All feelings of unfitness are corrected-love is never satisfied until it does its utmost for its object. If I want to do anything for one I love, I do the best I can-that is the way divine love acts.
There are three things that the prodigal receives-1, The kiss, a known communication of the father's love. 2, The investing-robe, and ring, and shoes, the new condition suited to enjoy the love of the Father and His things, without which you could not feel yourself at home. 3, The fatted calf-the thing reserved. “Bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found." The greater the depth to which God goes down in mercy, the greater the height to which His grace will rise. If God has cleared the ground, He occupies it. The fatted calf does not set forth the sacrifice of Christ. The wanderer has been already received; the best robe is already on him. The fatted calf is the sphere of delight in which God places the saved one. He is brought back, not only kissed, but in a new condition; a new creature now brought into the circle of God's festivities. The figure made use of is that of a great entertainment; the fatted calf is something reserved until a special occasion should arise. The sinner saved by grace is brought into the fullest expression of what God is in His love. "Eye hath not seen it," Isaiah says, "but God hath, revealed it unto us by his Spirit." It is the love of the Father made known to the soul while here. The secret of God is made known to the one saved by grace. The wanderer is brought to know what before had been hidden in God. Survey it! May we set our hearts on it. May the world see in us a living representation of what is described in this scripture. It is the joy of the saint that arouses the sinner here on earth. Nothing has such weight with others as seeing that "I have a joy beyond anything they know." “They began to be merry!" That is the last we hear of this scene. It is rejoicing with God; delight in the greatest thing He had to give. “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." What a delight to the Lord Jesus Christ, to come forth to me here on earth and tell out what is in a Father's heart for me-a returning prodigal! J. B. S.