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Earth Teaching Heaven - the watching angels and the parables of Luk 15, part 3.

OR Conference Luke 15 - 190825
length: 111:25 - taught on Aug, 25 2019
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Class Outline:

Sunday August 25, 2019

 

Reconciliation is a source of great happiness in heaven. God succeeds in securing happiness in a person who has been estranged from Him.

 

God is not only saving the man from death, He is giving him inner purity, moral character, divine principles, honesty, freedom, etc.; divine life within him. This produces great joy in heaven.

 

1TH 4:1 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you may excel still more.

 

1TH 4:2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

 

1TH 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification;

 

“God’s joy is the unutterable joy of the parent who for many years has been anxiously watching his son’s growth, his leanings, his temptations, his resolutions, his declensions, his alienations of spirit, and at length sees proof that the lad is wholly sound at heart, that he has chosen the better part and thrown off all vice that clung to him; that he is bent now upon a pure and honorable life, and with his own soul hates the thought of evil; that he has finally abjured the allurements that tempted and bound him formerly, and has in himself that deep principle and those wise and generous dispositions which will guide him in all circumstances and in all companies. This joy you have it in your power to give to God. There is a joy which none but yourself can excite in God, a joy over your repentance, over your return to good; a joy therefore which none but yourself has the humble glory of stirring in the mind of God.” [Dods]

 

If angels can rejoice, they can be happy, meaning they can respond to the good that they see from God, and when any person enters into that blessedness of responding with pure happiness to beholding and yielding to God and His purposes, they sympathetically rejoice.

 

If the angels, who are only spectators, will rejoice in this way over one person who repents, what response should it give to those who experience it? Have you ever had such happiness that you would deem it reasonable that all heaven should rejoice with you in it?

 

Uninteresting, solitary, monotonous, and unobserved as your life may seem, it is an object of intensest interest to God and His angels. Though it may be surrounded by evil, fears, miseries, it may be lifted to so true a harmony with the ever-living God, that those pure and discerning spirits who see it, cannot help but rejoice over it with delight and satisfaction.

 

We have every encouragement to play our part well.  

 

If God with all heaven is thus in sympathy with us, deeply concerned in our defeat, triumphing in our victory; if the cause of love and moral order is one throughout the universe, we have every encouragement to play our part well. God has made it known to us that the angels are watching for a reason, and I think this is it. It is further encouragement to play our part well, i.e. to live our grace given lives well.

 

It is no small part that we play in. No one who turns to God and the joy of His life goes unnoticed. We have much opposition and are often wearied and overcome with sin and pressure and folly, but in spite of all this there is material for victory and joy, for God will stop at nothing to turn you homeward.

 

**Are you weighted by nature with a poor craven spirit, a vain selfish heart, sordid or gross passions, a feeble inconstant will, a nature that often causes shame? Humbly recognize all this as what you are actually called to master; do not waste your energies envying those who have a better nature and an easier task, but face the conflict that actually awaits you and carry into it the assurance that every stroke for the right and every defeat of evil you accomplish through Christ is an echo of the truest kind in heaven. Remember the greater joy God has in the painful, difficult, and penitential return of a lost soul than in the easy righteousness of the naturally pure.

 

God looks down on the earth at any given moment and He sees billions and billions of sins being committed by billions of people. He sees a great number of people moving around and at rest who think nothing of Him. He sees a great number that have no idea of Him though He has shown Himself throughout the whole earth. The angels witness this as well. When one person turns from death to Him, they are seen. When one believer who has lost his way turns to Him, they are seen.

 

The Prodigal Son

 

Quite similar to the parables of the sheep and the coin, Jesus repeats the lesson, but in this parable He adds another figure which represents the objecting Pharisees and scribes so that they may see the unreasonableness and hatefulness of the spirit which could find fault with the unquestioning welcome and festal reception of the returning penitent.

 

The former two parables bring into our view the great loss with God sustains in the lapse and destruction of the sinner, the suffering that His love endures in being prevented from achieving the happiness of its object.

 

Unlike the coin and the sheep, the son must decide to return.

 

This is different from the other two and brings in the fact that men are not coins or sheep. That’s simple enough, but what is similar is the anguish of the father with the shepherd and the woman. If the son had been away for years on a mercantile mission as his father’s agent, and were now returning successful, the exultation and celebration that we see would be out of place. What we see is the miserable plight of the prodigal and the compassionate anxiety of the father who looks to the horizon every day for his poor, lost son. We also see the unrestrained rejoicing at the boy’s return and the father’s relieved and full heart.

 

Remember, we can each fill our heavenly Father’s heart in this way. Don’t ruin it with crusty theology written by crusty theologians who anthropopathize all the good stuff out of this parable.

 

LUK 15:11 And He said, "A certain man had two sons;

 

LUK 15:12 and the younger of them said to his father,' Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.' And he divided his wealth between them.

 

LUK 15:13 "And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.

 

The opening of the parable is familiar. Such a career is often reproduced, that a young man starts out with every advantage and comfort, but perish miserably at some distant place far from home, or in some years ruin their health and come home only to die in sorrow and in shame.

 

The beginning is the same for all of them. It is an incapacity to find enjoyment in God’s love, God’s presence, and in God’s ways.

 

The father’s home is not enough, God is not enough, life as they have it with God all around them reaching out His hand becomes weary. He desires the father’s goods but not his presence; he wishes to be his own master, believing that he is cramped and pushed by goodness, and that liberty to do evil is the true emancipation.

 

Youthful folly abounds in all generations, the thought that unless we sin we don’t have freedom and the sense that God would be more to us if He were less like Himself. He is too good for us to be comfortable in His presence. His holiness shames and discomforts us. His presence is not the most grateful, the most enjoyable, the easiest.

 

What if God were to give him as his own that which would make him independent of God? What if he could live without any interference from God or punishment or guidance from Him? Where would I end up? Would it be satisfying or a terrible punishment to be cast forth from Him though I had more than enough sustenance to keep me for an indefinite future?  Man denying himself communion with God is homeless, outcast, and dwells in an undesired, bleak, blank world, finding no rest for his heart. Say such a man, after experiencing this darkness for so long, could return to God’s home.

 

God does not treat us as if we had no capacity for choice. If our desire is His portion but not Him, He gives it to us.

 

He does not force us into service, nor save us whether we will or no. But neither does He let us go without regret or into oblivion.

 

In the parable the father understands that the son does not want his presence. The father doesn’t help him go. The father knows that the son has already left in his heart. The father sends the boy to a painful school, with regret but with understanding there is no better way.

 

LUK 15:14 "Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be in need.

 

LUK 15:15 "And he went and attached himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

 

LUK 15:16 "And he was longing to fill his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.

 

LUK 15:17 "But when he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!

 

LUK 15:18 'I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight;

 

LUK 15:19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men. "' 

 

LUK 15:20 "And he got up and came to his father.

 

Would we expect Jesus to be depicting an indifferent father, like some are? The father’s reception at the end throws that out.

 

Have you ever loved a child this much? The innocent child who loved you more than anything, saw you as their most needed and beloved, but with time grew to desire not you but things that would only hurt them? When a heart is with a lost son, everything else becomes grey and unsatisfying. The heartbreak of the father is overwhelming while the son feels enraptured in his new found freedom.

 

Jesus is depicting God the Father in this way. Certainly He is not a man, but this is the humanly understandable way that Jesus is depicting it. Should we alter our Lord’s parable to try and suit our limited understanding of deity?

 

Mix pride of life with an untried world and you have a dream or reckoning of a life of success and gratification that only needs the guidance from our own casual impulses and shortsighted longings. There is no thought of any pain inflicted upon others, not to mention God whose love persistently follows us, and no thought of the misery we are courting.

 

Jesus doesn’t add filler. He could have weaved a spine-tingling story of all the incidences of the young man’s endeavors to pleasure and worldly attainments, but none of that is important. There is only one thing important here and that is the turn to misery. It may take years or it may take days, the latter is far better, for the sooner you are there when running from God’s home, the better.

 

In an instant luxurious living is turned to starvation and filth.

 

To none does he look more miserable as to himself. In his mind alone is there visible the full contrast between was he was and what he is; what he thought he would be and what he has become. What he could have been by now if he had only stayed home with his father, but now all beyond his reach, and in its place only cold and filth, hunger and nakedness, and an embittered soul underneath it all.

 

I think all of us can identify with the prodigal if we are adults. Some of us have run farther than others, but all of us in some way have gone astray from God. We are born this way:

 

ISA 53:6

All of us like sheep have gone astray,

Each of us has turned to his own way;

But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all

To fall on Him.

 

Some of us went far from God’s law before salvation, diving headlong into shameful things. Some of us became believers as children, some at an older age, some at an older age after hitting rock-bottom, but none of us have to think very hard to remember times when as believers we choose carnal paths away from our abode with God, though He was always with us, always in us.

 

A prodigal is any person who in any way wastes the powers and means God gave him to effect some good for himself, which he thought would end up to effect substantial, good, and pleasurable results.

 

Who among us thought at one time that living solely for God was a height of consecration that some may aspire to, but that it wasn’t a life for all, and not for us.

 

Yet it is exactly this that makes the difference in the believer’s experience. Anything done on any other footing might as well be not done. We have been laboriously carting stones into a moss which quietly absorbs all our labor, and shows absolutely no result. If we have spent our portion, our talents, our opportunities, our life, in striving to please ourselves, - if we have not made common cause and partnership with God, and been content to have our individual portion merged in His, - then manifestly we have as thoroughly alienated ourselves and our portion from God as if we had spent it on riotous living.

 

Indeed the riotous livers always seem to have more to say for themselves than the more respectable self-pleasers.

 

John Ruskin says, “You now know the habits of swine and the tastes of husks; do you think your father could not have taught you to know better habits and pleasanter tastes, if you had stayed in his house; and that the knowledge you have lost would not have been more, as well as sweeter, than that you have gained?”

 

No one ever gets wiser by doing wrong, nor stronger.

 

You shouldn’t have to live with pigs or eat husks to know that they are undesirable. It’s not a matter of taste. Life in any way alienated from God will not satisfy. Pig slop may slate hunger for a time, but it will never satisfy.

 

The pursuits of ungodliness will pass the time, it may interest and engage us for a time, it will satisfy an appetite, for a time; but your nature is not fed, the deepest parts of your nature are unfilled; yourself in that which is most yourself is impoverished. You are not growing in any fitness for the future, you are not gaining mastery of your spirit, you are not enlarging in your love of goodness.

 

Perhaps some wish that they were a shade liker the beasts and that pig-slop would indeed satisfy, and accordingly it would not be wrong to enjoy the pleasures of sin, and that God had made us for no higher ends than our own weak and depraved hearts aspire to. But our natures will not remake themselves. They are made for God, and nowhere else can we find fulfillment. Anywhere else is famine. One might as well feed straw to a lion.

 

MAT 4:4 "It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'"

 

Only God can tell us of Himself. Only He can tell us the finer things of His love and manifest Himself. We must be sure of His presence with us, and of His love. He alone must comfort us, and despite our sin, we must know we are dear to Him and that we always draw ourselves close to Him in our truest affection, and He conveys to us the inward assurance that we are His forevermore. How that must change a man!! And angels see it and rejoice.

 

You will get wiser and stronger only by doing right, whether forced or not; the prime, the one need is to do that, under whatever compulsion, till you can do it without compulsion.

 

But we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves. The prodigal is not going to repent or return because he is convinced that the father’s life is the only life. But we, after we return to God’s way after we’ve spent ourselves in another living come to find that living solely for God (to the heights of heaven) is the only way to go about it. Half-measures are no good to God. They might as well be left as zero-measures.

 

LUK 15:16 "And he was longing to fill his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.

 

LUK 15:17 "But when he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!

 

If we discover that there is something more than the world if enjoyment is going to last, we are not fully citizens of the world.

 

Though we behave foolishly as Christians, and certainly we did as unbelievers, we will find, and hopefully recognize, that after we have learned of as much of the enjoyment of this world as we can, and we discover that there is something more that we must have if enjoyment is going to last, then we are not fully citizens of this world. (I will not, nor do I have time to go into the different nuances of this in the believer and the unbeliever - just suffice that it is true.)

 

Those who feel themselves to be aliens of this world and then find a home in Christ, a home in another world, are thought to be the weak ones of the world by the ones of the world. The worldly who have become convinced that all happiness is somewhere here on earth label those seeking another world as weak. Yet, like so many things in their minds, this is backwards.

 

God the Holy Spirit convicts the world that there is something wrong with it. He convicts the world of sin (that they don’t believe in Christ the only Savior from sin), of righteousness (that the only righteous One ascended from this broken world), and judgment (the ruler of the world, the one who thinks it’s a-okay, has been judged). If there is something missing, that this world will never fill a man no matter how long he may live, then to be here forever would be misery, and so to be without God forever, without the father, would be misery. In short, through the Spirit’s ministry to the world, you feel your need for God - and the gospel is upon you.

 

The gospel is sent throughout the world to speak these everlasting words, to win back men to their true home and Father, to be the channel through which the whole fullness of God’s love is poured into famishing spirits, to refresh and invigorate with undying hope, to loosen the hands that are feebly clutching the foul husks, and fill them with bread that comes from heaven.

 

The return of the prodigal was not prompted by the highest of motives. It is funny that we often demand high motives from a person who lives in all things low. What do you expect from a man who has lived for his own pleasure, and is now lying starving? But who would be saved if he had to show repentance void of all selfishness?

 

If a person has tried everything else and finds nothing but disappointment, is the gospel withheld from his readiness until he attains higher ground? It is likely that in a majority of cases this is the path to salvation. If return to the Spirit’s ministry to the world, if the conviction is about believing in a Savior from sin, and if sin is perfectly fulfilling, then where is the conviction. Those who are convicted of sin have come to see that it lacks any lasting fulfillment. Don’t mistake it however, it is not only some of the world that sees this, but that the whole world sees this. What they disagree on is the solution. For many, the solution is to keep searching on earth, i.e., the husks will satisfy soon enough or we’ll find newer husk recipes that will really make them satisfying. For all the unbelievers, Jesus Christ is not the solution to the sinner’s disappointing life.

 

So often, we do not give the gospel a hearing until convinced that nothing else will serve our turn. The believer does this with his relationship with the word of God whenever he leaves it in pursuit of some worldly thing.

 

The wonderfully ironic thing is that the world sees this and sneers at conversion as if it were unreal, because it is so often the result of disappointment with the world.

 

The prodigal’s return is as close to compulsory as it could be, but yet it is not compulsory. He knows that his father will receive him back, even if it is as a servant.

 

He put himself within the reach of the father’s love, and that love received him without question. The father exulted in the opportunity to finally lavish his love upon his missing son, and held nothing of it back from the undeserving boy.

 

LUK 15:20 But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him.

 

LUK 15:21 "And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'

 

LUK 15:22 "But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet;

 

LUK 15:23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and be merry;

 

LUK 15:24 for this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.' And they began to be merry.

 

There is no inquiry as to what he had done or why he had come home, for that would only take away from the time of love; not to mention, it has nothing to do with the love of the father. Such love is miles above all sin and weakness, and so to invite inquiry is to only take away from that which overcomes it and is heavens above it. Here is his son before him in need, and that is enough for true love.

 

The first thing the father had for him when his searching eyes saw him was compassion. He ran to him and fell on his neck and kissed him. There was no hesitation. Christ is sure to bring that out. There was no pondering as to whether he should harden himself against the profligate son who had broken his heart last he saw him, all his sorrow passed away, his lost joy was home again.

 

The rags, the physical toll of wanton life, the slumped shoulders of shame, that would have disguised him from any other eye could not hide him from the father; the rags and misery that would have tempted others to spurn him as a hopeless, abandoned creature, only drew forth the father’s love.

 

There is no looking for signs of submission or regret on the son’s face, the father cares not for it. His only joy is that his son is home. There is no attempt to impress upon the son a sense of demerit, no stage given to the son for the showing of guilt or shame that would justify pardon. Simply, but beautifully, the reason for the father’s receiving him is that he loves him and the son is now within his reach.

 

Therefore, the father runs as if all the blessings of the moment were on his side, as if it were he that had won favors from the son.

 

No words can express the first welcome, the father cannot find language to utter the fullness of his heart; but in that eager embrace, in that kiss of love and peace, the prodigal knows himself a son still as surely and more vehemently loved by his father than if he had never sinned.

 

Anyone may have wasted the best years of their life in selfish gratification, without thought of serving God; indulged in sins that fill him with self-loathing; sunk to a state of heart that he would be ashamed to lay bare to the most generous and charitable of men; painfully feeling that he has nothing to offer God but the worthless dregs of a wasted life; and his repentance may not feel very noble as it is mostly motivated by personal, selfish desire for relief; but he only put himself into God’s hands as he is, and as the prodigal’s father was not hindered by the foul and sour rags of his son who came to him from among swine, so he will find in God no revulsion, but an immediate and hearty welcome that will cause him to rejoice in the Father’s love.

 

No one need fear that they will be put through some preparatory discipline, or charged with sin, or reminded of folly. He will only be met with God’s tenderest love.

 

Whatever God must give us to relieve us from fear, want, pain, and sadness, we must expect them.  

 

The father then does everything to assure the son of his immediate reinstatement as his son, - everything to relieve him from fear, from want, from pain, from sadness; and whatever God must give us, if we are to be delivered from the same sensations, we are warranted in expecting them. The father cannot do enough for the son. This is what God longs for, that we give Him the opportunity of blessing us, that we learn to trust His love, and knowing that all else has failed us, believe that it will prove sufficient.

 

The joy this brings to God and the change it brings in us who receive His love are marveled at by the angels. That same love, the time spent with the father for all the years of the prodigal’s life after he returns home, will grow him and change him into something that looks very much like the father. I believe that the angels watch all of these changes as well and rejoice in them.

 

God’s love received must do its work of growth and happiness.  

 

And because it is love we have to do with, no one need fear that having been received he will yet make no progress in all that constitutes man’s real growth and happiness; nor need any one suppose that they who are received are suffered to remain just what they were.

 

We have all been received by God because of love, and the love of God is not inactive nor ineffective, but does most certainly continue to watch over its objects, and to confer the highest gifts upon them. To be engulfed by the Father’s love is to eventually become like Him.

 

EPH 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;

 

EPH 5:2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

 

Whatever more complete severance from old habits and desires is needed, whatever persistence in well-doing, whatever deepening repentance, whatever growth in knowing and loving the Father is requisite - all this will most certainly be given.

 

And now in contrast to the joy of the father in his returning son, which represents the joy of God the Father to any returning believer or gospel believing unbeliever, our Lord sets the cold-hearted and jealous older brother, who represents the Pharisees who are listening.

 

LUK 15:1 Now all the tax-gatherers and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.

 

LUK 15:2 And both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."

 

Jesus justifies His own actions by receiving sinners and He condemns the objections of the Pharisees by holding up to them in this elder brother a mirror in which they may see their own hateful likeness.

 

LUK 15:25 "Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing.

 

LUK 15:26 "And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things might be.

 

LUK 15:27 "And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.'

 

LUK 15:28 "But he became angry, and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began entreating him.

 

LUK 15:29 "But he answered and said to his father, 'Look! For so many years I have been serving you, and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a kid, that I might be merry with my friends;

 

LUK 15:30 but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with harlots, you killed the fattened calf for him.'

 

LUK 15:31 "And he said to him, 'My child, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.

 

LUK 15:32 'But we had to be merry and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.' "

 

Pharisees about Jesus: “He receives sinners.”

Elder brother to father: “You receive a sinner.”

 

The Pharisees had murmured against the Lord, “This man receives sinners,” but Jesus shows them an elder brother saying to his father, “You receive a sinner,” and the Lord leaves them to draw their own conclusion.

 

There are a number of things in the description of the elder brother that brings out some cold, enslaved, grudging, and envious feature of his character. He was “in the fields,” too busy with his industrious and useful labors to share in his father’s anticipative watching, not perceiving from his meritorious point of view that it might have pleased the father greatly if he had gone after his brother in an effort to recover him, or at the least, to look earnestly for him to return. Why didn’t the brother rush upon his brother, fall on his neck, and kiss him soon after his father had. Instead, he makes an ostentatious performance about his own duties.

 

The elder could not see into his father’s heart so as to share his joy.

 

Any who do not see God the Father cannot share in His joy, and we see Him when we see Jesus Christ.

 

JOH 1:18 No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

 

The elder does not see that by comparing his own life of toil with his brother’s riotous living that he is betraying his desire for that riotous living in himself, which further betrays that his service to his father has been the heavy, unacceptable task of one who is not in sympathy with either the object of the work or him who set him to it. Thus many a man, after years of respectable living, disclose a heart alien from God, and out of sympathy with Him and His love; thus may he disclose that his whole past life has been unloving and self-seeking.

 

The father’s response to the elder brother is striking. We naturally expect a rebuke, but he is as patient and loving with him as he was with the younger. Yet there is a great lesson in it for the older, that if he heeds it, his Pharisaical life will become one of peace and rejoicing with God.

 

Why grudge your brother in this hour of gladness?

 

To the Pharisees the Lord is plainly asking them that if these tax-collectors, prostitutes, and other sinners living boldly in violation of God’s law are now turning to God, why don’t you rejoice? You think you have never left God. Let’s for the moment assume it is true. Then why wouldn’t you rejoice when those who you view as leaving God to spend their time in sinful living have returned to God?

 

When the clarity of this bursts through the phylacteries mounted on their foreheads, it is far better than telling right out that they are not with the heart of God the Father.

 

If the Pharisees don’t rejoice over sinners who are obviously returning to the Father, then how could they conclude that they are with the Father?

 

If the Father rejoices and you don’t, then you are not with Him - that is clear enough.

 

LUK 15:29 "But he answered and said to his father, 'Look! For so many years I have been serving you, and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a kid, that I might be merry with my friends;

 

LUK 15:30 but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with harlots, you killed the fattened calf for him.'

 

LUK 15:31 "And he said to him, 'My child, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.

 

LUK 15:32 'But we had to be merry and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.' "

 

Why hadn’t the father given the elder son a kid so that he could have a party with his friends? The father’s reply is again striking. “All that is mine is yours.”

 

“All that is mine is yours.”

“Yes, but I want a catered party also.”

 

The Pharisees, seeing themselves as closer to God and more blessed by God than anyone else, and this for many years, should have seen themselves as more blessed than the newly returned sinner. Putting words into the elder, he should have thought to himself, “I have always been home with our father. I have always had him and his land and his blessings. My brother has only just now returned and has only begun to enjoy these things that I have had in abundance. A fattened calf pales in comparison to all that I have with my father.”

 

It is similar to the parable of the vineyard workers when the ones who had worked all day received the same pay as the ones who worked only an hour. What they should have said, had they known the joy of working in God’s vineyard, “We are glad you received a denarius for your work, but we pity you that you only got to work for one hour when we have enjoyed the Lord’s fields all day.”

 

Why was it not worth a fattened calf to the elder brother to be with his father day to day, sharing in his thoughts, his plans, his joys, and his prosperity? He betrays himself. He would rather be away from the work and free to do as he pleased, but under compulsion does he toil. Did any of the Pharisees listening catch this blessed truth. That they worked to earn salvation and blessing from God and did not see that salvation and blessings come from God by courtesy of grace, and to be blessed is to be near God, with Him, walking with Him, and sharing in His Person and purposes.

 

To be a partner with God and share in His life is the ultimate blessing.

 

All other things that mankind consider blessing in this life are worthless in comparison with it.

 

PSA 4:2

O sons of men, how long will my honor become a reproach?

How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception?

 

ISA 5:2

Then He expected it to produce good grapes,

But it produced only worthless ones.

 

GAL 4:7

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?

 

The elder brother made clear that he was doing his work as a slave, not doing the work for its own sake, nor for the father’s sake, but for reward. As we have seen many times in the word of God, the reward for doing God’s work is the work itself. If we do His work in search of something else, then it is ourselves whom we serve and not God.

 

There is sufficient Pharisaism in each of us to justify the application of this to ourselves.

 

Rather than point our fingers at Pharisees, let us be careful to look into the mirror of the word of God.

 

All who have long served God with care and diligence, and who have toiled and fought the good fight, and who see a penitent instantly enter into God’s joy will be tempted to some soreness over having a person who has not at all served God his whole life suddenly abreast of them. Once again, we have to remember this parable and the parable of the vineyard workers.

 

ROM 14:1 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.

 

ROM 15:1 Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.

 

ROM 15:2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.

 

And God’s plan for you has nuances that are shared by none other.

 

A man converted yesterday may be promoted in ways by God that you have never seen, and yet you have diligently served God for many years. God brings each of us to this mirror forcing us to answer the question: Is the work my reward or is there something else I am after?

 

PSA 73:13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure,

And washed my hands in innocence;

 

PSA 73:14 For I have been stricken all day long,

And chastened every morning.

 

(I encourage you to read this psalm slowly and deliberately on your own)

 

PSA 73:25 Whom have I in heaven but Thee?

And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth.

 

PSA 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail,

But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

 

PSA 73:27 For, behold, those who are far from Thee will perish;

Thou hast destroyed all those who are unfaithful to Thee.

 

PSA 73:28 But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;

I have made the Lord God my refuge,

That I may tell of all Thy works.

 

Perhaps you have had neither riotous living nor the fatted calf. You have gone among the abandoned and neglected, and striven to enlighten and lift them; you have done violence to your own feelings that you might be helpful to others; and, so far as you can see, nothing has come of it. But another man, newly converted, who is so far, untaught and immature has the immediate joy of winning souls to God. All of this may be in God’s grand design to show you that it is not your service that wins God’s love; that His love has been with you since the beginning and your acceptance of it, like a child from a father, will make all that has seemed to you grievous to be light and happy.

 

I stress that God’s love has to be revealed to you by His word and by actual work in your life.

 

This reveals to us who love and serve God that there are ever so many dangers to us. We must remain alert and awake every single day. I wouldn’t say that there is “never” a dull moment in the plan of God, but any dullness is very short-lived.

 

Take heart in the words that are true of you - “Son, I am ever with you, and all that I have is yours.” This actually wasn’t true of the Pharisees, but if you are a believer in Christ, it is true of you. Find your joy in God’s presence and love alone, and you will lose all thoughts of reward.

 

The angels will see this and rejoice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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