By Steven Merten
All biblical quotes are from the New American Bible.
All bolding, color and underlining of scriptural quotes have been added.
Jesus' words are in red. Bible Abbreviations
God has a desire to be loved. The only way for God to be loved is for someone to have the option not to love. God created man and gave man two options. Man could do things God's way or man could choose not to do things God's way. God's will is that man put love, service and honor for God in his heart. It is up to men to choose to serve God's will over their own will. Many reject God's will and choose their own selfish will instead.
Through Adam we have all chosen not to serve God to a certain degree. Through free will we, Adam's children, choose to either serve God now or choose to not serve God. We can choose when we will serve and when we will not serve. Like the Israelite people, we can serve, then choose not to serve and then choose to serve again as many times as we choose. Man is also free to try to disguise his disloyalty to God to give the illusion that he is a legitimate servant of God. Man has free will to choose whether or not he serves God.
The prodigal son story is the most prominent biblical story of a sinner who repents. Christ displays the forgiving relationship between God and mankind. The parable also teaches what it means to truly love, repent and serve God. The parable is of two brothers and their free choices to will of the Father. God is represented as the father and master landowner. The master's sons represent God's children on earth. To me there are many points that Christ covers in the parable. I hope that you will reread the parable from the Bible so that it is fresh in your mind before reading on.
As God loves all of us He has allowed us to choose whether or not we choose to love Him back. As the father in the story loved both his sons he could not force them to love him back. Still he desired his children's love more than anything. Love is something that has to be given of a free will choice. Love cannot come through force.
LUK 15:1 Parable of divine Mercy. The prodigal son.
There came a time when the prodigal son wished to follow his own desires and not the father's will. The father allowed the son to choose his path in life for himself. The father did not force the son to do what he ordered him to do. How could the father consider the son's obedience as a child's love unless the child has the option to disobey? What good is love if it is not given un-restrictively? So the father did not stop the son from leaving his life-giving home. The son went off to a life of sin and wantonness. The son did anything he wanted to do with the worldly gifts he was born into. The son chose to follow not his father's will, but his own selfish will.
Like a repentant sinner, the prodigal son then realizes that his conduct has cost him his relationship with his father and his life. His father is not there to rescue him from death. He now comes to the realization of what his sins and rebellion to his father's commands, have cost him. After realizing and admitting what he has done he throws selfishness out of his heart. He now wishes nothing more than to humble himself to his father and serve his father. He realizes the only way to live is through his father's covenant of service.
NAB LUK 15:11Jesus said to them: "A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the estate that is coming to me.' So the father divided up the property. Some days later this younger son collected all his belongings and went off to a distant land, where he squandered his money on dissolute living."
NAB ISA 1:2Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth, for the LORD speaks: Sons have I raised and reared, but they have disowned me! An ox knows its owner, and an ass, its master's manager; But Israel does not know, my people has not understood. Ah! sinful nation, people laden with wickedness, evil race, corrupt children! They have forsaken the LORD, spurned the Holy One of Israel, apostatized.
NAB JER 10:20My tent is ruined, all its cords are severed. My sons have left me, they are no more: no one to pitch my tent, no one to raise its curtains.
NAB JER 2:19Your own wickedness chastises you, your own infidelities punish you. Know then, and see, how evil and bitter is your forsaking the LORD, your God, And showing no fear of me, says the LORD, the God of hosts. Long ago you broke your yoke, you tore off your bonds. I will not serve, you said. On every high hill, under every green tree, you gave yourself to harlotry. I had planted you, a choice vine of fully tested stock; How could you turn out obnoxious to me, a spurious vine? (HOS 9:15)
NAB BAR 4:11With joy I fostered them; but with mourning and lament I let them go. Let no one gloat over me, a widow, bereft of many: For the sins of my children I am left desolate, because they turned from the law of God, and did not acknowledge his statutes; In the ways of God's commandments they did not walk, nor did they tread the disciplined paths of his justice.So the prodigal son, like a repentant Israelite or Christian, decides to turn his heart back to the Father. The son now realize his unworthiness and drops to the ground crying out his desire to be a servant to the father. Where before he chose his selfish wills in his heart and refused to serve God, he now chooses his Father's will in his heart. The prodigal son knew that by returning to his father he would have to return to his father's ways. Living according to his father's orders, commands and laws was why he left in the first place. Freedom from God's justice is why men leave God in the first place. How do we return to our heavenly Father except by returning to His ways? We must choose to return to the ways of our Father's home. Thy kingdom come, God's will, must be done on earth as it is in heaven.
NAB LUK 15:17"Coming to his senses at last, he said: 'How many hired hands at my father's place have more than enough to eat, while here I am starving! I will break away and return to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against God and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son. Treat me like one of your hired hands.' With that he set off for his father's house."
NAB ROM 6:16You must realize that, when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are the slaves of the one you obey, whether yours is the slavery of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to justice. Thanks be to God, though once you were slaves of sin, you sincerely obeyed that rule of teaching which was imparted to you: freed from your sin, you became slaves of justice. (I use the following example from human affairs because of your weak human nature.) Just as formerly you enslaved your bodies to impurity and licentiousness for their degradation, make them now the servants of justice for their sanctification. When you were slaves to sin, you had freedom from justice. What benefit did you then enjoy? Things you are now ashamed of, all of them tending toward death. But now that you are freed from sin and have become slaves of God, your benefit is sanctification as you tend toward eternal life. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
NAB JER 11:4Listen to my voice and do all that I command you. Then you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
NAB MAL 3:7Since the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes, and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts.
NAB EZE 18:30Therefore I will judge you, house of Israel, each one according to his ways, says the LORD GOD. Turn and be converted from all your crimes, that they may be no cause of guilt for you. Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. Why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, says the LORD GOD. Return and live!
NAB EZE 33:12As for you, son of man, tell your countrymen: The virtue which man has practiced will not save him on the day that he sins; neither will the wickedness that a man has done bring about his downfall on the day that he turns from his wickedness (nor can the virtuous man, when he sins, remain alive). Though I say to the virtuous man that he shall surely live, if he then presumes on his virtue and does wrong, none of his virtuous deeds shall be remembered; because of the wrong he has done, he shall die. And though I say to the wicked man that he shall surely die, if he turns away from his sin and does what is right and just, giving back pledges, restoring stolen goods, living by the statutes that bring life, and doing no wrong, he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of the sins he committed shall be held against him; he has done what is right and just, he shall surely live. (ISA 43:25)
NAB MAT 12:41"At the judgment, the citizens of Nineveh will rise with the present and be the ones to condemn it. At the preaching of Jonah they reformed their lives; but you have a greater than Jonah here. (MAT 12:42)
NAB JER 7:5Only if you thoroughly reform your ways and your deeds; if each of you deals justly with his neighbor; if you no longer oppress the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood in this place, or follow strange gods to your own harm, will I remain with you in this place, in the land which I gave your fathers long ago and forever.
NAB JER 25:5Turn back, each of you, from your evil way and from your evil deeds; then you shall remain in the land which the LORD gave you and your fathers, from old and forever.
NAB JER 36:7Perhaps they will lay their supplication before the LORD and will all turn back from their evil way: for great is the fury of anger with which the LORD has threatened this people.
NAB JER 35:15I kept sending you all my servants the prophets, telling you to turn back, all of you, from your evil way; to reform your conduct, and not follow strange gods or serve them, if you would remain on the land which I gave you and your fathers; but you did not heed me or obey me.
NAB JER 8:5Why do these people rebel with obstinate resistance? Why do they cling to deceptive idols, refuse to turn back? I listen closely: they speak what is not true; No one repents of his wickedness, saying What have I done! Everyone keeps on running his course, like a steed dashing into battle. Even the stork in the air knows its seasons; Turtledove, swallow and thrush observe their time of return, But my people do not know the ordinance of the LORD.
NAB MAT 11:21"It will go ill with you, Chorazin! And just as ill with you, Bethsaida! If the miracles worked in you had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, they would have reformed in sackcloth and ashes long ago. I assure you, it will go easier for Tyre and Sidon than for you on the day of judgment. As for you, Capernaum, 'Are you to be exalted to the skies? You shall go down to the realm of death! If the miracles worked in you had taken place in Sodom, it would be standing today. I assure you, it will go easier for Sodom than for you on the day of judgment."
NAB JER 7:23This rather is what I commanded them: Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people. Walk in all the ways that I command you, so that you may prosper. But they obeyed not, nor did they pay heed. They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts and turned their backs, not their faces, to me. From the day that your fathers left the land of Egypt even to this day, I have sent you untiringly all my servants the prophets. Yet they have not obeyed me nor paid heed; they have stiffened their necks and done worse than their fathers.
Beware that you are not tempted into a common delusion of the prodigal son story. It is wicked men of deceit who use the prodigal son story to comfort themselves as they continue on in sin. They are men with no desires to change and serve, come to their senses, or return to the Father's ways. They only desire disobedience, non-service and hatred, but then the inheritance of God's Kingdom too. If the prodigal son could get the Kingdom by just showing up after a life of sin and hatred so will they, they think. These men do not understand the heart of the repentant sinner and his new desire to serve God rather than his old desire to get away with sin. It is this conversion of the heart of the prodigal which is the core to understanding Jesus’ ‘Prodigal son’ story. A true repentant loathes any concept, which allows men more hatred to God. Insincere men at the end of time disguised as the prodigal in order to take the Kingdom will be cast into hell by God who sees into men's hearts.
HOS 12:7 EZE 14:11 EZE 40:21-29 LAM 3:40 BAR 2:33-35 JER 4:1 JER 18:11 JER 26:3-6 JER 32:33-35 ISA 44:22 JER 5:3 JER 15:7 JER 25:7 JER 31 EZE 14:6-7 HOS 7:13-16 AMO 4:1-11 TOB 13:5-6
When we are in our deepest despair and no one on earth cares whether we live or die, is not God there? In the parable Christ shows us how the Father is always ready to forgive. God is ready at this moment and any moment to take us back, if we choose His ways. Is not God there ready to run out and kiss us on the neck when we return to serve Him? Christ tells us that God desires to forgive His children, if they return to His ways to serve Him. Christ's death on the cross is the extent that the Father wishes to forgive His children if they repent and return to serve Him.God desires with all His heart that His sons will return to serve Him. God is there to pull us out of our bondage to sin and death. What we have to do is to cast out our desire for sin, and reject our selfishness and pride and submit to serve the will of God. The way that we turn our hearts back to God is by turning our hearts away from sin. We must fill our hearts with love and a desire to serve the will of the Lord. We sinners must change our hearts. Where there is a desire to get away with sin, replace it with a desire to love, serve and obey. Where we cast off God as our Father and Master over us we must come to serve and obey His orders and His wills for us. We do not have to serve God perfectly, but we do have to serve Him with all our heart and all our strength.
NAB LUK 15:20"While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him and was deeply moved. He ran out to meet him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him."
NAB JER 3:19 Conditions for Forgiveness.I had thought: How I should like to treat you as sons, And give you a pleasant land, a heritage most beautiful among the nations! You would call me, My Father, I thought, and never cease following me. But like a woman faithless to her lover, even so have you been faithless to me, O house of Israel, says the LORD. A cry is heard on the heights! the plaintive weeping of Israel's children, Because they have perverted their ways and forgotten the LORD, their God. Return, rebellious children, and I will cure you of your rebelling. Here we are, we now come to you because you are the LORD, our God. Deceptive indeed are the hills, the thronging mountains; In the LORD, our God, alone is the salvation of Israel. The shame-god has devoured our fathers toil from our youth, Their sheep and their cattle, their sons and their daughters. Let us lie down in our shame, let our disgrace cover us, for we have sinned against the LORD, our God, From our youth to this day, we and our fathers also; we listened not to the voice of the LORD, our God.
NAB SIR 17:19 Appeal for a Return to God.But to the penitent he provides a way back, he encourages those who are losing hope! Return to the LORD and give up sin, pray to him and make your offenses few. Turn again to the Most High and away from sin, hate intensely what he loathes; Who in the nether world can glorify the Most High in place of the living who offer their praise? No more can the dead give praise than those who have never lived; they glorify the LORD who are alive and well. How great the mercy of the LORD, his forgiveness of those who return to him!
NAB MAT 23:37"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, murderess of prophets and stoner of those who were sent to you! How often have I yearned to gather your children, as a mother bird gathers her young under her wings, but you refused me. Recall the saying, You will find your temple deserted. I tell you, you will not see me from this time on until you declare, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
NAB JER 3:12Return, rebel Israel, says the LORD, I will not remain angry with you; For I am merciful, says the LORD, I will not continue my wrath forever. Only know your guilt: how you rebelled against the LORD, your God, How you ran hither and yon to strangers (under every green tree) and would not listen to my voice, says the LORD. Return, rebellious children, says the LORD, for I am you Master: I will take you, one from a city, two from a clan, and bring you to Zion.
NAB JOE 2:12Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.
NAB NEH 1:7Grievously have we offended you, not keeping the commandments, the statutes, and the ordinances which you committed to your servant Moses. But remember, I pray, the promise which you gave through Moses, your servant, when you said: Should you prove faithless, I will scatter you among the nations; but should you return to me and carefully keep my commandments, even though your outcasts have been driven to the farthest corner of the world, I will gather them from there, and bring them back to the place which I have chosen as the dwelling place for my name. They are your servants, your people, whom you freed by your great might and your strong hand, O LORD, may your ear be attentive to my prayer and that of all your willing servants who revere your name. Grant success to your servant this day, and let him find favor with this man for I was cupbearer to the king.
NAB ACT 3:19"Therefore, reform your lives! Turn to God, that your sins may be wiped away!"
NAB MAR 1:15Reform your lives and believe in the gospel!
NAB MAT 3:1When John the Baptizer made his appearance as a preacher in the desert of Judea, this was his theme: "Reform your lives! The reign of God is at hand." It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:"A herald's voice in the desert: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.'"They were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins.
NAB TOB 13:6When you turn back to him with all your heart, to do what is right before him, Then he will turn back to you, and no longer hide his face from you. So now consider what he has done for you, and praise him with full voice. Bless the LORD of righteousness, and exalt the King of ages. In the land of my exile I praise him, and show his power and majesty to a sinful nation. Turn back, you sinners! do the right before him: perhaps he may look with favor upon you and show you mercy. As for me, I exalt God, and my spirit rejoices in the King of heaven.
NAB BAR 4:28As your hearts have been disposed to stray from God, turn now ten times the more to seek him; For he who has brought disaster upon you will, in saving you, bring you back enduring joy.
NAB ZEC 1:2 Necessity of Conversion.The LORD was indeed angry with your fathers . . . and say to them: Thus says the LORD of hosts: Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. Be not like your fathers whom the former prophets warned: Thus says the LORD of hosts: Turn from your evil ways and from your wicked deeds. But they would not listen or pay attention to me, says the LORD. Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, can they live forever? But my words and my decrees, which I entrusted to my servants the prophets, did not these overtake your fathers? Then they repented and admitted: The LORD of hosts has treated us according to our ways and deeds, just as he had determined he would.
NAB DEU 4:29Yet there too you shall seek the LORD, your God; and you shall indeed find him when you search after him with your whole heart and your whole soul. In your distress, when all these things shall have come upon you, you shall finally return to the LORD, your God, and heed his voice. Since the LORD, your God, is a merciful God, he will not abandon and destroy you, nor forget the covenant which under oath he made with your fathers.
NAB PSA 116:3"The cords of death encompassed me; the snares of the nether world seized upon me; I fell into distress and sorrow, And I called upon the name of the LORD, O LORD, save my life! Gracious is the LORD and just; yes, our God is merciful. The LORD keeps the little ones; I was brought low, and he saved me. Return, O my soul, to your tranquility, for the LORD has been good to you. For he has freed my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from tumbling. I shall walk before the LORD in the lands of the living. I believed, even when I said, I am greatly afflicted ; I said in my alarm, No man is dependable. How shall I make a return to the LORD for all the good he has done for me? The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the name of the LORD; . . . ."
God loves all His sons and in order that they might love Him back He has given them all free will. Men can all choose to not love and not serve God. If they have a change of heart and choose to repent to serve, Christ's blood is there to allow them back into God's family. However, if the prodigal comes back to the Father with no sorrow, no love, no desire to now obey, no desire now to honor, and no intent to serve, but only to selfishly receive God's gift, he has no part of Christ's blood.
A prodigal who has no intent to serve is only fooling himself in thinking he has returned to the Father. Though his tongue speaks of closeness to the Father, his heart is still far away from the Father. It is the return of the heart, which the Father sees in the prodigal, and not a physical, verbal or ceremonial return. God listens to no voice, no thought wave, and he looks at no action, to see who has returned to Him. It is the heart through which God our Father and Jesus alone determine which prodigals have returned to Them.
The story talks about the heavenly Father rejoicing because one of His sons has turned his heart back to Him our God. The prodigal has come back with all his heart. The prodigal desires to love serve and honor his Father. Should this not be a time for celebration? When the one who was lost is now found, where there was death there is now life. Heavenly Father and reconciled son are now reunited in the land for possibly billions upon billions of years and beyond. Where God's son hated Him he now comes to love Him. Is this not a reason for the greatest of feasts, for the greatest of celebrations and the finest of clothing? Does not the Father rejoice every time one of His lost sheep comes back to love Him?The prodigal son realizes that there is nothing he can do to right his wrongs and past hatred. The prodigal knew the consequences of his disobedience well before the time of his leaving his Father. He realizes he has no right to be a son and only asks to be a servant. Christ uses a term meaning servant and Paul uses the term slave. On the prodigal's journey returning to the father he never is so vain as to glorify himself over other prodigal sons under the covenant nor his elder brother as now being a son of the father. The prodigal wishes now only to serve God with all his heart, mind, soul and strength. The prodigal turns from his sin and comes back to the Father not considering himself a son but on his knees as a servant. He knows that God desires loving servants and he begs God to grant him life as a humble servant.
NAB LUK 15:22"The father said to his servants: Quick! bring out the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. Take the fatted calf and kill it. Let us eat and celebrate because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life. He was lost and is found. Then the celebration began."
NAB LUK 15:4 Parable of Divine Mercy"Who among you, if he has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wasteland and follow the lost one until he finds it? And when he finds it, he puts it on his shoulders in jubilation. Once arrived home, he invites friends and neighbors in and says to them, Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep. I tell you, there will likewise be more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent. What woman, if she has ten silver pieces and loses one, does not light a lamp and sweep the house in a diligent search until she has retrieved what she lost? And when she finds it, she calls in her friends and neighbors to say, Rejoice with me! I have found the silver piece I lost. I tell you, there will be the same kind of joy before the angels of God over one repentant sinner."It is men who choose to be servants of God. It is Jesus, at the end of time, who will choose which servants will become God's eternally begotten sons.
NAB LUK 15:18"Father, I have sinned against God and against you, I no longer deserve to be called your son. Treat me like one of your hired hands. With that he set off for his father's house."
NAB LUK 18:13"But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.'"
NAB LUK 15:21"The son said to him, Father, I have sinned against God and against you; I no longer deserve to be called you son."
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