Ed Alexander - Salem Gospel Meeting, Oregon - February 9, 2005

I want to speak about that parable that we were just singing about, found in the 15th chapter of Luke.  It is often called the parable of the prodigal son but that is not what Jesus called it.  Jesus called it the parable of the two sons.  I think that sometimes we forget that this story is actually a story about two sons.  We read three parables in the first part of this chapter and they all have a similar but slightly different meaning.  The first is the parable of the 100 sheep and the one that was lost.  The second was the parable of the 10 coins and the one that was lost.  Then the third was the story of the two sons and the one that was lost.  My first companion used to speak of these three at the same time and he would say, and I have always enjoyed this thought, the sheep was lost and he knew that he was lost but did not know how to get home.  The coin was lost but didn't know that it was lost and wasn't worried about it.  The son was lost and knew that he was lost and he knew how to get home.  All sinners can be found in one of those three classes, those that are lost and know that they are lost but don't know the way home, those that are lost and don't know that they are lost and they are very happy where they are.  You know, a coin is just as happy in the gutter as it is in the pocket but it doesn't have the value in the gutter that it does in the pocket, it doesn't have the usefulness.  The sheep is not content on the mountain as it is in the fold, and it is not as safe and it is not as useful. 


The son that we are going to talk about tonight, was the useful one because he knew where home was, he knew how to get there, and the decision was entirely up to him.  Starting with verse 11, "And He, Jesus, said, 'A certain man had two sons, and 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.  And 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.  And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.  And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.  And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.  And 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!"'"  Will stop right there for now. 


Maybe we could say that that is the first half of the story.  I think that we can all picture this.  In those days, the younger son didn't have as large a portion of the inheritance as the older son.  The land typically was passed on to the oldest son and then the smaller portion was given to the sons that followed.  I think that in those days it was pretty much like it is today and that is that you get your inheritance when the parents die.  It seems, maybe we could say, a little bit presumptuous for a son to say to dad, "Dad I would like to have my share of the inheritance right now because I am leaving."  That is not done and that is because nobody deserves an inheritance.  Nobody earns an inheritance.  An inheritance is always something that is given by the parents or the grandparents or the great grandparents, whoever it might be that has worked for it, and they in their kindness have passed it on to the following generations.  Nobody earns an inheritance.  Nobody has the right to say, "Give me my inheritance today."  No, that comes after the parents are gone.  But anyway, he said, "Give me my share now."  You know, I wonder if it was partly because of the attitude of the older brother.  I was just thinking about that today when reading the attitude of the older brother.  It certainly wasn't because of the attitude of the father.  Anyway, he got everything together and he left.  Prospects were rosy and he headed out to try out his wings.  I am sure that he thought that he had the world by the tail and as long as he had money, he did.  We have all probably found that there is a class of people that is very common in the world, they are friends as long as you have something to give.  When it says that he wasted his money in riotous living, I am sure that there were plenty of people there to help him waste it because it would not have been much fun to do it alone. 


Then there came a day when the money ran out.  Then notice what it said, "No man gave to him."  He had been giving to others but no man gave to him.  In the world, that is just typical, it will take everything that we have and there are lots of the so-called friends out there in the world, that will be your friend as long as you have to give to them, or as long as they can get some benefit from your life.  When they find that they can squeeze no more juice out of your life, that type of friend will never respond.  So, then he had to start fending for himself and it says that he went and joined himself to a man of that country and the man put him to work feeding pigs. 


Now remember, this was a Jewish boy and the Jews had nothing to do with pigs.  In fact, a good Jew would have had nothing to do with pigs because pigs are only good for one thing and that is to eat.  You cannot plow with a pig, they do not make a good watchdog, you cannot ride them, they are not good for anything else except to produce more pigs and to produce food.  So, if you can't eat them, there is no point in having them.  He would not have grown up around hogs.  It says that he would fain, or he would love, to have filled his belly with the husks that the swine were eating.  What do you think of when you think of husks?  Probably the same thing that I do, corn husks, but that is not what this is talking about.  What we call corn was not known about in the old world at this time.  It makes it very clear in some other English Bibles and it is also very clear in the Spanish Bible, that what they were feeding pigs was, and you probably don't have carob trees around here since it is a desert plant, maybe you have tasted carob, it is kind of a substitute for chocolate.  They have a long pod about 6 to 8 inches long, a seed pod.  That is where the flavoring comes from and that is what they feed to the hogs.  It has maybe six or seven large seeds in it about the size of a lima bean.  They are hard and you do not eat them, but you can eat the husks.  It is pretty pithy and it tastes a little bit like chocolate but it is not something that you would want to make the mainstay of your diet.  It says that he would have been happy if he could have filled himself with that but he couldn't because apparently, the boss would not let him.  The boss didn't tell him to go ahead and eat all that he wanted. If the boss had told him that he could have all that he wanted, it would not say that he would have loved or fained to filled his belly, so he was still hungry.  Here he was, feeding the hogs and not even able to satisfy his own hunger with the things that he was feeding to the hogs.  I just wonder if he didn't suddenly just stop and think to himself, "I never would have believed that it would come to this."  That is what happens when we choose our own course in life.  That is what happens when we decided that we are going to take our portion and do whatever we want with it.  We will always find ourselves in a state of poverty. 


A few years ago it just dawned on me, this very simple little statement, there is no such thing as a happy rebel.  There is no such thing as a happy rebel, ever, any where.  It doesn't matter with whatever it has to do, with children in the home or adults in society or children of God.  It really doesn't make any difference, there really is no such thing as a happy rebel.  Life promised this man so much and it didn't take very long for him to be left empty-handed.  Then the whole key to this story is that one little statement, "he came to himself and he thought."  That was the beginning of the miracle.  That is the beginning of every story of salvation, and the beginning of every story of repentance, just this simple thing, we come to the end of ourselves.  He just thought to himself, this is crazy, the hired hands at home have more to eat and are satisfied and here I am, hungry and filthy, so he thought.  He had spent his inheritance.  He had no more right to the inheritance of the family.  He knew that, so he said, "Now I have no more right as a son.  I cannot go back and demand the place of a son because I have already spent my inheritance, but he knew that even the hired servants had it better than he had."  So he thought, "I will just go home and I will say, 'Dad just give me a job.'  Just make me a hired servant, that is all that I am asking.  Just give me a job and I will be happy."  You know, repentance begins in the heart and he knew that he couldn't go home and just kind of slide in like everything was okay.  That was not going to work because everything was not okay.  He had not left the home with good feelings and he knew that.  He thought, "What I'll do is just be honest.  I will just go home and I will say, 'Father I have sinned.  I blew it and I know it.  If you will just take me in and make me as a hired hand, I will be happy.'"  He had that all set, he had settled that, so he started home.  It says, while he was a great way off, his father saw him. 


You will notice that the father never went to seek him out while he was still in that other land and that was because the father knew that repentance has to come from the heart.  It would have done no good for father to go and try to persuade him to come home.  It had to come from him.  As soon as the father saw him coming home, and you can just picture him coming home with his tail between his legs, so to speak.  I am sure that he was not striding home with the attitude and the gait that he had when he left.  I'm sure that he looked lots different.  He came home and his father ran out to meet him.  He threw his arms around him and gave him a hug and kissed him.  Then he started to tell his story and his father wasn't listening.  His father interrupted him and told one of the servants to go back and kill the fatted calf because our son who has been gone and is home again.  I just love that story because it is a beautiful picture of the response on the part of God to the spirit of repentance on the part of humanity.  In these earlier parables Jesus said, "There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth," then He went on to tell this story.


Maybe I'll just tell you, just quickly a little story of one of my own special memories of my own rearing.  My Dad, I hesitate to say that he was strict but in a sense when he told us to do something, he expected it done.  He did not micromanage our lives at all, and in fact we were given a lot of responsibility as children for our own decisions.  When dad told us something to do, it was expected that we did it and Dad never threatened and he did not put up with a whole lot of foolishness.  When I was 16, this one night Dad had bought a brand new Ford pickup, and in our home new vehicles were not very common.  Dad asked me to take the garbage to the dump which was about a mile and half way.  This was in the pre-environmental days when the local dump was just a cliff that you dumped things over.  It was a winter night and pouring down rain, I thought, "Ha, I get to take the garbage to the dump," so I jumped into the brand new truck and went.  I backed up to the edge of the cliff and I dumped the garbage then I thought that I would punch it.  Well, I did.  The road was slick and the truck spun out and the next thing that I knew the back end of the pickup was over the cliff.  The pickup was teetering on the edge and I was one sick boy.  Here was this brand new truck balancing on the edge of the cliff and it was pouring down rain, dark as pitch and I was about a mile and a half from home.  All of the fun had suddenly gone out of life.  There was nothing to do but start walking home and, of course, Mom and Dad had gotten worried because it was taking me longer than it should have.  Somewhere in the night we passed each other, Dad in the car and me walking home in the rain.  I didn't see him and he didn't see me.  So I got home and Dad was not there.  Mom was there and very quiet.  I stood by the fire to warm up a little bit.  Then Dad came back in the door and I just knew that I was in trouble.  You know what?  All he said was, "Let's go pull it out."  He had gotten to the dump and found the pickup hanging over the cliff and no Ed around.  I think that he saw by the expression on my face that it really probably wasn't necessary to rub it in any further.  We went back and I got in the car and he got in the pickup and we pulled it back up on the road and we went home.  I expected a thorough dressing down.  You know, until his dying day I never heard another word about that, never.  I think it was because he saw that it wasn't necessary, that I had learned my lesson and any further correction was unnecessary. 


I just like to think of that, how that would have been that day when that young man came home.  I can picture very well the feeling that he had.  The father saw that further correction was not necessary, all he needed was just to be warmly welcomed back into the home.  That is the love of our Father.  He does not change his truth for anyone but when we are willing and we are humbled and when we repent, there is no hesitation on His part to welcomed us home.