By Don Umphrey
(with scriptural citations from the NIV)
Do you ever wrestle with your past because of difficulties in forgiving yourself?
I do. It is based mostly on things I did during my decade of drunkenness. Then rearing its ugly head from time to time is the bigger question, “How could God forgive me?”
Today, we’ll look at the Story of the Lost Son from the perspective Jesus gave of the father, His Father—Father God.
Based on the way the son treated his father before departing, the son deserved less than a chilly reception upon arriving home in a tattered condition.
Father Still Hopeful
That’s not the way God works. The father in this story had been looking in the distance with hopes that his son would soon appear.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).
To show the feelings and forgiveness of the father, author Robert R. Brown told the story of an artist commissioned to paint his interpretation of the lost son returning.
In Brown’s words: “The artist completed the work and showed it to a Christian friend who protested, ‘You have it all wrong. The father didn’t wait patiently by the gate. He rushed forward enthusiastically to meet his son’.”
“The artist returned to his studio and in a few weeks presented another canvas. In the new picture the father was running happily to throw his arms around the wayward boy, but there was an extra touch that showed how well the artist had grasped the point. The hurrying father was wearing mismatched shoes. In his eagerness to reach his son, he hadn’t noticed that the first ones at hand did not match.” (1)
Recall that while the son was preparing to leave the pigpen, he planned to say this to his father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants” (Luke 15:18).
Now compare that above quotation with what the son actually said to his father upon arriving home. “Father I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Luke 15:21).
What is the difference?
After hearing, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son,” the father had heard enough and took immediate action to show his love and forgiveness of the son. As found in Luke 15:22, the father gave him the best robe, a ring and sandals. Each of these things had special significance.
Symbols of Forgiveness
The robe replaced the tattered and soiled clothes the son was wearing after his sojourn to the far country. “It was a garment that symbolizes importance, high worth, and a mark of dignity. It is worn by kings, priests, and persons of rank.” (2)
The meaning for us: “The robe given to the son represented the salvation received from Christ. It is His righteousness, His perfection that covers our sins. We’re no longer subjects of shame or guilt. Because we accept Christ as our savior, He does just that. He saves us from ourselves.” (3)
“The ring is the granting of authority to the wearer. Whoever has such a ring has the power of attorney for his master. He has authority, his master’s authority, to make decisions and to help the master govern his realm. And when the father places the ring on the hand of his son, he not only welcomes him back home as a son, as was indicated by the robe, but he welcomes him back to responsibility and authority.” (4)
The meaning for us: “When we come to Christ, we do receive an identity. We are no longer children of flesh and blood, but children of God, through the gift of the Holy Spirit that connects us to Him.” (5)
“To understand the meaning of the sandals we have to go back to verse 15, where it says the prodigal son “hired himself out to a citizen of that country.” This meant that he agreed to be taken into slavery. Once a slave, his sandals would be taken from him to prevent him from running away.” (6) The father giving him sandals meant he was not a servant or a slave
The meaning for us: “When we are living without God, we are slaves. Why? Because there really is no freedom found without Him. Living without Christ as your savior means that you are living on your own merits – under the condemnation you bring upon yourself through sin. There’s no freedom in following sin. That road leads to death. (7)
What Does Prodigal Mean?
The Lost Son is often called The Prodigal Son. Synonyms for prodigal are wasteful, reckless, dissolute, and uncontrolled. All of these words apply to my past as a drunkard.
Through the grace of God, it has been 48 years since my last drink containing alcohol in the parking lot of a mental hospital just before admitting myself. But despite the passage of more than four decades, I still have a very vivid memory of many regretful things I did in a decade of drinking.
I am grateful to review Jesus’ Parable of the Lost Son and the attitude and actions of Father God. It reminds me that I am forgiven of the many sins that led me to my own pigpen. I have received of the grace of God through His son, Jesus Christ.
I hope this post has a similar impact on you.
1. Robert R. Brown, Alive Again, Morehouse-Barlow Co., New York, 1964, p. 81.
2. The Prodigal Son and the Best Robe, otweb.com.
© 2023 by Don Umphrey
“New International Version” and “NIV” are registered trademarks of Biblica, Inc. Used by permission.
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