IN the fifteenth chapter of Luke, our Lord gives the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. It has been pointed out that the coin was lost and did not know it was lost; the sheep was lost, knew it was lost, but did not know the way home; while the prodigal was lost, knew he was lost, and knew the way home.
The lost sheep illustrates our Lord’s concern for the straying soul. The lost coin illustrates the joy “in the presence of the angels” among the redeemed over one sinner recovered.
Have you noticed how many things the prodigal “came to” before he came to himself? He came to his father, to the far country, to riotous living, to want, to degradation—all before he came to himself. Sin is a state of departure from God, a spending state, a wanting state. The famine always follows the far country.
This youngster didn’t know when he left home that he was headed for a hogpen. He started for pleasure and ended in the pigsty! And what degradation it was for a Jew to be forced to feed hogs!
But he came to himself. The longest road in life is usually the road to one’s own self. We come to everything else first. We do everything possible to avoid meeting “old number 1.” The jails, asylums, hospitals are filled with people trying to get away from themselves. But around some corner we must run into ourselves.
The prodigal came first to consideration: “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” He realized that he was in a dissatisfied state: “He would fain have filled himself.” He was in a disappointed state: “No man gave unto him.” He was in a dead state: “This my son was dead.” He was in a demented state—for if he “came” to himself he must have been “beside” himself.
He came to conviction: “I have sinned.” Others in the Bible have said that, but only David and the prodigal really repented. He came to a decision: “I will arise and go to my father.” He did something about it. He could have sat among the hogs the rest of his life feeling sorry, but he decided and then acted upon it: he arose and came home. He made confession in all humility and was willing to be made a hired servant. “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou will not despise.”
So he came home, and “when he was yet a great way off his father saw him.” The prodigal did not even finish the speech he had prepared. He was restored and reinstated. The robe speaks of the garments of Christ’s righteousness, the ring of our adoption, the shoes of sonship (for slaves went barefoot), the fatted calf of the rich satisfactions of the gospel. “They began to be merry.” We do not read that it stopped. There is joy over the sinner come home, and it goes on through all eternity! Take care that you are not a sour, Pharisaic older brother who grows bitter over the joyous delights of others when sinners come home to God.