On the Prodigal Son

And he 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! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

Luke 15:11-24

There is a kind of man who wishes to receive his “portion” from the Father in heaven.[1] This portion is not what it ought to be, however. For the portion should be the Father Himself, as Scripture declares, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.”[2] The prodigal desires his portion to be not of God, but “of the goods;” Not of the Father, but of freedom from the Father. And when we desire to be free from the Father, we have fallen. And when we have fallen from that which is heavenly, the things we receive become things that fall to us. For the Scriptures say these goods “falleth to me.” And goods which fall to us are not goods, but evils.

However, even that which is evil becomes goods by God’s Divine Providence. Though we might spend our inheritance, that is, give away our virtues and everything of value within us, there will come a famine within us. A famine neither of bread nor thirst for water, nor anything regarding the belly, “but of hearing the words of the Lord.”[3] A famine of the Bread of Life and the Living Water.[4] It is in these moments, after a broken spirit drieth the bones,[5] when we begin to be in want of Heavenly Manna and water from the Rock of offense.[6] However, the prodigal must reach the bottom before his return. As the apostle Paul says, there is a kind of man which “must be delivered unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”[7] The prodigal is sent, by way of famine, to the “citizen of that country,” that is, the devil, to feed his swine.[8] For the devil has no sheep, he has only swine who are sustained by they whose bellies have become a dry place. Only when man becomes emptied of all heavenly bread and living water, and only when he becomes swept of all love and garnished with pride, can he become as swine: a vessel of demons.[9] For the Word says, “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he finds it empty, swept, and garnished. Then he goes, takes with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there.”[10]

And when we have come to ourselves after being intoxicated by the wiles of the devil and living among the swine of this world, and having our faces sink into the feeding trough about to die of starvation, we say to our old man (that is, the former man of our flesh), “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good.”[11] It is in this moment when we say “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.”[12] It is in this moment when the Lord sends his angelic servants, those angels who rejoice and are made merry when one sinner repents,[13] to clothe us with the best robe, that is, Christ: our wedding garment of divine love.[14] And as Pharaoh put his ring on Joseph’s hand,[15] the Lord lets us share in His own kingdom and dominion. For as the prophet Daniel says, “the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” And the servants of the Heavenly Father will give us those shoes we are not worthy to bear,[16] having a latchet we are not worthy to unloose.[17] And afterwards we are given the blood of the fatted calf of the Gospel, and are purged with the words “This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.”[18] And after we eat the words of the Word, we are eternally filled and are finally made merry.

[1] Luke 15:12.

[2] Psalm 73:25-26.

[3] Amos 8:11.

[4] John 4:10-11, 6:35, 7:37-38.

[5] Proverbs 17:22.

[6] John 6:58, 1 Corinthians 10:4, 1 Peter 2:8.

[7] 1 Corinthians 5:5.

[8] Luke 15:15.

[9] Cf. Matthew 8:31; Mark 5:12.

[10] Matthew 12:43-45a.

[11] Genesis 50:20a.

[12] Luke 15:18-19.

[13] Luke 15:10.

[14] Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:27; Matthew 22:11-14;

[15] Genesis 41:42.

[16] Cf. Matthew 3:11.

[17] Cf. John 1:27.

[18] Hebrews 9:20.

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