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For Prodigals Only: If you are a prodigal, read this.

Updated on April 14, 2015

By Harold Markham

I. God extends mercy to us rebels (15:11–16).

When we are…

A. Living as if God did not exist (vv.11–12).

The prodigal wanted to live as if his father had died and passed on the inheritance. "Dad, I can't wait for you to die. I want the money now." Many times we live like God is not omnipresent and omniscient but even in this God is merciful and holds back what we deserve.

B. Wasting our lives (vv.13-14).

The prodigal spent all that he was given to indulge his flesh and wasted it all. In many ways we are guilty of wasting the skills, abilities and talents that God has entrusted us with in pursuit of wicked evil idolatrous things.

C. Embracing shame (vv.15–16).

The end of the prodigal's path was the shame of embracing the unclean pigs and desiring the very things on which they fed. Living our lives independently as if God did not exist causes us tolerate, embrace and ultimately promote things that are ungodly-- all the while thinking they are fun and fine. The end of that path is shame, pain, emptiness and ruin. Lot vexed his righteous soul in Sodom yet God in Mercy delivered him from the destruction of the city. Beloved, are you embracing shame? God, even now, extends His mercy.


“The combination of foolishness and uncontrollable events brought the prodigal low enough to realize his condition.”

II. God providentially works to change the rebel’s will (15:14-20a).

Providence allowed him to…

A. Think properly about his situation (v. 17) resulting in repentance (15:18b–19).

What he could not wait to do and enjoyed became a chain that enslaved and ruined him. His hunger and desperate plight allowed him to see himself humbly and realistically. At times God allows us to crash and burn in our sinful pursuits so that we understand the horrific nature of our sin. As a result we, begin to think differently about our sin and our situation resulting in repentance.

B. Think properly concerning the Father (15:18–19) resulting in returning (15:20a).

At one time this young man could not wait for his father to die, now he realizes that the servants of his father are better off than himself. With his thinking about his condition transformed, the prodigal does a 180 degree turn and humbly sets forth to enlist as a servant of his loving father.

III. God reconciles the repentant rebel (15:20-32).

A. God works with the prodigal (vv.20-24).

1. He extends Himself towards the lost (v.20).
  • He seeks (v.20b). Notice how the father here seeks ofr his son every day and sees him a long ways away.

  • He shames Himself (v.20c). Just by running to meet the son, the old patriarch brings shame on himself and acts in an undignified manner-- motivated by love for his son. In the same way God brought shame on Himself in the person of Christ who took our sins upon Himself on the cross.
2. He receives the penitent (vv.20d–21):
  • He embraces him (v.20d). Love did not turn the repentant away, but embraced the son, Now that he had repented and turned from Far Away Country the father is able to demonstrate his love, acceptance and forgiveness.

  • He kisses him (v.20e). The kiss was a sign of endearment and relation. This was the father's dear child, He did not demand.

3. God graces the repentant (vv.22-24).

  • With honor—robe (v.22a).
  • With son-ship—ring, sandals (v.22b). The father does not treat the son like a servant, but pulls him back into the family-- forgiven, restored, received and loved.
  • With celebration—dead now alive; lost now found (vv. 23-24).

B. God works with the legalist (vv.25-32).

The older son has not really been focused on until this section. He had been in action faithful to the the father's business until it goes in a direction that humbles him. He is proud of his work and believes he is entitled to more than he has.As a result he becomes a party recluse boycotting the father's joy. The father notices his absence and...

1. He seeks him out (28a).

The older son sulks because the younger is warmly embraced by dad. The father equally concerned for this son seeks him out and pursues the relationship.
2. He pleads with him (28b).

Rejoice because your brother is alive and restored! The older son can only see his brother's ill and maintains his unloving pseudo self-righteousness.
3. He explains his relationship (31-32).

Even so the son rejects his dad's words, will and wisdom. What happens next is very unusual. The lord stops the story before it is complete. The narrative about this brother is somewhat unfinished. Dr. MacArthur gives the ending of the story in the video below.

The Ending By John MacArthur

About the Author

Harold Markham is the host of the ER Podcast. He studied to be a pastor and holds degrees in Bible, pulpit speech as well as a Masters in Biblical studies.Click here for more articles by Harold Markham.

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