by Lasserre Bradley, Jr. It’s a sad day when a young person is restless at home and decides to leave for the wrong reasons. They express frustration with the rules of the house, they feel confined and are sure that, being free to make their own choices, they are bound to find happiness.
We are not given any background information about the prodigal in Luke 15, yet we cannot help but believe that things had not been right in the young man’s life for some time.
It was probably not an overnight decision to ask the father for his inheritance. He may well have been thinking for a while about how much better he felt his life would be if he was out on his own. He would be his own person. He wouldn’t have to answer to anybody. He could fully devote himself to finding pleasure. In a culture where the focus is on self-esteem, self-confidence and self-fulfillment, many young people today dream of the time they will be on their own to fully pursue their self interest. Some are very straight forward and declare, “I just don’t like having someone telling me what to do.” Although these young people may think that declaring one’s independence sounds exciting, they are unaware of where the pursuit of such self-centered goals will ultimately take them.
“I Did It My Way,” the song made famous by Frank Sinatra, has become the theme song of many a life. But the very theme of the song implies there is little regard for counsel and no thought of God. Solomon reminds us, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death”14:12). The way may be very appealing, many may be traveling it; but any way without God leads to destruction. The question was asked by the psalmist “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his away?” And then the answer is given, “by taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Psalm 119:9). (Proverbs
Frequently the young man or woman goes his or her own way, taking no heed to warnings of the pitfalls along the road and the devastation at the end. This inborn sinful inclination is clearly described in the Scriptures. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6a). According to man’s depraved condition he does not fear God or seek God.
One sinner turns one way and the next another, but it is always his “own way.”
Instruction is given and counsel is provided in God’s Word. “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck. My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not”(Proverbs 1:8-10). But when the heart is hard and the will is stubborn, the counsel falls on deaf ears. Alexander Whyte describes it like this: “This young man was at one time as innocent of this sin, and was as loyal to his father and mother, as are any of your sons or mine. But one fatal day, some bad man told him a bad story. Someone whispered to his heart some of the evil secrets of Satan’s kingdom. And then there was first the sinful knowledge. Next there arose out of that a sinful imagination, a picture of the sin, and then the young sinner’s heart took a secret delight in the knowledge and the vision. Finally he sought for an opportunity; the opportunity soon came. A bad companion will do it. A bad book will do it. A bad picture will do it. The very classics themselves will sometimes do it.
It is being done every day in our workshops, and in our schools, and in our colleges. A bad story will do it.A bad song will do it. A bad jest will do it. Indeed, it is the very air that our sons breathe. It is the very bread they eat. It is the very water they drink. They cannot be in this world and clean escape it.”
When the prodigal left home with plenty of money in his pocket; he no doubt felt great. He could stay at the finest inns and eat the best of foods. It was easy to make friends with those who pursued the same lifestyle. He may have reasoned that things were working out so well that he should have made his move a long time ago. If you had asked him how he was doing, the answer would probably have been “Great! I couldn’t be happier. I’m doing what I want to do.” But as is often the case with those who are handed a large sum of money, he did not consider that it would finally run out and there was not any more falling out of the sky. It was a rude awakening when he realized he was broke and hungry. He had lost his home, he had lost his money, he had lost his friends. Now he faces a crisis. The “good times” are over, his popularity is gone, his life is empty. He could not envision such an outcome when he was leaving home. But now reality sets in. He knows he must work to survive. But he is forced to take the most despised of all jobs, feeding the swine. How humiliating! Yes, he thought he knew it all, he was confident he could handle whatever came his way. But he failed! Now while working at his new job, and feeling to be in desperate straights, it says “And he came to himself.”
This tells us that when he was leaving home, when he was wasting his money, when he was indulging every sinful desire; he thought he had it all together when actually he was walking in darkness and deceiving himself.
“The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts” (Psalm 1:4).
Multitudes today are like Pharaoh who asked, “Who is the Lord that I should obey Him?” They set their goals, they make their plans and indeed they “enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season,” but the day of trouble comes. Like the prodigal, those who have followed a sinful course often find themselves in the midst of chaos. Oh, yes, there are those who do prosper by worldly standards but the fact is “their foot shall slide in due time”(Deuteronomy 32:35). If the day of calamity does not fall here, the ungodly will face judgment in the final day. When the young man was going away he had no interest in the Father’s house. If you had talked to him when he had money in his pocket and tried to tell him how great a feast in the Father’s house would be, he had no interest. It was only when he exhausted all his resources and “came to himself” that he began to think about the Father and the Father’s house, and then that is where he wanted to go.
It’s good to know that there is a place in the Father’s house for the weary and a place at his table for the hungry. Sin brings defeat and ultimate despair, but by grace there is hope for a new beginning.
© Baptist Bible Hour
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