This article appeared in the February 1997 Tree of Life Magazine

The Loving Father

by

Peggy Pryor

 

Peggy Pryor is the author of the book A Walk of Purity: A Study of Baptisms. She and her husband, David, pastor a non-denominational church in Fayetteville, Tennessee which is just north of Huntsville, Alabama. She has been a student of Jewish roots for many years. She and her husband serve on the board of HaY'Did Ministries, and she was a speaker at the Passover Teaching Weekend April 18-20, l997 in Independence, KS. She has also had articles published in Messianic Jewish World newspaper.

Long ago and far away there lived a kind father with his two sons. The older son was diligent, trustworthy, and obedient. He was careful to do what ever his father instructed him to do. The younger son was carefree, self-assured, and interested in exploring the world.

From their youth, both sons had been taught responsibility for their actions, and the value of maintaining relationships. They were also instructed at great length in what pleased their father, and what was unpleasing to him.

One day the younger son goes to his father to ask for his portion of the inheritance. "I wish to convert my inheritance into cash so that I may move to a far country." This announcement by his youngest son breaks the father's heart and shatters the relationship between them.

"My son considers me dead. He no longer wants to be in partnership with me," thinks the father. "He is cutting himself off from all his roots and taking his destiny into his own hands. No one may manage their own destiny. He will be leaving the village of his birth, and all his family and friends. What ever will become of him? How selfish you are my son...so much rebellion in your heart," thinks the father, "Shall I honor or refuse his request," the father ponders.

The older son becoming aware of his younger brother's request realizes that soon everyone in the household, indeed, the whole village will know what he is asking of their father. The pain in our father's heart will be obvious for all to see. "I refuse to speak to my brother as a mediator. I will not intervene to reconcile my brother to our father. I will remain silent. It is not my fault that my brother is breaking our fathers heart. My brother will deserve what ever happens to him," thinks the older brother.

After much heart-wrenching pain, the father decides to honor his sons request. The younger son is so excited he quickly liquidates all his inherited assets. "I know that I have not waited for the best price," he thinks, "...but I'm in a hurry to be on my way. I know that I have a lot of living to do. I have missed out on so much being under the supervision of my older brother. I'm tired of him telling me what to do. I know that the village doesn't understand, but who cares what they think."

This story recorded in Luke 15:11-32 is familiar to most of us. We have heard many explanations as to the meaning Jesus (Yeshua) is conveying. Growing up in a conservative church, I heard the explanation as the younger son being a "backslider," repenting, then going home to find acceptance in His father's love. We were taught that the older brother becomes angry because his younger brother returns and is quickly welcomed back into the family.There is merit in this rendering, however I would like to share the "rest of the story."

Perhaps to receive a different perspective of the message Yeshua is giving in this parable, we should examine the audience He is addressing. They are of middle Eastern culture. They do not look at things the way we do in our Western culture of the 1990's. For them, respect of a relationship is of great value and to be maintained at all cost. Then, just as now, for one to receive an inheritance, another must die. The young man is tired of waiting for his father to die. He has decided to take matters into his own hands and ask for his portion now. He counts his father as dead, and their relationship without value.

Who is Yeshua speaking about in this parable? Who are the older and younger sons? At the time this parable is recorded in Luke a great event is about to happen. It is fifty days after the resurrection of Yeshua and through this parable Yeshua is preparing the Jewish people for this coming great event.

Yeshua came to teach the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3b). He shows the Jewish people that the Kingdom of God is at hand. This parable then must be placed into an eschatological setting. We see a hint of this great event each year during the Feast of Shavuot/Pentecost, which comes fifty days following the Feast of First Fruits.

After the death of Solomon a great division takes place among the Twelve Tribes. Ten tribes said, "We have had enough of this household. This relationship is not working. We're tired of this partnership. We will take our inheritance and go to a far country and do things our way." The ten tribes depart to the north and began to "live it up." The land they traveled to is called Samaria. They have their own king, set up their own form of worship, and build a temple on Mt. Gerizim. They began to inter-marry with pagan women and to accept their pagan gods. The worship of the one true God begins to be inter-twined with pagan worship. In the scriptures this is called prostitution. Relations became so strained that the Southern two tribes refuse to associate with the Samaritans.

The Northern ten tribes are called Israel, or Ephraim. The Southern two tribes are called Judah. Israel/Ephraim might be called the younger brother and Judah called the older brother according to the parable. Israel, the younger brother is instructed in the ways of the Father's house. They know the Torah very well. Celebrating the feast days and obeying all instructions they know is pleasing to their Father. Because they feel oppressed by their older brother, they decide to go their own way severing their roots, and gradually begin to waste their inheritance. A famine begins in their land... a famine of the Word of God.

Israel, the younger brother begins drifting further and further from the precepts and instructions of the Torah. They forget the teachings of the Torah , like, "have no other gods before me." Life goes from bad to worse for them until eventually they are captured by the Assyrians and taken to the pig pen.

Judah, the older brother carries on the family business as usual for their Father. They keep the fire on the altar burning, observe morning and evening prayers, and do the duties of the Temple faithfully. Their motives, however are not pure. They believe they will win their Father's love through the efforts of their work. Their Father appreciates their willingness to work and is pleased. However He does not love them for the work they do, but because they are His own flesh. This relationship with their Father is not based upon work, rather it is a relationship of "Grace."

Yes...contrary to popular church teaching grace began the day Adam and Eve sinned. If grace were not in effect civilization would have ended that instant...the wages of sin being death. In the old Testament/Tanakh the words, "loving kindness" may be translated, "grace."

Finally, this great event Yeshua is preparing the people for is about to happen. Fifty days following the resurrection of Yeshua is the Feast of Shavuot/Pentecost. It is the anniversary of the giving of the Torah and a feast of in-gathering of the summer harvest. Torah was given to the "Assembly/church in the Wilderness" on Mt. Sinai on a Shavuot/Pentecost (Exodus 19, Acts 7:38). The ceremonies are many and involved. One such ceremony is conducted with two loaves of bread baked with yeast. The loaves are taken by the Priest and waved before the lord (Lev. 23:17). "Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD." Leaven in the scripture speaks of sin. To have two loaves of bread baked with yeast/leaven would tell us that they represent people with sin. Yeshua is represented with unleaven bread to show His lack of any sin. A fair assessment of these two loaves of bread would be two groups of people, or the older and younger brothers in the parable. Waving the two loaves before the Lord symbolizes the two brothers brought before their Fathers presence. This shows us the family is becoming one.

Another ceremony conducted during the Feast of Shavuot is the reading of the Book of Ruth. The thread of continuity throughout the book of Ruth is the bringing of the unrighteous lineage of people, the Gentiles, or goyim into the righteous lineage of the Jews who are depicted by Boaz. We have a beautiful picture of mediation, redemption, and restoration in the form of the Kinsman Redeemer as represented by Boaz. The restoration is so complete that Ruth, the Great-grandmother of King David is the royal line of the Messiah. The full reality culminates in the work of Yeshua, our Messiah, on the cross.

Let us continue with our parable. The younger brother returns home. His Father rushes out to greet him and welcomes him back. This action of the Father restores the younger brother's place within his Father's household.

In this parable, Yeshua is presenting a valuable picture of His role in intervening and reconciling broken relationships. He is acting as the True older brother that does mediate between Father/God and man. The contrast between the older brother in the story and the True older brother,Yeshua is striking and points out the inability of man to reconcile himself with Father/God.

Acts 10 tells the story of a vision the Lord gives to Peter using unclean food. The Lord gives Peter the understanding that the vision represents people. The Lord cleanses and restores people into His household thereby mending our shattered relationships with Him.

The older brother becoming upset (Acts 11:1-3), refuses to accept the return of his younger brother. But his Father says to him, "Stop treating as unclean what Father/God has made clean." In Jeremiah 31:20 our Father says, "Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For indeed as often as I have spoken against him I certainly still remember him: therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him declares the Lord/Father." The Father yearns for his relationship with his youngest son to be restored. By his actions --- running to meet his younger son, giving him a garment, shoes, and a ring--- he shows his younger son, and the village, that their restoration process has begun.

The position of the Father remains constant through out His dealings with his older and younger sons. He remains calm while giving his younger son free will and still remains as his Father. A Father's love is faithful and true, even though He must count his son dead. In dealing with the older son, the Father is reassuring, loving and faithful.

We could see this story in another perspective as well. We could think of the righteous line of God, the Jewish nation, as opposed to the Canaanite/gentile line. Jews could be considered the older brother and the gentiles as the younger brother that commit prostitution with other gods. The return is found in Acts 10:1-34 with Cornelius and his household. In Zechariah 14:21 we see the full culmination in the "Day of the Lord," the restoration of the relationship to the Father with the believing gentile/Canaanite line. "And on that day there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord Almighty."

The haunting words of Ecclesiastes 1:9, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun," will bring me to the last perspective I wish to present. After the household was united in Acts 10:1-34 the older brother/Jews and younger brother/non-Jews lived in harmony for several years. They went to the Temple to worship, they followed the instructions of Torah, thus, living in a way that was pleasing to their Father.

The younger brother/non-Jew once again decided to take his inheritance and go to a far country. He took the rich inheritance of the instructions/Torah and added pagan rituals saying, "This also is a way of worshiping God/Father." In these last days before the "Day of the Lord," the non-Jew is coming to himself and realizing that he must go home to his Father's house. That he must repent for counting his inheritance---Torah--- as nothing and seek out his Father. The restoration of the relationship to the Father must be paramount in his thinking. The severed Hebraic roots must be restored.

Zechariah 8:23: "In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, 'Let us go with you, because we have heard that God/Father is with you.' " The term "ten men" means a congregation. The ten men are taking firm hold of the hem of the robe of a Jew. The hem has the tzitzit on it's corners symbolic of the 613 commandants. Some non-Jews are taking another look at the commandments --- they do apply today. The commandments pertaining to the Temple and the priesthood will apply once the new Temple is built. Certainly they will be in force once Messiah returns to the earth to rule from Jerusalem for one thousand years. "Many peoples will come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.' The law/Torah will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." Micah 4:2.

The older brother/Jews is not sure he wants his younger brother/non-Jew welcomed back. He does not trust his motives. But "In That Day" the loving Father will restore his household, each in his place. The relationship to the Father will be intact.

To summarize the rolls of the different characters in this parable let us begin with the Father. His roll is one of constant love for each of his sons, to the point of personal pain. Through this story we may now better understand "free will" as given to each person on the earth. We see how the Father deals in fairness and justice with each son on their own level. We see the lack of malice or anger that the Father shows toward his returning youngest son, and his willingness to restore their relationship.

The roll of the older brother is a picture of man's inability to reconcile himself to God. The contrast of the older brother's lack of interest or unwillingness in mediating or intervening is seen in the ministry of Yeshua. Yeshua is the perfect older brother and carries out that ministry in a perfect fashion. He is ever willing to reconcile the Father with man. I have included a few scriptures as examples of this fact:

(2 Cor 5:18-19) And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; {19} To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

(Rom 8:27) And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Rom 8:34) Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

(Heb 7:25) Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

The younger brother is a picture of mankind: selfish, self-centered, rebellious, and wanting my inheritance now! Let us seek our Older Brother, Yeshua, to mediate to our Father God. Let us become one in Him. Amen.


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