In the story of the prodigal, found in the book of Luke:15:11-32, a son prematurely demands his inheritance from his father and sets off to see the world, possibly conquer it. After making quite a bit of merriment, famine eventually hits and he is destitute in no time. He finds himself feeding pigs in a troy and longing for the pigs’ slop, for great was his hunger. Coming to his senses, he decides to return home to his father, and we see him rehearse how he will propose to his father that he be treated as one of the servants, for he felt unworthy to be called his son, knowing he had squandered his inheritance. We pick up the story at verse 20 “So the young man set off for home. From a long distance away, his father saw him coming, dressed as a beggar. Great compassion swelled up in his heart for his son who was returning home. So the father raced out to meet him. He swept him up in his arms, hugged him dearly, and kissed him over and over with tender love” [TPT].
Such vivid imagery beautifully shining a light on a father’s deep and unconditional love for his son; a father rending his garments to run up to meet, embrace and welcome back home a lost child. The irony is that I didn’t realize this story applied to me also until very recently! I was a prodigal that didn’t even know I was a prodigal! Maybe it’s because we erroneously think of the prodigal as a rebel (while it really just means wasteful) and I certainly didn’t consider myself a rebel, just disillusioned! But I continued praying to Him all the years of my life. Yet the truth is that I’ve probably been a prodigal all of my life. We all are prodigals at one point or another in our lives.
Upon His return, the errant son received 3 gifts from his father. ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.” Luke 15:22 ESV. A robe, a ring and shoes/sandals.
The robe signifies the gift of righteousness. ‘I will heartily rejoice in the LORD, my soul will delight in my God; for he has wrapped me in garments of salvation; he has arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, just like a bridegroom, like a priest with a garland, and like a bride adorns herself with her jewels.’ Isaiah 61:10. We come as we are and we rejoice because he robes us in His righteousness. He cleanses us of our sins and credits us as righteous for believing in Him.
‘Put a ring on his finger’, the father instructed the servants. The rings represents a seal his sonship. Biblically, a ring has always been used to signify the covenant of marriage, which is why we give each other rings when entering the marriage covenant. The church is the bride and Christ is the bridegroom. The groom adorns us with jewelry as described in Ezekiel 16, and from that moment on, we are the Lord’s and he is ours. In God’s plan, such a covenant is supposed to be a promise to stay in the union forever and figure everything out together, for better or for worse. But because us humans are fair-weathered, we break such promises all the time (whether with God or with man) once they become inconvenient or outrun their usefulness. This wasn’t God’s plan for marriage. Christ our groom stays faithful to us the church, his bride, no matter how badly we fail Him. Even having wandered off, when we return, he embraces us and makes us righteous, and we now live under a covenant with our Lord, hence the ring on the finger. God gave us Christ as our perfect example to emulate on the issue of covenant love; we will do well to emulate Him.
The gift of sandals or shoes. It signifies the journey ahead. We will have to walk out this salvation. ‘Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling’ (Phil 2:12). Sandals are part of the armor of God that Paul instructs us to put on daily so we can wage war with the enemy. We are instructed to ready our feet with the gospel of peace, ‘Your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace’ Eph 6:15 [CSB].
Because my return was gradual, I almost missed these gifts He bestowed upon me in my life too; a robe, a ring and sandals for my feet. I had sort of just slid back into my slot, as if He had reserved it for me all these years, but when I saw the story of the prodigal, I was able to identify each of these gifts in my life. I see the robe because I have been declared righteous and given a new identity in Christ. He has entered me into His covenant, declared me His bride for this season. He has sandaled my feet to be a peacekeeper and spread the good news of the gospel.
What the young prodigal son realized when he came to himself was that he was hungry. Famine is what did it for this young man. Famine will always do it. Lack. Starvation for love. Needing acceptance. Even lack of money. Famine, any kind of famine, is God’s message to us to align our lives to His word, to turn around and come home to Him. After enough suffering, we all eventually come to our senses as prodigals. After enough suffering; after staring at a closed door long enough; after living an unfruitful life long enough; after enough friction… ‘I will arise and go to my father in confession and ask Him to make me a servant’, and God says ‘no, you’re a co-heir with my son’. A co-heir with Christ himself, the perfect son -can you imagine such generosity!
The truth is we are all hungry for love and my Father has plenty of love to give. He gives it effortlessly too, and without keeping score. He’ll never turn around and say, ‘I’ve given enough, you don’t deserve anymore’. He’ll never say ‘enough’ and send us on our way having deemed us no longer worthy of being in His presence. His reserves are inexhaustible, for He Himself is love. Many a times, we wander off to create a life we think we deserve. We feel wronged, or shortchanged. We might be angry or upset. Our hearts are hardened, unforgiving, unyielding. Or we might just be bored and seeking some excitement.
But life in the far country is not all it is hyped up to be, for soon we run empty, and famine strikes. It’s not easy finding oneself in the pigsty living hand-to-mouth and envying pig food. Pigpens are not a place for a child of God, they are for pigs. There is no reward in prodigal living. Whatever it is you’re faced with, come home. God has a place for you and a work for you to do. He is not waiting to rebuke you, no. He is waiting with open arms for you to run into His warm embrace. He is calling you just as you are. He loves you with an everlasting love. Stop resisting. Come home. xoxo