Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, June 19, 2022
Day You Need to Come Back Home to Him?Is This Father’s Day the
by Dr. Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: Today is Father’s Day. Yeshua taught the Parable of the Prodigal (Lost) Son about our Heavenly Father to give us hope and provide an example of perfect parenthood. Read this parable of Yeshua, which I quote in part (Luke 15:11-24):(11) Then Yeshua said, “A certain man had two sons, (12) and the younger of them said to the father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that comes to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. (13) Not many days later, the younger son gathered everything and traveled to a far country, and there he squandered his inheritance on wild living. (14) Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine came against that country, and he began to be in need. (15) So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. (16) And he was longing to fill up on the carob pods the pigs were eating, but no one was giving him any. (17) But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have food overflowing, but here I am dying of hunger! (18) I’ll get up and go to my father, and I’ll say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your presence. (19) I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers. (20) And he got up and went to his own father. But while he was still far away, his father saw him and felt compassion. He ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. (21) Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your presence. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ (22) But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. (23) Bring the fattened calf and kill it! Let’s celebrate with a feast! (24) For this son of mine was dead and has come back to life– he was lost and is found!’ Then they began to celebrate.”
PARABLE OUTLINE: Yeshua taught three parables about lost things or lost people, recorded in the fifteenth chapter of Luke: (1) Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7); (2) Parable of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10); and (3) Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32). We will study part of this third parable in this RR.
The parable is titled “Parable of the Lost Son” because the father rejoiced that he was reunited with his lost son. Every person– every child of God– has been lost at some time in his or her life. The parable is also titled “Parable of the Prodigal Son” because of Yeshua’s description of the son’s life as prodigal. [“Prodigal” = “wasteful” or “excessively extravagant.”] Every child of God has wasted gifts, opportunities, and responsibilities entrusted to him/ her by God.
This parable richly explains who God is. In fact, there are several messages within this one parable. God’s Word is so brilliant that any given Scripture can communicate different things to different people at different times. I will concentrate only on the first part of the parable, and I will limit discussion to a single message within this part of the parable. You may be lost. You may be wasting the gifts and opportunities given to you by God. God patiently waits for you to come home to Him. This parable may be speaking directly to you.
Consider two characters in the parable: The father in the parable represents our Heavenly Father (God). The younger son in the parable represents any person (including you). Although the parable is titled “Parable of the Lost (Prodigal) Son,” the parable is really about the father. Yeshua taught this parable to explain the relationship of our Heavenly Father (God) with His children (with you). By understanding more about who God is, the more easily we can approach Him and seek His forgiveness. As you read the parable, do not dwell on the son. We have all been like him at some time, and we should not want to go back to lost, prodigal living. Rather, concentrate on the father. We desire the love and forgiveness of our Heavenly Father. As in Yeshua’s parable, we can meet our Father, whose grace and love surpass anything we can ever imagine. To learn this parable is to learn about our Heavenly Father. Consider verse-by-verse comments about the parable, the verbatim text being reproduced above:
● Verse 11: The father had two sons. Could the older, jealous son represent Judaism, and the younger son, Christianity? Could Yeshua have told this parable to “the younger son” – Believers– to explain the grace and love the Father has for us? In this parable, the older son pouts because of the love the father showers on the younger son, reminding us of Paul’s important teaching about the relationship of Jews and Believers (Romans 11:11-36). Paul taught us about the Jews’ jealousy of Believers (Romans 11:11): I say then, they [Jews] did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their false step salvation has come to the Gentiles, to provoke Israel to jealousy.
● Verse 12: Here, Yeshua portrayed free will. The younger son’s demand was a heart-breaking rebellion against and an insult toward his father. A son who loved his father would never mention his inheritance, but would wait until the father died before considering what inheritance the father may have left him. By asking for his inheritance before the father’s death, the young man was saying, in effect: “You are dead to me. I have no use for you alive. All I care about is your wealth, and I want my share of that wealth now.” God has given you free will. Yeshua subtly emphasized that all persons have freedom to disrespect and hate God in this life. God allows you to exercise your free will, to say and do anything against Him. Although you can rebel against and curse God, God is still your Father. He still loves you, regardless of how much you disrespect and hate Him.
● Verse 13: The son left his father, went among strangers, and wasted his inheritance. When you became a child of God, the Father showered you with many riches. Riches available to you at this moment include spiritual gifts; the constant presence of the Holy Spirit; God’s blessings and love; the ability to have sins forgiven and forgotten; guilt abolished through sin forgiveness; and joy of life. A Christian’s home in this world is in the Body of Messiah (the Worship Assembly or Church). When a person leaves his or her Body of Messiah home and lives with strangers (people in sin, outside of the Body of Messiah), he or she becomes prodigal. God-given gifts– the inheritance from God– are squandered by living with these strangers. As long as a person lives with these strangers, he or she can never appreciate God’s grace, mercy, power, strength, and call to live for others. Such a prodigal son or daughter wastes the only life God has allotted to him or her.
● Verse 14: Life with strangers– life without God– is never satisfying. Once a person has tasted God’s riches, he/ she is never satisfied with poor substitutes offered by the world. If you are living away from the place God wants you, you experience spiritual famine. Your hunger can be satisfied only by coming home to the Father, eating from His Communion table, and tasting His Word.
● Verses 15-16: The younger son, leaving his home of abundance and security, found work as a farmhand (a low-ranking servant). The son’s job was to feed swine. Jews would neither eat pork nor have anything to do with swine. For a young Jewish man to live with and care for hogs was the lowest, most degrading job imaginable. The son actually envied the hogs because the food he fed them was better than what he had to eat. Yeshua said he was feeding the swine “pods,” the sweet pods of the carob tree (keration in the Greek text). Keration was a coarse food, used to fatten swine and eaten only by people too poor to afford anything better. The son, away from his father’s table, was starving. If you are away from your Father’s table, you are away from the Communion table. When you are in communion with God– that is, when you eat from His Communion table– you eat matzo (bread, the symbol of God’s provision) and you drink the fruit of the vine (wine, the symbol of God’s joy and your salvation). Yeshua is your Bread of Life, symbolized by matzo, and His blood, symbolized by wine, brings you eternal life through the B’rit Chadashah. When you are not in communion with God but eat at a stranger’s table (a godless person’s table), you will never be filled and will starve spiritually.
● Verses 17-19: Here, Yeshua portrayed conviction. The son lived in shame and poverty, until he hit the bottom of despair. Only after he had squandered his wealth and had lost all hope, he realized the need to return to his father’s home. If the temptations and pleasures of the world lure you away from God, you may resist coming to the Father. But when you hit rock bottom and realize there is no hope for your life, you will realize you must come home to your Father.
● Verse 20a: Here, Yeshua portrayed repentance. When the son realized he needed to come home to his father, he turned around and went away from the far country, where he once lived with his “friends,” and began the journey back to his father’s home. When you want to return to your Father, you must repent of your sins. You must turn away from the “friends,” activities, and habits that have separated you from your Father, and you must begin your journey home to your Father. Note that Yeshua said “he arose” to go to the father’s home. Commonly, a sinner falls to his or her lowest point, before picking him- or her-self up from the gutter of a failed life to start the journey home.
● Verse 20b: Here, Yeshua portrayed grace. The son had shown contempt for the father and had displayed disrespect that no Jewish father could accept. The father should have disowned the son. Instead, Yeshua portrayed the father as watching the road along which the son had walked away to the far country, hopefully longing every day for the son’s return. Such love is based only on grace. You, like every person, have rebelled against God. You have strayed far from God (Isaiah 53:6a): We all like sheep have gone astray. Each of us turned to his own way…. No matter how prodigal (lost) you may have become, your Heavenly Father faithfully, lovingly waits and watches for your return, just as the father in the parable was searching the road when he spotted far in the distance his son returning home. In the parable, the father ran to the son. In the Middle East in Yeshua’s time, a man would have to raise his robes above his knees to be able to run. A rich man would never run– it would not be dignified to show his legs in public. But, this father was so thrilled to see his prodigal son, that he cared nothing about what others might think. He ran to meet the son. Yeshua, as God incarnate, came to Earth to meet mankind. The Holy Spirit came as the Paraclete to walk beside every person as Comforter and Counselor. God inhabits every person’s body as His temple. God, because of His love, has rushed to meet every person. Any effort you make to find God is easy and minimal, compared to the efforts God has made to meet you.
● Verse 21: Here, Yeshua portrayed contrite confession. The son confessed his sin before his father (“Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight…”) and was contrite (sorrowful) that he had sinned (“…and [I] am no longer worthy to be called your son”). Here also, Yeshua taught forgiveness of sin. The Bible teaches that any person may receive forgiveness of sin. God, through the Ruach ha-Kodesh, may run to meet a person, as did the father in this parable, but the prodigal (lost) person must still accept God’s grace. God will not force salvation and forgiveness of sin on any person. Such gifts are freely given by God, but they must be willingly accepted by a child of God. An obvious example is: You may be given a birthday present. It is not really yours, though, until you unwrap the package, open the box, accept the gift, and start using it.
●Verse 22: Picture the son, as he came into his father’s presence. The son would have been: (a) thin and pale, following years of starvation and deprivation; (b) filthy, covered with hog manure, dried mud, dust, and sweat; (c) wearing slave’s clothing, torn, stained, and dirty after years of living with hogs and travel over stony, dirt roads; and (d) barefooted, with bruised, cut, and bleeding feet after walking many miles along rough roads. (Since sandals were expensive, slaves and servants went barefooted.) Here, Yeshua taught about God’s incomprehensible love for His children. Compassion flooded the father’s heart. The father could not replace his son’s lost years, but he could restore him to his rightful position in the family now and for the future. Here also, Yeshua portrayed our Heavenly Father’s (Yehovah-yireh‘s) provision for needs of His children. The father provided three things to restore the son. Here also, Yeshua taught about sharing gifts with others. Consider three points:
● (Point 1) “Bring out the best robe and put it on him….” The father took the filthy, torn clothing the son wore as a lowly servant and replaced it with a beautiful robe, worthy of his position as the father’s son. Our Heavenly Father has a robe for you to wear (Revelation 19:7-8): [A great multitude said] “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready, she was given fine linen to wear, bright and clean! For the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the kedoshim.” After the Rapture and before the Second Coming of Yeshua, some prophecy scholars teach that two events occur for Believers (in this order): the Bema Judgment and the Marriage of the Lamb. At the Marriage, Yeshua’s Believers– those who followed Him on Earth– will be eternally wed to the Bridegroom Yeshua. You, as a follower (a Believer), must be properly attired for the wedding. Your gown will have two features:
(a) Your gown will be washed spotless in Yeshua’s blood, which was shed at Golgotha. The rags you wear on Earth, soiled with your sins, will be washed spotless by the blood of Yeshua.
(b) Your gown will be woven of fine linen through your righteous acts. As you serve God daily, you are weaving your gown. You will need to prepare yourself for this wedding, to be free of spot, wrinkle, blemish, or unholiness (Ephesians 5:25b-27): … as Messiah also loved His community and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, having cleansed her by immersion in the word. Messiah did this so that He might present to Himself His glorious community– not having stain or wrinkle or any such thing, but in order that she might be holy and blameless.
● (Point 2) “…put a ring on his hand….” Signet rings were used by kings to seal decrees (for example, Esther 3:12 and 8:8,10) or were given by kings to show favor (for example, Genesis 41:42; and Esther 3:10 and 8:10). A king’s distinctive signet ring was the symbol of his authority. He would make documents official by pressing the face of his ring into molten wax, transferring a distinctive design to the hardened wax. When the father put the family ring on his son’s finger, he signified that the son had been fully restored to the family and had full authority of the family. When you are saved– when you become a child of the King and “wear your Father’s ring” – you are a member of His family (Romans 8:14-17): For all who are led by the Ruach Elohim, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall again into fear; rather, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Ruach Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. And if children, also heirs– heirs of God and joint-heirs with Messiah– if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. As a child of the King, you have His authority (Luke 9:1): Now when Yeshua called the twelve together, He gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. And (Titus 2:15): So communicate these things, and encourage and correct with complete authority. Let no one look down on you. As a child of the King, you have power (Acts 1:8): [Yeshua said] “But you will receive power when the Ruach ha-Kodesh has come upon you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and through all Judah, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” As a child of the King, you have all of the gifts necessary to accomplish the work of the Father’s family. Read some of your spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 12:31, and 13:1.
● (Point 3) “… and [put] sandals on his feet.” Sandals were expensive. Slaves and servants went barefooted, but a rich man’s children wore sandals to protect their feet. As a child of the King, your feet need to be protected as you carry the Gospel– by whatever means– to those who need to hear it (Romans 10:14-15): How then shall they call on the One in whom they have not trusted? And how shall they trust in the One they have not heard of? And how shall they hear without someone proclaiming? And how shall they proclaim unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who proclaim good news of good things!”
SIDELIGHT: Deviating from Yeshua’s’ parable, there is Scriptural support to suggest that the father would have given his prodigal son other clothing, as God gives each child other clothing. Consider these two suggestions:
● (Suggestion 1): The father would have also given his son a tallit (a prayer shawl). A tallit carried the fringes, or tzitzit(“tassels”), and the blue thread commanded by God (Numbers 15:37-40): Adonai spoke to Moses saying, “Speak to Bnei-Yisrael. Say to them that they are to make for themselves tzitzit on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and they are to put a blue cord on each tzitzit. It will be your own tzitzit– so whenever you look at them, you will remember all the mitzvot of Adonai and do them and not go spying out after your own hearts and your own eyes, prostituting yourselves. This way you will remember and obey all My mitzvot and you will be holy to your God.” The tallit’s tassels would remind the son that he needed to always keep God’s laws and commandments. Knots tied in the tassels served as a visual and tactile reminder of these laws. Blue is the color of Messiah. Unrecognized by ancient Jews, the blue thread in the tassels prophesied Messiah’s coming. The tallit would also be drawn over the head to help isolate the son’s attention (to make a personal “prayer closet”), as he prayed earnestly to God. You should have a spiritual tallit. Yeshua simplified the commandments we are to keep (Matthew 22:35-40): And testing [Yeshua], one of them, a lawyer, asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Torah?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire Torah and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Your Father commands you to love Him with your entire being and to love your neighbor as yourself. Just as the son in the parable would have covered his head with his tallit to eliminate distractions while he prayed, you, too, should pray to God earnestly and without distractions (Matthew 6:5-6): [Yeshua said] “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Amen, I tell you, they have their reward in full! But you, when you pray, go into your inner room; and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, shall reward you.” Public prayer is often appropriate, but do not forget to pray secretly, talking only to God instead of making a public spectacle for the accolades of man.
● (Suggestion 2): The robe, ring, and sandals in this parable were clothing the son would have worn around the home. But, enemies of the family might attack, seeking to steal from and kill the family. The son would, then, be required to take up his sword to defend the family. I believe the father would have provided the son with armor and weapons. You may experience attack from the Enemy (Satan). You need to protect yourself, your physical family (spouse, children), and your spiritual family (your worship assembly family) from the Enemy’s attack. God provides you with the armor and weapons you need to protect yourself in battle with Satan (Ephesians 6:10-20): SUMMARY: God’s gifts for Believers include defensive armor and offensive weapons to prevent harm from Satan and to fight for God’s Kingdom. The Believer, thus fitted with protection and weapons, may stand against the onslaught of Satan. If the Enemy attacks, fight him boldly, knowing that you carry the full armor and weapons of God which cannot be overcome (Isaiah 54:17): “No weapon formed against you will prosper and you will condemn every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of Adonai’s servants– their vindication is from Me.” It is a declaration of Adonai. Take faith in every battle of life, claiming this promise (1 John 4:4b): … greater is He [God] who is in you than he [Satan] who is in the world.
● Verse 23: Note that the father did not promise a celebration of rejoicing in the future, but he commanded the fattened calf to be prepared immediately. The father had been keeping a fattened calf in readiness, hoping the son would eventually return home. There is a “fattened calf” being kept in readiness for you. In the last half of the Tribulation, you will participate in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb to celebrate your eternal marriage to your Bridegroom Yeshua (Revelation 19:9): Then the angel tells me, “Write: How fortunate are those who have been invited to the wedding banquet of the Lamb!”…. As in weddings in Yeshua’s time in which feasts were enjoyed for one week, our marriage to the Lamb will have a great feast (lasting for months? a few years?) – the marriage supper of the Lamb. This feast will celebrate Yeshua’s victory over the world and His love for each one of us.
● Verse 24: The father forgave all of his son’s transgressions, merely when asked to do so. All the father wanted was for the son to return home and to become part of the family again. Here, Yeshua portrayed our Heavenly Father as a God of grace and restitution, a Father who is always ready to restore a lost child to His family: “… ‘for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'” You can never understand and fully appreciate the depth of God’s grace and love for you. It is a mystery. More importantly, it is God’s gift to you. It is improper to ask an earthly donor why he/ she gives you a gift. Just accept the gift with gratitude. All God asks is that you accept His gift, a gift of mercy and grace… that if you are lost, you may be found.
CONCLUSION: Because every person begins life as prodigal (or lost) and every lost/ prodigal person needs to return to his/ her home with Father God, Yeshua taught this beautiful parable. You may have behaved toward your Heavenly Father, as the son behaved toward his father in this parable. You may have insulted and cursed God; run away from God; lived with Godless “strangers;” toiled at work or participated in an activity that is not God-honoring; been spiritually starving from lack of receiving God’s Word in your life; been mired in the dirt and manure of life, through prodigal living– prohibited sexual activities (fornication, adultery, and pornography), drug and alcohol abuse, squandering of gifts and talents, and other sins; or been wounded in life, and did not seek a loving Father to bind your wounds and soothe and heal your spirit.
No matter your sins; or, how prodigal you have been; or, how low you have fallen in life, these truths have always existed for you. A loving Father has been looking down the road on which you departed from Him, waiting, hoping, and asking, “Will this be the day My son/ daughter comes home to Me?” A loving Father will run to meet you with open arms, welcoming you back into His family, and bestowing upon you all of the gifts and privileges to which a child of His is entitled. Upon your return, it will be as though you never left. But to be welcomed back into God’s family, the errant child of God must take the first step– must repent, must pick him-/ herself up from the dirt and dung of life, turn back to the Father’s home, and walk toward Him. God does not care how dirty His child is, when he/ she arrives home. He will clean the child, clothe and feed him/ her, and prepare him/ her for service to the family as one of His beloved children.
This parable is about each one of us and our Heavenly Father. Every person is prodigal (lost). By our own efforts, we are unworthy to be in the Father’s presence because we are clothed in filthy rags and smell from the dried sweat, urine, manure, and dirt of sinful, God-dishonoring life. But, God is a God of grace and restitution. He will take any person– no matter how lost, no matter how filthy, and no matter how prodigal– and restore him or her into His family as an honored son or daughter.
ILLUSTRATION– “LOOK, SON, LOOK!” I wish to add an illustration that I feel is appropriate for Father’s Day. I would give credit to the source, but I regret I cannot remember where I read or heard the illustration.
The story is told of an older pastor and a young man who boarded a train in Memphis many years ago, headed south into Mississippi. As the train was crowded with Saturday morning travelers, most seats were taken. The pastor asked if he might take an empty seat next to the young man. The young man nodded, as he stared out the window.
As the train went into motion, the pastor noticed the young man was very nervous, even agitated. After traveling a number of miles with the young man, who fidgeted and stared grimly out the window, the pastor said, “Son, you seem to be upset this morning. Is there anything I can do to help?” “No, sir.”
After another half hour, the restlessness became even more pronounced. The pastor again offered to help: “Son, I’m a minister of the Gospel. I deal frequently with people who are upset and anxious. Are you sure you won’t talk to me?” The young man hesitated, and, then, said: “Well… okay. I grew up in a small town in the middle part of Mississippi. Two years ago, my daddy and I had a horrible fight. I don’t even remember now what we fought about, but I said things I shouldn’t have said, and I stormed out of the house. I went to Memphis, and got a job in a warehouse. Pastor, these have been the two most miserable years of my life. I want to go home. I want to tell my daddy that I love him, and I want to ask him to forgive me. I want to hug my mama and eat her fried chicken and biscuits. I want to see my brothers and sisters. I want to go home…. I really want to go home.”
The young man added, voice quivering with emotion, “I wrote a letter to mama last week. I told her I would take the Saturday train from Memphis. The tracks go behind my house, and there’s an old pear tree next to the tracks. I asked mama to tell daddy I want to come home. If he forgives me, I’ve asked her to tie a white rag on a limb of that old tree. If I see the rag, I’ll know I’m forgiven. I’ll get off the train at the next station, and go home. If there’s no rag, I’ll know that daddy won’t forgive me. I’ll catch the next train back to Memphis. Pastor, I’m so afraid that the pear tree won’t be tied with a rag… that I’m not forgiven… that I’m not welcome back home… that I may never see my family again.”
The pastor said, “Son, close your eyes and try to relax. I’ll watch for that tree, and I’ll let you know if anything is tied on a limb.” In time, the train made a gentle turn, and the young man knew the train was approaching his parents’ home. He whispered to the pastor, “My home is just around this curve… on the left.”
The pastor suddenly shouted: “Look, son! Look! Look!” The young man opened his eyes. There stood an old pear tree. Even in winter, the tree was solid white and literally glowed in the bright sunlight. Hundreds upon hundreds of white rag strips had been tied to all branches of the tree. With every strip of cloth on every branch, the family signaled to the son: “You are forgiven! Come home! You are forgiven! Come home! You are forgiven! Come home!”
God has a “pear tree” for you in Heaven. Through the blood sacrifice of our Passover Lamb, Yeshua, there are “cloth strips” tied to your tree, signaling God’s clear message: “You are forgiven! Come home! I have been waiting for you all the time you have been away from Me.”
On this Father’s Day, will you tell your Heavenly Father that you love Him? Will you turn from the “far-away land” in which you have been living and walk back toward your true home with Him? Will you come home to your true family and the Father’s gifts awaiting you? Your Heavenly Father patiently waits and wonders: “Will today be the day My son/ daughter comes home to Me?” Father’s Day is an excellent day to come back home to your Heavenly Father. Rabbi Weiner or someone else in this synagogue will be honored to help you find your way home, if you need help.
Oh, if you need to make any amends with your earthly father, today is a good day for that, too. END illustration.
God is so good! To all fathers, rejoice that you have a Heavenly Father. Rejoice that your Heavenly Father has entrusted to you children and grandchildren, which are blessed gifts from the Lord (Psalm 127:3): Behold, children are a heritage of Adonai– the fruit of the womb is a reward. Shalom and Maranatha.
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 19-Jun-2022 20th of Sivan, 5782
Nu 13:1-20 Jer 36 Da 2 (Mk 15:1-24) 2 Co 4