In verses 11-13 we see the younger son asking for his share of the estate. He leaves soon afterwards and goes to a distant country far away from his father's house. There he wastes all his wealth in the pursuit of pleasures.
First lets look at some points about being pleasure centered. We find that being pleasure centered will deaden our compassion. He wanted money and he wanted pleasure. His desire deadened his compassion towards his father. He coldly left the father that loved him dearly and went far away from him.
Second, lets look at how loose living leads to ruin. He brought poverty upon himself by being pleasure centered v. 13-18. The thought is summed up nicely in Proverbs 21:17
17 He who loves pleasure will become a poor man;
He who loves wine and oil will not become rich.
This verse contains two thoughts concerning wealth. The first half of the verse talks about how being pleasure centered can take you from a place of wealth to a place of being poor. The second half of the verse talks about someone who already is poor and will not be able to attain wealth.
In verses 14-17 we see that he is flat broke, hungry and no one was giving him any handouts. And we see that his wretched state brings him back to his senses. He began to think about how there is no lack of food with his father's hired men.
It took a physical need to bring him back to his spiritual senses. While he had plenty he continued in sin. When he came to a place of desperate need he then developed a repentant attitude.
I just want to make a little side point here about enabling sinful behavior. What I am about to say is not in the passage. It is only an opinion so pray about it to see if it is accurate or not. But, lets pretend that in that distant country there was a rich widow who had pity on him. She says to him, "You may go out to my barn and lodge there. You may eat as much as you desire. My former husbands clothes are your size you may have them. And here is some money for any other needs you may have." I would like to suggest that the son would not have returned to his father when he did. He would no longer be in a place of need. And since being in need brought him back to his senses. His daily needs being sustained would have hindered him from returning to his father. Meeting all of his physical needs before he came to his spiritual senses would have enabled his sinful condition.
In verses 18-19 he develops a repentant heart. He knows what he did was wrong and plans to confess his sins to his father. He has a humble attitude. He wanted to return to his father's house even if he is only a hired man.
In verse 20-21 we see his repentance was not short lived. He had a long journey home from a distant country. While he was far away he planned on confessing his sins and when he got home he followed through and confessed them. He maintained a repentant attitude.
Also in verses 20-21
Oh what love the father had for his wayward son! First, because he was longing for his return he kept watching for him. This was the reason he was able to see him a long way off. And when he saw his son he didn't stand there with an angry face, and his arms folded over a resentful heart. But he was filled with emotion. He was filled with compassion. It greatly pleased him and he ran to meet him. Overflowing with joy he embraced him and kissed him.
The son had planned all the things he would say when he confessed his sins to his father. But the father was so overjoyed to have him back that he interrupted him half way through his confession ( compare the planned confession in verses 18-19 with the interrupted confession in verses 21-22). He interrupted his confession and he excitedly gave commands to prepare a celebration. He also blessed him with a ring and sandals and a robe. And not just any robe but the best robe.
And in this passage the father is our heavenly Father. It shows how great his love is for the one who has gone far from Him. And how He longs for you and watches for your return. And how He is eager to run to you and embrace you and call for heaven to celebrate with Him when you return with a repentant heart. Oh how wonderful is His mercy! And how great is His love! Oh how delightful that our compassionate Father shows us mercy with cheerfulness!
Scripture quotations taken from the "NASB" (www.lockman.org)
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