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Synopsis of Our Prodigal Nation
We’re about to slice a piece of the bread of life, the Word of God. And today’s slice comes from The Parable of the Prodigal Son
LUK 15:11 And he said, A certain man had two sons: 12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. 13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. 14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 20 And he arose, and came to his father.
There was once a young couple, a husband and wife, who won the grand prize on a TV show called “The One Hundred Thousand Dollar Pyramid.” The whole T.V. audience saw them on television, jumping up and down and screaming like people do on game shows. They won more money than they had ever imagined, an American dream come true. But winning all that money really ruined their lives. Whereas they had always lived within their means in the past, now they went out and got dozens of credit cards and ran up enormous debts. Within due time they lost everything they had and were on their way to getting a divorce They were prodigal children who ended up living the words to that old blues song by Jimmy Cox:
Once I lived the life of a millionaire, Spent all my money, I just did not care, But then I began to fall so low, Lost all my good friends, I had nowhere to go, It’s mighty strange, without a doubt, Nobody knows you when you’re down and out
But actually, there is nothing in Jesus’ parable to say that this was a bad kid when he left home. For all we know, he may have been a good son who simply was ambitious. Maybe he was much like you or me today – after all, many of us have left home with our share of goods and with dreams of making our way in the world.
Well, the prodigal son didn’t make his way in the world and I’ll bet his first problem was the friends he made. It’s funny, isn’t it, how people come around to be your friends when you have some money to spend, or when you attain a position of some influence. Some people are only good at using someone else. It’s funny how many lives have been brought to ruin by so-called “friends.”
In Jesus’ story, the young man’s friends used him for parties and prostitutes and extravagant living. Today, friends might use you to get drugs or drink, or inside information on a stock market tip. This is just what we see in the prodigal son. His friends used him up and then they left him. At the end, he was alone in the fields feeding pigs. He was so hungry, he envied the swine for the food they ate. Where were his friends? “It’s mighty strange, without a doubt; nobody knows you when you’re down and out.”
Do you know what really happened to the prodigal son? He lost his anchor, his moral mooring. He lost the values he had been raised with. The text says he was in a “far country,” but he didn’t just stray from home in a geographic sense. He also strayed from himself. He became someone else, a stranger to himself.
We can all go to our own “far country,” because our far country can really be a state of mind – a moral condition. Your far country might be selfishness and materialism. You might lose yourself in the land of instant gratification and status symbols. There’s a lot of that going around these days. Maybe you’ve gone to the far country of spiritual pride, where once you walked humbly with God. Or maybe you have slipped into the far country of apathy. There are so many far countries, but ultimately, they are all in the same place – a place where we lose our right selves and our better values.
But the parable Jesus told can be more than the story of prodigal children like you or me. It can also be the story of a prodigal nation, because nations can also lose themselves and their values in a “far country,” just as people can. The Bible makes it clear, in Old Testament prophets and in Jesus Himself – nations also suffer when they stray very far from the laws and love of God.
Do you think we are a prodigal nation today? On this Fourth of July Sunday, when God wants us to reflect on our national condition with a Biblical mind, do you see any signs of a prodigal nation in our midst? By God’s Word, are there any ways in which we as a nation have lost ourselves and our values in a far-off land?
There was once a time when people all over the world looked to America for inspiration. Once, we were called “the last, best hope of humankind.” Now, they demonstrate against us by the millions. I’ve travelled quite a bit in my life and seen this for myself, but you don’t have to travel – just look at the evening news on any given night and see how many people around the world are passionately anti-American.
There was once a house we Americans lived in; in keeping with Jesus’ parable. It was a beautiful house, built on a foundation of values which inspired the world. It’s address was on the street of righteousness. Its pillar was justice and its post was peace. Over the door was inscribed, “Let freedom ring, and flow like waters over all the earth!” Yes….. it was a house of promise and hope for all the world to see. But we left that house, and now, like the prodigal son, we are lost in the far country of repression. What has happened to us? that we so frequently end up on the wrong side of history – the wrong side of people’s dreams – in so many places around the world?
This message can bring us hope. Remember the father’s response to his prodigal son….
verse 21 But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
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