Over the course of the last six years I have had reason to wonder about God’s grace – His free and undeserved favor. Prior to this time when I thought about God’s grace it was always in a positive and painless way. Always associated with “good” things, events, outcomes, and what I would call blessings. And when something is good it won’t cause us any pain will it?
I will be looking at the parable of a father and his two sons found in Luke 15: 11-32 to see how God’s grace is demonstrated. But first, let’s look at some definitions before I share the discoveries I have made:
- Grace – the communication of Divine goodness by the working of the Spirit, and through the medium of Him Who is “full of grace and truth”. God’s unmerited favor reaching to people because He is disposed to be near them.
- Ruthless – unsparing, pitiless, remorseless, oppressed
- Relentless – oppressively, constant, incessant, difficult, fierce, stubborn
- Redeem – to regain possession of by payment, to buy something back that was lost, ransom; could also mean to require blood
Please read the scripture from your own Bible or you can find it online at www.biblegateway.com in the “look up passage” screen.
So now looking back over these verses I want to share what I believe is revealed about God’s grace in this parable of a father and his two sons. In verse 12 we see the younger son telling his father to give him his inheritance (not asking, but telling!) His father did not delay, ask any questions, or offer up any objections. He proceeded to divide his estate between his two sons. From Jewish laws of inheritance the younger son’s demand of his father was equal to asking his father to die. We also need to note here that the older brother said not a word. He did nothing to attempt to restore the broken relationship between his father and brother. After all he would receive his inheritance that was 2/3 of his father’s estate. Why should he involve himself? Even though in the Jewish family the oldest son’s role was to mediate reconciliation, but he chose to be silent.
GRACE GIVES US CHOICES
In verse 13, after a short time the younger son took all that he had now and traveled to a distant country. Here I think we see the grace of a father allowing his sons to make their choices. He does not try to control or manipulate his sons, even though I think his heart was broken by the evidence that money meant more to both of them than the relationship with their father. As we continue in verse 13 we see that the younger son soon squanders his fortune living what the world considers “the high life”. God’s grace allows us to make choices.
Verse 14 reveals a major famine came to the country and the younger brother had no way to support himself. He was in dire straits. Here I think some would say that the father was being ruthless. After all, he being a man of wealth, could have sent a servant to keep tabs on his son and he could rescue him from his peril. I see this as God’s ruthless grace. He created us and gave us freedom to make our own choices. He never tries to control or manipulate us regardless of our choices. He allows them, and He allows us to live with the consequences, which can lead to pain and suffering in our lives.
God’s grace is available to anyone but ruthless grace does not intervene and rescue. It is painful to hear about, and even more painful to witness lives that are being destroyed because of bad choices. However, God’s ruthless grace is not un-involved in a journey such as this. In fact, it is going to be His ruthless grace that brings this Jewish boy to realize his condition.
Verses 15 & 16 reveals the desperate state of the younger son. The Amplified Bible states that “he glued himself upon one of the citizens of that country”, and he ended up feeding the man’s hogs. A hungry Jewish young man was willing to feed and eat what the hogs were eating, but that could not satisfy his hunger. While in this far away place, on a journey he chose to take, it had come to this. Broke, humiliated, and in his own eyes deplorable! From the details of this story I am convinced he had not planned on this ever happening to him.
GOD’S GRACE ALLOWS US TO COME TO THE END OF OURSELVES
In verse 17 scripture says “Then he came to himself” which means in our everyday terms that he came to the end of himself; realizing he had exhausted all his resources… and couldn’t make his life work, and couldn’t even meet his own needs. At this place in his ‘journey’, he remembers his father. He first thinks of his father’s provisions. He remembered how graciously even the servants were provided for, so much so, that there was even food to spare, while he, a son, was dying of hunger! Grace allows us to come to the end of our selves and to exhaust all our own resources to try to make life work.
GOD’S RELENTLESS GRACE
Verses 18 and 19 are the turning point in the parable and this story of grace. The decision is made by the younger son to return home to his father and confess his sin. Now we see God’s ruthless grace as it truly is, His relentless grace. The younger son responded by embracing the truth and was willing to relinquish his sonship and become one of his father’s hired servants.
We see God’s relentless grace defined perfectly in verse 20, as the father recognized his son from a long distance returning home, and was stirred with pity and compassion for him. His relentless grace, and love for his son provoked him to run to him, embrace his son and kiss him! This was in a time when it was seen as improper for a Jewish man to run because it meant he would have to grab up his garment and expose his legs. This father’s only concern at that moment was that his son was returning home.
In verses 22 and 23, we see the ruthless, and relenting grace of the father lived out in real time and is demonstrated as he calls for a robe of honor to be put on him, a ring for his finger, and sandals for his feet. Then the feast and celebration begins. Kill the fatted calf, it is time to celebrate, my son who was dead is now alive he was lost and now has been found!! The father’s grace has come full circle. From the day he exercised grace toward his son in allowing him to make his own choices, through the sleepless nights, when he allowed his ruthless and relentless grace to have its’ day of reckoning, till the day he saw him coming down the road home, we are reminded, grace wins every time!
EVERYBODY IS NOT ON THE GRACE TRAIN
In verses 25-30 the older brother who had been in the field returns home. The closer he got he heard music and dancing. He asked one of the servants what was going on. To his dismay he was told that his younger brother had returned home and their father was celebrating his return with a party. Upon hearing this, the older brother became very angry and refused to participate. His father came out and pleaded with for him to join in. This son, angry over the return of his brother and the ensuing celebration, spoke harshly to his father, telling him that he had been the better son all these years. He reminded his dad of his unwavering service to him, and to his knowledge, had never disobeyed his authority. And he hastened to add, his father had never recognized his faithfulness in any way. But now, his father is going all out when the younger son who squandered his inheritance returned home. It did not make any sense to him at all. He just didn’t get all this extravagant celebrating, when there was no way the rebellious brother deserved any of this.
GRACE IS RELENTLESS, RUTHLESS AND UNMERITED. THAT IS THE POINT!
Verses 31-32, wraps up the ending of the parable about the father and his two sons. The father says to the older son, “You are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But it was fitting to make merry, revel and feast and rejoice for this brother of yours was dead and is alive again! He was lost and is found!” Here I see God’s relentless grace being offered to the older son in the opportunity to restore the relationship with his younger brother while maintaining his position in his family as the first-born son. Tragically the son sees his father’s actions as ruthless…adding insult to injury.
As the conclusion of my study I believe it is because God is love that He wants to redeem us by His divine grace, which is ever relentless and sometimes feels ruthless to us. And absolutely, as I look back upon my own journey UNMERITED! And in it all, He is ever pursuing us to demonstrate His grace toward us and in our behalf.