This chapter describes how much God love us. It shows the great lengths that God will go to in order to find the one that is lost. There are three stories told though verse 3 lets us know that the three parables have the same message (he spake this parable unto them). The one parable is in three forms:
1-7 The lost sheep in distress
8-10 The lost coin (or silver) in the dust
11-32 The lost son (some would say two sons for in many ways they were both lost;
the one who had not left home was like the Pharisees) in disgrace
In chapter 14 the gospel is seen as being directed to all who are in the world. In chapter 16 we read what happens to those who reject the gospel but in the middle is this parable, the gospel itself, which is like a pearl on a black background. God loves to save sinners. There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
The publicans at the beginning of the chapter are the tax collectors who helped the Romans (and helped themselves!!) and were despised. These are grouped with sinners. Their intention is clear in that they had come to hear the Lord Jesus. The Pharisees and scribes do not listen so much as murmur and complain. Their complaint appears to be the fact that the Lord Jesus had time for and spent time with publicans and sinners. It is interesting to note that the final parable has the elder son who refused to join in with a time of celebration over one who had returned. There were publicans and sinners whose lives had been changed as a result of the Saviour speaking with them and, as with the elder son, the Pharisees did not like this one bit. How we thank God that there was one who was prepared to receive sinners else where would be.
The sheep went away from the fold; the coin was lost in the house; the son went into a far country.
The whole chapter deals with what God does to get us back. It teaches us about God and about sinners. The first section illustrates the work of the Son (the Good Shepherd) in the salvation of a soul. The second is to do with a coin. A sheep may be able to make a weak and feeble bleat to let the searcher know where it is but the coin is inanimate and cannot make as much as feeble bleat. This is the work of the Spirit of God in the salvation of a soul. Finally it is the work of the Father in the restoration of a soul.
There is a wonderful welcome in each case. There is rejoicing in the first two sections and a request, made by the father, for merriment in the third.
Verses 1-10The lost sheep and the lost silver
15 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.
2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
First of all there was a story told ostensibly for the benefit of the children but the speaker used this story as a springboard to explain the principles of Gods love for all who were present. There is both energy in seeking the lost and when the lost is found. The shepherd carries the burden. The sheep is placed on the shoulders (mark that it is shoulders for Isaiah says this of the Good Shepherd that the government shall be upon His shoulder (singular)). Note that the sheep was brought back to the house (it does not say fold) and there is great rejoicing.
Is it really true that God has great joy when a sinner is saved? This parable series shows that He does. Does this mean that our joy is affected? Do we have to trade our joy for His? There are some people who have strange ideas about God. They feel that God wants to spoil our joy. God does not want to restrict us. We are to live life to the full. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10.10. Some people think that God is just there to punish us. Judgment is Gods strange work. For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act. Isaiah 28.21
Gods great desire here is that there should be salvation, safety and security. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18.14 God delights in saving those who are lost. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke 19.10
We all like sheep have gone astray. We all need to be saved. That is why the Lord Jesus dies on the cross. He wants to save. He delights to save. There, however, some sheep who do not want to be found. We pray that you may not be one of such sheep.
8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
It is clear that the piece of silver had value. It was not a case of a woman having the equivalent of ten twenty pence pieces and has lost one so that she searched until she found the missing coin even though the word used is drachm. This word means a coin that was nearly equal in value to the Roman denarius which is translated as penny and this was the average pay for a days work during these times. These values cannot be constant as the value of money changes so that we have to say that the coin (silver is not really a correct translation) was the equivalent of a days wages and not to be lost without grief. There are some who think that this may have been part of a headdress that was worn on the womans wedding day but whatever the case, the piece had value.
How important for us to realise that we have value as far as God is concerned. The piece may not have been able to indicate its whereabouts so that the analogy is with the Spirits illuminating work in the salvation of a soul. He it is who brings light to bear upon the soul that it is in darkness, revealing the truths of the Lord Jesus. In many senses we are cast upon the work of the Spirit of God in the matter of salvation as the Lord Jesus is no longer present upon this earth and in His absence it is the Spirits ministry to bring demonstration to the world of sin, righteousness and judgment to come. Illumination is different from revelation. Illumination deals with understanding and applying knowledge already given. It is the Spirits function to take of the things of Christ and make them known to us. Revelation is the disclosure of what was previously unknown.
The coin, as in the case of the sheep, did not repent nor could they but both parables are used to explain the joy when a sinner repents and we have every right to use them as a picture of the soul in need.
Verses 11-31 The lost son
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. 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.
21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
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.
25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.
26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.
29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
Now there was a chance of true repentance as the last parable concerns a human being. This parable shows the love of the fathers heart. There is no mention of a mother only the father. We all have or have had fathers. We have all wanted to run away from home and many, as our speaker, have run away to a wood near the house. Our mothers fretted but our fathers spoke peace by saying there was no need to worry as the child would be home before it was too dark. Sure enough that is what happened and the wanderer returned home before it became too dark. Perhaps in the present day there is more fretting in such situations compared to 50 years ago.
God is the God of love. Gods love is beyond our explanation and understanding. He is the God of forgiveness. It is interesting to note that the father is mentioned 12 times in this section. It is all about the father. The father had two sons. The younger one was entitled to a third and the older one to two thirds of the legacy. The younger wanted his portion before his father died. He wanted it there and then. We live in a world that is programmed to think I want it now. The old popular song has as its refrain, I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now. Hire purchase arrangements used to be the vogue but these days we call it credit and buy want we cannot afford as we want it now. The younger son had a bad case of the give mes.
Not many days later he was off to a far country. He no longer wanted the fathers restrictions. He no longer wanted the joys of the fathers home. He no longer wanted to be associated with the fathers things. He left everything prepared for him at home servants, bread, comfortable lifestyle. He wanted freedom. He wanted things his way. It has become popular for funerals to dispense with hymns in favour of a piece of music of the deceaseds choice. So many choose the old song, I did it my way as if there was some merit in living life so selfishly. This young man did it his way and what a mess. He lived for himself and for his own pleasure. Maybe we have lived life that way. It is nothing of which we ought to be proud. There were friends for a while as this lifestyle was lived but a pile of money that is not invested and merely spent will soon become a smaller pile of money until it runs out. There will always be hangers on and gold diggers when cash is shown. A friend that is only a friend in good times is no friend at all. He spent all and there were none to help. There were plenty to help him spend but none to assist or to take pity even when he fell on hard times. He began to be in want (how true this is of the human heart how few recognise that they are indeed in need). It is a marvellous parable in that the reader can sit down with the words in front of him and imagine the depths to which he sank no friend, no food, no future.
He found a job of sorts. How it must have grated on him, a Jew, to feed swine. He was in a far country. He worked, no doubt, for a Gentile. How humiliating that was for a Jew. And when he came to himself what a delightful phrase. We need to get there. In our sin and rebellion we need to get there. We need to realise what sin has wrought in our lives and the depths to which it has brought us and will take us. Perhaps he looked in a puddle and saw his image. Perhaps he looked within and saw all that was wrong there. He saw how far he had gone away and not merely the distance that he had travelled but the depths to which he had sunk. He repented of all that he had done for he realised that it had done him no good and if he continued it would do him no good. He came to himself. We need to do the same and repent of all that we have done before it is too late. He had ruined things and he knew it. He did not try to convince himself otherwise. He came to himself. When we are down so low there is no point sitting down for we will wallow in the slough of despond. We have to arise in such a situation and make a move. We dare not sit still. It is no good thinking that there is no one who loves me and that there is no one who cares for there is a Father up above who is looking down in love. The father was looking out for him. The father wept over him. The stench of the world was upon what little garments he had to cover his body but the father embraced him.
Believing friend we have known the comforts of association with the Fathers house, the joy of assembly fellowship and now weve wandered far from home. Do not think for one moment that the Father is not concerned at our departure and that He does not look out for our return. Do not think that the hours and energy wasted in the world changes His love for us. He would have rather that we stayed in fellowship with Him but He is there waiting and watching and weeping when we come back. The stench of the world may still be upon us but come as we are and wait to see Him embrace us and rejoice over our return.
Unbelieving friend never think that you are too bad to come (or for that matter that you are too good!). The prodigal son could easily have thought that but he thought in terms of the ridiculousness of his situation. There were folks at home who were not in the family who had enough to eat and to spare and he was perishing. There is no need to perish that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. Come today and prove Him a forgiving and a loving God. Refuse to come and you will never know what God can do for you.
There was an older brother who never left home, who never squandered his inheritance (he calls it thy living when he referred to what his younger brother had done with the money) on riotous living, who never went with harlots, who never transgressed the fathers commandment and so on. He was angry at the party that was arranged for the errant son.
There are many who are angry. There are many who are angry at circumstances (same are angry that their family did not turn out the way they wanted and God gets the blame), at people (some are angry at people who they feel have let them down and God gets all the blame), at themselves, at suffering (some look at natural disasters and blame God for all the suffering that takes place), at God just because He is God and they refuse to go in. There are some who are so self-righteous that they become angry at one whose life is changed. Some are angry that they have had to put up with health issues all their life.
Is it not as bad to not go in as it is to refuse to come? Do not both alike miss out on blessing? It is easy to be so superior that we miss out on what God has for us. Believers can do the same as they see one who has been profligate in many ways and then see the restoration that has taken place and the progress that has been made since that restoration and be repulsed by that which has taken place when they should be rejoicing. God spare us from that.
Unbelievers can easily shun Gods love when He appeals for us to join with Him in celebration at one who was lost and now found, dead and now alive when they know what this person was like and what he or she had done. Whatever has caused the anger, be rid of it for it is a negative emotion and God wants us to enjoy what He enjoys. Whatever it is we feel dont let feeling cause us to spurn Gods love. Allow His love to be greater than our feelings and forsake the old paths and enjoy all the blessings that the father has for those who love Him.