A Tale of Two Fathers Part 1

He walks into the court of the king with an unusually serious face. Attempting to lighten the mood of the prophet, the king gives him his usual friendly greeting, to which the prophet, skipping the typical pleasantries, cuts to chase with two probing questions about the recently departed guests. “What did these men say, and from where did they come to you?” With a look of confusion, king Hezekiah tells him that they came from the far country of Babylon. And then comes the searching question from the prophet Isaiah to the hears of the king, and to the hearts of every father reading this, “What have they seen in your house?” As this question hangs in the air with building suspense, the king slowly mutters out the confession that he showed them all that was in his house, including all his treasures. 

    Really, Hezekiah? All your treasures? Because there was no mention of how the LORD used you to turn the hearts of Israel back to Him in worship at the temple. No testimony was given of when you cried out to God and He mercifully delivered you from the boastful treats of the representative of the Assyrian army. I don’t recall you telling the story of how you where about to die, and after you cried out to God, He graciously extended your life another 15 years and interrupted the celestial order of the sun as a sign that He’d heal you, which is what the Babylonian ambassadors came to hear about in the first place. Apparently the faithful love of Yahweh towards you was not a treasure worth mentioning to these Babylonians He sent you, who where eager to hear His story. You just wanted to show them your stuff!

    What follows next should send shivers down the spine of every father. Isaiah prophesies to the king that the day was coming when all the stuff his fathers had acquired, that he was showing off in his house, would be carried off to Babylon. And his sons who would descend from him would be carried off as captives to serve as eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. You would expect Hezekiah to fall on his face in humble repentance like his father David, especially for the sake of his sons. But instead he says the following in 2 Kings 20:19...

The word of the Lord which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “Will there not be peace and truth at least in my days?”
— 2 Kings 20:19 NKJV 

    In a moment of complete selfishness, this father and government leader, didn’t care about what judgments would fall on his children or their children, as long as he was good. Who cares if the children become captives as long as I’m not. Who cares if their lost, as long as I’m saved. This passage is telling us that fathers as well as government leaders that exalt themselves in pride at the expense of others or children are inviting the judgement of God and need to repent! Though king Hezekiah walked with the LORD for most of his career, this tragic moment in his life reveals a father whose heart of selfish professional accomplishments and pride in the things he acquired, came at the expense of his children. Imagine the impact of his words of indifference towards his children, on his own son Manasseh, who, after Hezekiah died, did much evil to provoke the LORD to anger. He was the longest reigning king in the history of Israel & Judah and he did everything he could to undo everything his father did for the glory of the LORD. If daddy doesn’t care about me, then his God must not care either. So he likely lived out his daddy issues in utter rebellion against God in a reign of terror.

    But I’m so glad Jesus shows us a different picture of what true fatherhood looks like. Jesus would regularly hangout and eat with tax collectors and sinners. They were drawn to Him by His love and He received them, which drew sharp criticism from the self righteous Pharisees and scribes. Can you imagine that their actual complaint was that “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” Imagine that! Wasn’t Jesus’ claim that He was the Son of God, God in human flesh? What kind of God is Jesus revealing? And since God is our Father, what kind of father is Jesus revealing? And what does this say about the kind of fathers we should be? With the sinners surrounding Him and the criticizing stares of the religious elite before Him, Jesus masterfully does what He usually did in a situation like this… go into a story. He starts with the story of a lost sheep and the joy that breaks out when the shepherd finds it. Then a similar story of a coin lost in a house and the joy that breaks out when the woman finds it. Then He introduces us to a father whose story we find in Luke 15 verse 11…

Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.”
— Luke 15:11-13 NKJV

    Thus far, Christ’s 1st century, middle eastern, listener’s blood would be boiling at the utter disrespect of this son towards his father. In their high “honor & shame” culture, this young man was wishing his father were already dead; an act that, in their time, should have warranted, at minimum, his immediate disinheritance or worst his death. So you can imagine how shocking it was for them to hear that the father actually granted the request! According to Jewish custom, the older son would get two-thirds of the father’s estate and the younger son would get one-third of the estate, but that was only after the father died. You’ve got to understand that the father didn’t just go to the nearest Wells Fargo in oder to get the 1/3 of his estate to give to his younger son. All of his estate would have been tied up in land, property, livestock and he would have to sell it in order to liquidate his assets that he worked a lifetime to acquire in order to give it to his son. The time it took to do all this would have been visible to their community and brought shame on the family, but the father gives him the inheritance and let’s him walk without even a word of rebuke! Here we see Jesus revealing that…

the Father does not use force to establish or retain a relationship.

    In 2003, a movie came out staring Jim Carry called Bruce Almighty. He plays a TV reporter who goes through a really rough time and complains to God that He’s not doing his job correctly and is given the chance by God to try being God himself for a week. He’s given all the powers of God and quickly realizes it’s a lot harder than he thought. Go figure! This is especially seen in a powerful scene where he sees his ex-girlfriend and in an attempt to use his power to get her to be with him again, he stretches forth his hands and tells her to “Love me.” He repeats this over and over only to quickly realize that God cannot force love, because that’s not how love works. For love to happen, it requires choice. God is love and therefore, does not operate by force in order to establish or retain relationships. Therefore the father didn’t force his son to stay with him. 

    In the far country, the Bible says the son wasted his possessions with prodigal living. The 1/3 of his fathers hard earned estate he just wasted on women, parties, and the like, because this is what the word prodigal means. It means reckless or wastefully extravagant. Yet when He ran out of money, he also ran out of friends. Around the same time there was a famine and the only work he could get was to feed pigs in the field. He got so hungry that he even thought about getting down on all fours and eating what the pigs ate. To the Jewish listener, for this boy to not only be broke, but to feed pigs and dream about eating their food meant this boy had hit rock bottom. And this is exactly what Jesus wants them to see. When you exercise your choice to walk away from the powerful drawing of God’s love, you will soon find out that life’s not better outside the Father’s house. It’s worse! 

    Life away from God will look attractive, fun and fulfilling on the surface. It may even feel good for a time. If it didn’t, the Devil wouldn’t tempt us with it. But that’s why it’s so deceptive, because in the end it bites like a serpent and leaves us dead inside. As the son used and wasted the father’s resources, so we use God’s resources to sin. Think about it. God keeps you alive, breathing, feeds you and allows you to use what He’s given you, even if you choose to use it for evil. He will not force you to be with Him in His house like some kind of divine dictator. God is not after some kind of forced compliance, where you obey His rules to get some kind of reward or else. God is after your heart. He wants a relationship with you characterized by faithful love, where you stay with Him and obey Him purely out of gratitude for His grace and love. His Love awakens love in you. But if you choose to walk away from life in His love, He will let you go in hopes that when your life hits rock bottom, and it will, you’ll come to your senses and return to Him. Especially as parents, we must draw our children to Jesus and serving in the church with love and not force. And mainly by modeling this in your own life. And if you’ve fallen into the trap of trying to use force to keep your kids interested in Jesus or involved in church and they have left the church as a result, I strongly encourage you to apologize to them. Then see what happens. Then pray for them, love them, model life in Christ for them and repeat.

    As you do this you may find that your children experience what this father’s son experienced. He came to his senses and realized life was better in the father’s house. At least he’d have something to eat. So he decides to go back. He practices a repentance speech in hopes to be a servant in his house, for he couldn’t see how his father would ever accept him as a son after what he did. What happens next, in verse 20, astonishes Jesus’ listeners even more…