Summary: The message focuses on the story of the prodigal son.

The Heart Beat of God

Dr. Marty Baker / February 24, 2002 / Luke 15:11-24

Over the last four weeks, we have been in a series called "Love Stories". We have examined "The Best of R + B", the story of Ruth and Boaz; we’ve glanced at Solomon’s passion; and marveled at Hosea’s love for his wife Gomer. Today, we conclude the series with a talk focusing on the incredible love that God has for you and me.

We often hear the phrase "God loves you", but I sometimes wonder if we really believe what we hear. Someone has said that a picture paints a thousand words, this morning I am going to focus on a picture of God’s love in the parable of the prodigal. The story of the prodigal is the most popular parable that Jesus taught. I believe that it’s popular because we see ourselves within it’s story line. Let’s pick up the story from Luke 15.

Luke 15:11-12

11 Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons.

12 The younger one said to his father, `Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

Good story tellers always have a "hook"; that is, something to grab your attention. As Jesus taught this parable, he grabbed their attention with the younger son asking his Father for his share of the state. In the Jewish culture of that day, a request such as that was tantamount to saying, "Father, I wish that you were dead."1 This is how many people treat God.

In that culture, the sheer magnitude of a request like this would crush a Father’s heart. The younger son wanted the benefits of his Father’s provision, but did not want a relationship with his Father. The younger son wanted freedom ... the opportunity to do what he wanted to do. You can almost hear what he says to himself, "Oh, if I could just go where I want to go and do what I want to do, to go and come back as I please, and not have to answer to anyone. What a great life that would be!"

I believe that the father probably tried to reason with him, but to no avail. The boy was determined to have his way. So at last the father gives him his share of the property. The elder son received two-thirds and was responsible for the family’s well-being. The younger son received one-third of the family’s estate.

Luke 15:13

"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.

At first he is sure that he has done the right thing. He rents a home with a great view, and furnishes it with taste. He begins to make friends everywhere. He spends money freely, and tries anything and everything, especially those things which had formerly been forbidden him.

Strangely enough, soon everything seems to be mysteriously changed. His body becomes the vehicle of wild passions that sometimes frighten him. His health begins to suffer, and he no longer feels vital and alive as he once did.

His money begins to dwindle and with it his friends go. He is no longer able to keep up with the expensive crowd he first chose. They leave him in the lurch as soon as his money is gone. Then, what happens?

Luke 15:14

After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.

Hard times hit the country. His money is gone, and now he has to get a job. But because he had not stayed with his father long enough to complete any skill or training, the only job he can get is manual labor, and even that is hard to find.

Luke 15:15-16

15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.

16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

This is one of the most degrading jobs for a Jewish boy to have. Their customs viewed "pork" as an unclean meat. This young Jewish boy finds himself feeding pigs. There, in the pigsty with an empty wallet and an empty belly, he begins to take stock of his empty life.

Maybe this is where you are this morning. You’ve made some decisions that have taken you down the wrong road. You are at a dead end street and now you are staring at an empty life.

Luke 15:17-19

17 "When he came to his senses, he said, `How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!

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