The prodigal son parable, Part 3
Sep 19, 2014
The prodigal son, representing the house of Israel, had come into a famine of hearing the word of God (Luke 15:14). He squandered his inheritance (the birthright of Joseph). He joined with a citizen of another country (Luke 15:15), suggesting that he had lost his citizenship in the Kingdom of God. He ended up with a job feeding swine while he himself was starving because no man would feed him with the word of God. Hosea 4:10 prophesied to the house of Israel, saying,
10 And they will eat, but not have enough; they will play the harlot, but not increase, because they have stopped giving heed to the Lord.
The Food of the Little Horn
The prodigal was reduced to eating the food that was being used to fatten up the swine for slaughter. The food is called “husks” (KJV) and “pods” (NASB). The Greek word is keration. Its primary meaning is “little horn.” Its secondary meaning is:
“The name of the fruit, Ceratonia silqua or carobtree called also John's Bread [from the notion that its pods, which resemble those of the "locust", constituted the food of the Baptist]. This fruit was shaped like a horn and has a sweet taste; it was and is used not only for fattening swine, but as an article of food by the lower classes.”
In other words, the lost sheep of the house of Israel would “eat” the “little horn.” What does this mean? It means that they would assimilate the teachings of the “little horn” of Daniel 7:8, which was the religious extension of Imperial Rome and the final beast in the progression of beast empires.
In Daniel’s prophecy, the little horn was the final system of bondage by religion. It taught that the only way for men to be right with God was to be in unity with the Church. It was the same teaching which, in Jesus’ day, was set forth by the temple priests. Both Jerusalem and the Roman Church had this in common: they ruled over a bondwoman, “Hagar,” as the Apostle Paul put it. No one had the right to have a direct relationship with God, for the Church assumed power to excommunicate any who disagreed with the official creed that had been adopted by carnal bishops who engaged in threats and political wrangling at Church Councils in order to win the majority of votes in establishing “truth.”
Such carnal tradition differ little from the traditions of men coming from the temple priests in Jerusalem. Those traditions clashed with Jesus’ truth.
As a Kingdom parable, we learn that the lost House of Israel would come under the dominion of Papal Rome before coming to their senses and returning to the Father, where good food was plentiful. So Jesus says in Luke 15:17-20,
17 But when he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.” 20 And he got up and came to his father.” …
Recall that God had brought a famine upon the land of Canaan to induce the sons of Jacob to go to Egypt, in order to unite them with Joseph. On the flip side of this, the famine was also used to reunite Joseph with his father and to reunite Joseph’s birthright with the scepter of Judah.
All of this prophesied of a later time, when the word of God would become scarce, where people would search for it from sea to sea and not find it (Amos 8:11, 12). In America, where the Bible has been the best-selling book for many years, there is yet a famine of hearing the word. Reading the Bible is not the same as hearing the word. It is not the word to any man until, after “eating” it, he chews his cud, meditates on it, and the Holy Spirit turns it from flesh to spirit, from words on a page to revelation in the heart.
In other words, we might say that the famine of hearing the word is caused by a lack of spiritual revelation of the word. During the Dark Ages, the people were deprived of the word, because only a few were literate, and the Bible was known only in Latin, a language that the common people did not understand. When they went to church, the main course was ritual, rather than teaching the word. The rituals gave the people the sense that they were in submission to God, but in reality, they were submitted to the Church first, and God second. If any man received revelation that differed from the Church creed or that criticized Church practice, he was pressured and even threatened to give up his divine revelation and accept the only Church’s decision.
The Bible and the Word
In 1453, when the Ottoman Turks finally conquered Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, Europe was flooded with refugees, including many churchmen who carried with them Greek copies of the New Testament. Soon Greek began to be taught in Western universities, and men soon began translating the New Testament directly from Greek into the common language of the people, instead of from the Latin Vulgate.
This was the end of the Bible-reading famine. Men soon studied its pages to formulate new creeds and also to learn the laws that could be the foundation of a truly Christian nation. Men studied the writings of men like John Calvin and John Locke, and eventually, America was established largely on those newly-discovered principles of divine law, true justice, and righteous government.
But Bible study alone was insufficient, though it was a good start. The “cow” was eating grass, but it would yet starve unless it stopped to chew its cud, sending the food to a second stomach. The problem was that most Christians were still “swine,” because they were not chewing their cud. In other words, the prodigal son was still eating with the pigs.
In the early 1900’s, the Holy Spirit was poured out in a replay of Pentecost. This was designed to end the famine of hearing the word. But as time passed, most of the people became so enamored by the miracles being done that they neglected the word. Many saw how previous generations had studied the Bible and saw how biblical knowledge failed to bring righteousness. But instead of correcting the mistake of their fathers by chewing their cud, they rejected the word itself, claiming that Bible study was just eating from the tree of knowledge.
They were half right in their assessment, but because they tended to neglect Bible study, they had little food when it came time to chew the cud. In fact, if they had read the food laws in Leviticus 11, they might have received the revelation of chewing the cud.
And so the rule of the “little horn” extended for another century to the present time. In spite of all the miracles done through Pentecost in the past century, it has not served to bring godly government to America or the world. Hence, the prodigal son has remained famished, competing with swine to keep from starving, and has remained in captivity in a country far from Kingdom of God.
The End of the Famine Coming Soon
There were a few great leaders arising from the Pentecostal movement who put great emphasis on the word. One such leader was Smith Wigglesworth. In December 1941 his teaching was published in Revival News, where he said,
“On any line or principle of your faith you must have something established in you to bring that forth. And there is no establishment outside God’s Word for you. Everything else is sand. Everything else shall sunder.
“If you build on anything else but the Word of God—on imaginations, sentimentality, or any feelings, or any special joy, it will mean nothing without you have a foundation, and the foundation will have to be in the Word of God.
“We must have something better than sand, and everything is sand except the Word.” (Smith Wigglesworth, The Complete Collection of His Life Teachings, compiled by Roberts Liardon, p. 778.)
R. T. Kendall wrote recently of a prophecy from Smith Wigglesworth about the next great move of the Spirit and how it will differ from the various Pentecostal and Charismatic movements:
“I believe many have underestimated what God is going to do next. It is my view that the next thing on God’s calendar is the Word and the Spirit coming together as seen in the book of Acts. Smith Wigglesworth prophesied three months before he died in 1947 that the next great move of God would be the coming together of the Word and the Spirit. That is what I am saying. I have given it the name Isaac. I plan to write an entire book on this.”
He says that “the next move of God would be the coming together of the Word and the Spirit.” Past revivals have seen the Spirit in abundance, but somehow none of them broke the famine of hearing the word. Each revival had a specific revelation accompanying it, but it did not change the government or the judicial system, nor did it break the bondage of the little horn. No doubt each revival changed many individual lives, but each failed to bring home the prodigal son as a prophetic nation.
He says also that the outpouring of the Spirit through Pentecost is Ishmael, while that which is coming is Isaac. (It makes me wonder if he has been reading my website, but since he received this revelation in 1992, it appears that we got it about the same time.)
Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, then, is about how the House of Israel was exiled to Assyria (and beyond), and how they experienced a famine of hearing the word even throughout the time of the Little Horn of Daniel 7:8.
The local application would have been more relevant to Jesus’ audience at the time, showing how the publicans and sinners had been exiled, or put out of the temple, thus depriving them of the word of God. Jesus came to search for those lost sheep and to feed them with the word in fulfillment of Ezekiel 34:23.
The Prodigal Returns
Luke 15:20, 21 says,
20 And he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
The father did not try to seek him out early, but he was eagerly watching for the first sign of his son’s return. It is a lesson in the character of our heavenly Father, who shows no sign of being the stern, aloof judge as many picture Him. This father in the parable did NOT say to his son, “Well, what do you have to say for yourself? Confess to me all of your sins and I will tell you what sort of penance you must do before you can set foot in my house.”
The son’s return itself was a repentance, a change of mind, a newly-found belief that his own way had only brought disaster. As long as the son used his inheritance in a far country, apart from his father’s house, he squandered it on fleshly things. But when he returned, he had lost that youthful confidence in the flesh. He left his father’s house in pride and returned in humility.
In returning, he received abundant grace and love beyond measure.
This is yet to be fulfilled in prophecy. It had an immediate fulfillment in Jesus’ ministry, as the sinners gathered to hear the word. Jesus treated them as the father had treated the prodigal son. He did not demand that they come to Him with a list of their sins and repent for each of them individually. He did not frighten them away with threats of hellfire and brimstone. He drew them with love and fed them with truth. He instilled in them a ray of hope that perhaps they might still be accepted of their heavenly Father. And as they drew near, they found that their heavenly Father was more anxious to forgive than the sinners were to repent.
So while the scribes and Pharisees, like the elder brother, grumbled over the fact that Jesus had not properly vetted these sinners to make sure that they had truly repented, Jesus looked at their hearts and saw their silent repentance with faith, transformed thinking, and the start of a new way of life in the Father’s house.
This is the third part of a mini-series titled "The Prodigal Son Parable." To view all parts, click the link below.
This is part of the eighty-fourth part of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones