Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I say to you: Let My son go that he may serve Me.”’ Exodus 4:22
The LORD your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ Yet, for all that, you did not believe the LORD your God, who went in the way before you to search out a place for you to pitch your tents, to show you the way you should go, in the fire by night and in the cloud by day.” Deuteronomy 1:30–33 NKJV
See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction. Malachi 4:4-6
A Story of Two Sons
In Luke 15, Jesus is teaching about God’s love for His children. In the story of the prodigal son, we see how God’s love is shown for both His sons. The younger son repents and finds mercy, but what about the older brother? As you read this, remember God’s words from the Torah, “Israel is my firstborn son.”
In this parable, we see a Father celebrating the return of the younger sinful son, and the older son becoming angry. When Yeshua came in the authority of the Father, forgiving sins (only God can forgive sins), welcoming the sinner, the prostitute, the drunkard, the tax collector, this was a stumbling block to the obedient, religious “older brothers” of the faith. Yeshua was the rock that made them stumble. And on this rock of offense, the congregation of Messiah was built. The most obvious translation is that Yeshua was talking to Jewish people of His day about Israel as the firstborn son, especially the law-abiding, religious Israelites of His day, who did not feel it necessary to repent unlike the sinners they (jealously?) judged the Rabbi, Yeshua for eating with.
“All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.” Luke 7:29-30
Why did they not get baptized? They saw no need for their repentance.
So in this parable, Yeshua speaks yes, to the prodigals, but also to the law-keeping ones who saw no need to be forgiven, but indignantly longed to be celebrated for their devotion. Boy, I have been there.
Humans are innately religious. We love the law that we can keep. The law was given to guard peoples’ hearts with a moral code that would help them live a life of blessing, both for the foreigner and Jewish person who would accept it. If you look at the morality of the religious people, you can see how they have a great stubborn love for God and his law that has withstood worldwide persecution. They are completely loyal to Him. But under the law, there is no grace. There is only a massive amount of effort and a constant falling short, unless you rationalize your sin. So when grace is given to sinners, how can a devout person receive it? The religious Jewish people of Jesus’ time were obedient to the law. They were faithful. So why were they not celebrated? This kind of grace would make any “righteous” person angry.
I can imagine their questions because I have asked them myself back when I was a good girl with “no real testimony.” The one who gets eaten alive by comparison and fear of never good enough, and somehow still blind to her own sin.
Why is Jesus making such a fuss over them? Over a sinner? If this is Yeshua, why doesn’t He spend time convincing us, the ones most capable to recognize him and further his kingdom? Why isn’t he ministering to us, the loyal ones? I feel our hearts harden because he goes to the sick, and dirty and broken, instead of asking to dine at our table. Is our good not good enough for him?
Well, no. It isn’t. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17) And only when the sick know that they are sick beyond their own help, do they wholeheartedly pursue their healing. The question is, are we sick of ourselves yet?
So the law was our guardian until Messiah came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.26 So in Yeshua Hamashiach you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Yeshua have clothed yourselves with Yeshua. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Yeshua Hamashiach. 29 If you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:24-29
Paul says in Romans 9-11 that it is His understanding of God’s plan that the Gentiles will arouse the Jewish people to jealousy. The Sinners, Samaritans, and Gentiles are the younger son. They are the un-deserving and the un-chosen. And yet, in the wisdom of God, he chose to offend his firstborn son so the un-chosen could come into chosen-ness. Now he pursues the heart of the firstborn. The story continues beyond the parable. Even the older son will need to repent. What a punch in the gut.
In the end, we will all be saved by God’s mercy. All of us, brothers and sisters, we are all just prodigals in need of grace of a loving Father. And He is so willing to give it!
The prophecied offense of Yeshua Messiah in (1 Peter 2:8; Isaiah 8:14), comes in the attention paid to the sinner, because religious people (Jewish and Gentile) have a hard time with receiving grace for themselves. How can we understand the love of God for His people? Only by the grace we have personally received as former sinners and enemies of God. If we do not personally understand that we have sinned beyond what we can atone for, if we have not personally encountered the gentle, brutal love that exposes the depth of our sin, we cannot lay down in rest of forgiveness, and we miss the point of the sacrifice of Yeshua. If we are justified by the law then why does it matter that all our sins and shortcomings have been nailed to the cross. How can we receive and give grace if all that weight is still on us? But if we are free then we know the cross as GOOD NEWS to ALL of us who are perishing. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood—Yeshua Hamashiach, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth (Revelation 1:5). We believe and are saved!
And while the forgiveness of the sinner, may have been the reason for the offense in the first century, the truth is, many Jewish people in Israel today (and in Jewish communities around the world) have never heard the gospel of Yeshua Hamashiach as salvation for the sinner and have been prohibited to even read the New Testament, upon fear of a curse. Most have never even heard the good news about Yeshua. Lord send your workers, especially the bold, truth-speaking Messianic voices, older brothers who have found grace!
(Pray as you are led…or pray with me as you read below)
Abba, we lift up Israel as your firstborn son and thank you for choosing a people for yourself. You are worthy of the love of the firstborn! Thank you for the many Jewish people who have received your grace in Yeshua! We know your heart breaks for the others who have not heard the whole story because they do not have access to the New Testament. Lord, make a way for every Jewish person alive to hear a truth-filled and powerful telling of the story of Yeshua in a miraculous way that cuts them to the heart and comforts them with unfathomable peace at the same time, and leads them to true relationship with you. Work your wonders of healing and cast out demons. Fill them with your Spirit and equip and empower them as disciplemakers to all nations. Give the gift of tongues prophecy and all your gifts Lord to empower for witness and building up the body. We ask for rapid and permanent growth that multiplies and yields MUCH fruit!
Father, we know you miss your firstborn. We know it must break your heart to see the anger and resentment we all can have toward you. How does it make you feel? How can I minister to you in this?
Father, search my heart. I have sometimes allowed “religiousness” and “self-righteousness” to cloud my concept of “grace by faith”? Help me remember the joy of my salvation so that I can pray with mercy! I repent right now of any comparison and jealousy in my own heart. I want what you want, for all to come to salvation. Help me feel your love for your firstborn sons and daughters…give me your heart for them.
We bless all the prodigals around the world who have been a part of your family and then rejected you (for whatever reason). Make a way for them to experience full security and safety in your love for them and help them overcome any worry or fear about coming back home and joining the feast! Teach us your compassion and gentleness that always welcomes people back. We invite them home in the name of Yeshua. Come home!
What mountains need to be moved in the lives of your prodigal sons and daughters? Father, are there specific things that need to break specifically for the lost sons and daughters of Israel? (Listen to the Lord) In the authority of Yeshua, we say to the mountains blocking their way, “Be moved.” [Pray in the Spirit]
We proclaim to powers and principalities: ‘Thus says the LORD: “Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me.”’ We say to the powers, lusts, and addictions holding them captive, “Be broken.” [Pray in the Spirit]
We command all voices of the enemy to stop in the authority of Yeshua. We speak life to the firstborn sons. Valley, be raised up and mountain, be made low! To the heart that feels the least worthy and to the most prideful heart we say in the name of Yeshua, THERE IS A PLACE AT THE TABLE FOR YOU…come join the feast! YOU ARE SO LOVED!
Adonai, give grace and wisdom for reconciliation between the older and younger brothers through Yeshua Hamashiach and His Spirit. We ask for grace as the “one new man” believing family in the land of Israel to minister in unity, to the all the nations here in Jerusalem and beyond. May the word go out from Jerusalem on the lips of the older brothers! Prepare and send them as workers in the harvest! It is their birthright to preach the gospel to the nations–you came first to the Jew and then to the Gentile. We acknowledge your wisdom and your order in allowing the Jewish people to proclaim the salvation of Yeshua. It is their privilege! In any way that the Gentile church has silenced the Jewish voice, claimed superiority, or usurped their authority in Yeshua (whether intentionally or not), we repent. In any way that the Jewish church has been prejudiced against the Gentile believers and claimed superiority, or usurped their authority in Yeshua, we repent. [Pray in the Spirit]
We also ask for the families who have been estranged from children walking away from the faith into worldliness, political obsession, witchcraft, and the demonic. According to the prophet Malachi, we ask you to heal and restore the families through the grace and mercy of Yeshua. We ask for you to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers and the hearts of the fathers to their children. May they be drunk, not on wine, but on your Holy Spirit! We ask for you to open a fountain for cleansing here in the land. Thank you that you are restoring the house of Israel! Heal our families, Lord. Heal the families of Israel! [Pray in the Spirit]
Thank you for waiting for us for this long. May we feel the urgency as the end draws nearer to preach and teach the gospel boldly regardless of the cost. We are all for you and will go wherever you need people. Place us in the right place at the right time today to share your story and your healing grace in power.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son
(notice how half the parable is about the firstborn son and the Father’s love for him?)
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.
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. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 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.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”