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The Negotiator

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
October 23, 2023 12:00 am

The Negotiator

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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October 23, 2023 12:00 am

Success often leads to pride, but have you ever considered that failure can lead to pride? Many people hit rock bottom and, rather than fall upon the mercy of God or others, continue to pridefully look for ways to get themselves out of the situation, save face, and restore their dignity. But that’s not the spirit Jesus wants from sinners who realize they are at rock bottom in their sin and desire to come to Him. As He continues the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus reminds us that the posture we bring to Him matters just as much as the fact that we come at all.


Even though the prodigal is going to admit he sinned, he's not going to ask for restoration. He's certainly not asking for reconciliation with his father.

Let me tell you what's really happened. At this point in this parable, the runaway is planning on becoming a negotiator. He's going to negotiate with his father his return on his terms, according to his desires, so that he can save faith. Welcome to Wisdom for the Heart. Last time we were with you, Stephen began looking at the parable of the prodigal son.

We continue through that text today. Success often leads to pride, but have you ever considered that failure can also lead to pride? Many people hit rock bottom, and rather than fall on the mercy of God, they pridefully look for ways to get themselves out of the situation and restore their dignity. That's not the spirit Jesus wants from sinners.

Today, you'll learn that the posture you bring to the Father matters just as much as the fact that you come at all. Just a few months ago, the Greyhound bus system, the largest provider of inner-city bus transportation in America, marked the anniversary of a very important program they launched several decades ago. They call it Home Free, and that's because a Greyhound offers free tickets to anywhere in the country for individuals between the ages of 12 and 21 who qualify. Although these individuals come from all kinds of backgrounds, they are scattered all around the country for all kinds of reasons. These young people all have one thing in common, the one thing that qualifies them for a free ticket. They are all runaways who want to go home. For years now, I have learned Greyhound has partnered with the National Runaway Safeline, and they've been giving free tickets to prodigals who want to go home.

In fact, in the last 20 years, 18,000 runaways have been delivered back home on a Greyhound bus. In Luke's Gospel, chapter 15, Jesus is telling a story about a runaway. It's a parable. It's a story, an earthy story, we call it, with an eternal truth.

We met him in our last study. If you go back to Luke 15, if you're new to us today, he decided to leave home. He decided to cash out, get everything he could, pull it all together, whatever could fit in his money bill. He wanted to receive the cash rather than wait around for his full inheritance. So he literally cashes out the value of his portion of the inheritance, more than likely at a greatly reduced rate. At this point, he doesn't care.

This is a fire sale. He's tired of dreaming about life out there on his own. No rules, no restrictions, no curfew, no accountability, no father.

Just give me the cash and I'm out of here. With that, he leaves town. It happened so fast that his family and his community would have been stunned and then angry.

It'll take months for the gossip to settle down. The prodigal's favorite son, as I suggested last Lord's Day while he's out there on the highway to freedom, would have been, I did it my way. He certainly did. But look where it led him. His way has landed him in a pig pen.

But he's so defiant still in his rebellion. Instead of appealing to Jewish benevolence for help, which was active in the first century, instead of essentially asking for a free ticket home, he pleads with a wealthy Gentile for a job. And not just any Gentile, a pig-raising, hog-farming Gentile who evidently didn't pay him enough to even feed himself, which reduces him to begging. And then we noticed how you have this added drama, dilemma of a famine sweeping across this part of the Gentile countryside. And everybody's hungry.

Frankly, nobody has anything to spare. And we're told at the end of verse 16 that no one gave him anything. So he's now abandoned by everyone, ironically just as he has abandoned everyone earlier. Now what Jesus is doing, if you remember from the outset of this chapter as he's describing salvation, and that heaven rejoices at the conversion of something that's been lost, now found. Jesus is painting sort of the ultimate portrait here of defilement, of degradation, disobedience, depravity.

And I don't want you to miss it. Jesus is also describing the Pharisees, although they don't look as bad. He's describing the runaway heart.

He's describing you and me. The prodigal heart. The Apostle Paul wrote that the unbelieving world, whether they recognize it or not, is alienated, estranged from God the Father with blinded hearts and no hope.

Ephesians 4.18. Now it might look like they're having a party. It might look like they're having the time of their lives, but don't be fooled. The music and the buzz, they're all attempts to drown out the voice of guilt and emptiness. Now we're not told here in this parable how long the party lasted, but we now arrive at the point where the music has stopped.

The friends are gone. He's penniless. And now he's starving to death. This is what sin does. It promises, but it doesn't produce. It promises satisfaction, but it only increases the appetite.

It promises happiness, but it only increases the hunger for more. Now while the prodigal is effectively trashing his life, before we dive back in to this parable, what's the Father been doing all this time? Well, with what little clues we've been given, we can summarize that he's continued on with life.

He didn't pack it up and go hide. He is still farming. He's still raising cattle. In fact, he has a fatted calf available, which is a sign of wealth, significant wealth.

He's still working with his older son on the estate. He's chosen not to chase after the prodigal, even though the evidence is that they know what he's doing, as the older brother will reveal, and more than likely they know where he's living. Now, with that, let's go back into the text and let's get a running start with verse 14. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, the implication is, but he didn't, he couldn't.

He longed to be fed with what they ate and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread that I perish here with hunger? In other words, he has a flash of insight. You know, it's possible that at this point he's finally sober. He's run out of options.

He's, at this point, he's filthy. He's hungry. And as he pours out some more slop for these happy pigs, he comes to the realization that he's at the end of himself. He came to himself, your translation might read, he came to his senses. He has this moment of clarity. Chuck Swindoll wrote on this text some interesting words, he said, Remorse for his rebellion did not move him. Regret for his sinfulness did not rattle his conscience.

Humiliation of tending swine did not trigger his Jewish heritage. It was the realization that pigs were enjoying a superior lifestyle to his own, which sparked this moment of clarity. So what's going to happen next? You know, oftentimes, especially those of us that have been raised around the church, one of those stories, you know, we heard early on, and we kind of skate through a passage. We say to ourselves, I already know what's going to happen. I already know what this is talking about.

And sometimes we come up with superficial meaning. Without looking at your text, let me tell you what we typically think happens next. This prodigal son, he's ended up in the pig pen, so to speak. He comes to his senses, and he wonderfully repents. He realizes that he sinned in so many different ways, and he can't wait to get home, to admit all of that, and to reconcile with his beloved father.

So he gets on a Greyhound bus, I made that part up, he heads home, he runs home only to be met by his father, who's running toward him, and they had this wonderful reunion, and reconciliation, and restoration. Now, most of that would be correct, but where it is incorrect, which I want to point out, leads us to end up giving both the prodigal and the father equal praise. We're impressed by this prodigal. He's humbled himself. I mean, look how low he's gone, and there he comes to himself. He's going to admit he's wrong.

It takes a big man to do that. He's even going to offer to become a servant to his father. And the father? Well, he's praised as well because of how he graciously responds to his son when his son returns. That's not what Jesus is describing at this point.

We go too fast. First of all, the word for repentance never shows up in his speech. He's working on out here in the pig pen. Even though the prodigal is going to admit he sinned, he's not going to ask for restoration.

He's certainly not asking for reconciliation with his father. What he's about to do is concoct a plan in his mind. He's starving. He realizes the pigs are happier than he is. And that leads him to work out this plan, and we're given the insight of the speech that he's working on. It's a speech that might just soften his father's heart enough to give him a job.

Let me tell you what's really happening. At this point in this parable, the runaway is planning on becoming a negotiator. He's going to negotiate with his father his return on his terms according to his desires so that he can save faith.

Look again. He says to himself in verse 18, I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I don't doubt that the Pharisees picked up on the rather generic language he's using.

They wouldn't have been impressed at all. In fact, they might realize that Jesus is quoting Pharaoh. The Greek translation of the Old Testament, Pharaoh says the exact same thing to Moses after the eighth plague. I have sinned against God and against you. What does that mean? That means please stop the plague.

Take away the consequences of my actions. This is the same expression from the prodigal. He's going to say what he knows his father wants to hear. Look again at what this young man is going to say. He's saying this to himself as he works on this speech. Maybe you've worked on a similar speech.

You're in fifth grade. You've been sent home with a note. Maybe you haven't. I have.

Oftentimes. Miss Longnecker was my teacher. Never mind how we would twist that name around. I had misbehaved in some odd, unique moment. She sent a note home. She required that the parents sign it and return it the next day. I'm working on this speech.

This is where I learned to preach, by the way, on the bus going home. I came up with this idea, but nothing would work. Nothing sounded right. I knew I couldn't get around it.

So I decided to forge my father's name. Let's go back to the text here and continue. Let me just say it didn't work. Just didn't work.

Here's what he's saying. Go back to verse 17, middle part. How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread? But I perish here with hunger. I know what I'll do. Verse 18. I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Listen, all he's doing is stating facts.

He did sin. He'll admit that, only generically. He has legally forfeited the right of sonship. He has the right to be disowned.

That's true. He's going to admit he's lost his status. But really, this is where he's going. Father, come on. Do you really want me to starve to death? Give me a job. Give me some hope for the future.

Now, one author wrote it this way. He's merely trying to get sympathy from his father. So let me back up and just tell you what's missing in this speech. So in the prodigal speech he's working on out there in the pig pen, he's not planning to confess any remorse for the shame he's brought to his family. He's not going to mention any of the pain he's caused his father, more than likely a widower. He's not going to mention the selfishness and heartlessness of this demand for his inheritance while his father's alive, which was shameful.

He's not going to voice any regret for taking all that money and blowing it on immorality and drunkenness. And above all, you might notice he doesn't ask for forgiveness. It's as generic as this, Dad, I've done some bad things.

I've disinherited now. So here's what I want you to do for me. He's still a prodigal. And we know that because of where he's going with his request. This is where he's heading in his negotiation. This is the real desire of his heart. Look at verse 19 where he says this, Treat me as one of your hired servants.

Now you might think, wait, that sounds humble to me. He wants to become a servant. He's willing to do any menial task his father assigns him as long as he can get something to eat. He can't blame him for wanting to eat.

He's starving, so he's humbling himself. Well, you might circle the word hired in your text. It appears in verse 17 in reference to his father's hired servants.

It appears again in verse 19 where he plans to ask his father to make him one of his hired servants. This is not the word for the slave that comes to mind or even the household servant. They weren't hired.

They weren't hired. This is a reference to hired servants. In fact, the word for servant can be understood to mean hired craftsman. In fact, you might write in the margin of your Bible the words skilled craftsman. These were villagers who were skilled in their trade.

They worked on the estate. They were paid a salary for what they did. In fact, the same word form is used by the Apostle Paul in reference to paying elders a double salary. That's the word for faithful preaching, verse 75, 17. So if you strip away the platitudes and the manipulation, this young man is basically making another demand. Look, that pig farmer didn't pay me what I was worth. You do that for me.

In fact, his words here in verse 19 betray that kind of attitude. Look there. He says, treat me as one of your hired servants. He's really not asking.

Do this for me. Treat me, in fact, to be understood to mean fashion me, produce me, make this out of me. In other words, make me a skilled craftsman. Some historians believe that he's actually implying that his father pay for an apprenticeship so that he can learn a new trade. Now listen, his negotiation speech is nothing all that different from his earlier demand back in verse 12. Father, give me, give me the share of property coming to me. He's not interested in restoring his relationship with his father.

He's attempting to get his father's influence and money to start him on a new career. In fact, we know from biblical history that skilled craftsmen did not live on the estate where they worked. They had no personal connection with the owner or the family on the estate. They typically lived in a nearby village. Kenneth Bailey, who spent his life teaching in the Middle East, spent decades studying the culture surrounding the scriptures. In fact, he wrote an entire commentary on this parable. He wrote that according to the custom of this generation, the prodigal was asking the father to set him up to earn his own income while he lived in a village nearby, apart from his father, apart from his family. There, he could maintain his pride, regain his independence, and as a hired craftsman, note this, he would be able to pay back the money he lost. In other words, Bailey writes, he was crafting a plan to save himself. This wasn't repentance, reconciliation. This was a resolution. He says to himself here in verse 18, I will arise, I will go, I will say to my father, do this for me.

I want to negotiate a settlement that will suit my needs on my terms, and I'll pay you back. See, the prodigal thinks that the problem here is still related to money, the inheritance. And if he can just get back to civilization, if he can just get back to a decent lifestyle, if he can just get a good paying job, he can pay his father, and who knows, he might even earn his way back into his father's good standing, and that would be good as well. This is not salvation. This is religion. This is the life of the Pharisee to whom Jesus is challenging their view. Jesus is delivering the news that heaven does not rejoice because a sinner has figured out a way to pay God back. That's religion.

Do these three things. Pray these prayers, light those candles, make this journey. Heaven rejoices over every sinner who repents. Sinners who recognize they'll never put their life back together.

They have nothing to offer God but dirt and filth and corruption, sin, broken pieces. Listen, Jesus is not delivering this parable to highlight the prodigal's repentance. He's delivering this parable to highlight the father's forgiveness. This is all about the father's grace. The spotlight is not on the prodigal's guilt. The spotlight is on the father's grace. So we're led then in a correct understanding here not to say, what a guy, but what a God.

What a God. Even in the midst of this young man's continued defiant, he's going to be blown away by what his father does. And it isn't going to be until he travels home and he witnesses the actions of his father, which by the way are often misunderstood, that he shortens his speech. He never gets the words out of his mouth, give me a paying job. He never arrives there. He's smitten. He realizes he has nothing to offer his father after all. That is salvation.

So here he comes. He's not riding a greyhound. He might be on a grey mule.

Probably not even that. He's too poor. He's destitute. He's walking.

He's going to walk covered with grey dust. At this point in his mind, he's going home with a plan to save faith. He's going home for food. He's going home for finances. But he's about to discover the unlimited treasure of his father's forgiveness. We'll pick it up there next time.

That was Steven Davey and he called this message The Negotiator. We'll come back to Luke 15 and this parable next time. In the meantime, here's a free resource that will help you. If you haven't seen it, I encourage you to install the Wisdom International app to your phone or tablet. Once you do, you can take this Bible teaching ministry wherever you go. You can follow along on both the Wisdom journey and Wisdom for the heart. You can access Steven's 37 years of Bible teaching. All of his sermons are available on that app. You can listen to each one or read Steven's manuscript. You can read the daily devotional, read Steven's blog, read our year-long Bible reading plan, and much more. Look for the Wisdom International app in the app store for your device.

It's free to install and use. Join us next time here on Wisdom for the Heart. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-23 00:30:27 / 2023-10-23 00:39:25 / 9

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