1. LURE OF THIS WORLD’S PLEASURES
a. Although parables often have several applications, to what special class does the parable of the prodigal son apply? Luke 15:1, 2.
“In the parable of the prodigal son is presented the Lord’s dealing with those who have once known the Father’s love, but who have allowed the tempter to lead them captive at his will.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 198.
b. When tempted by the world, what request did the younger son make, and what did the father do? Luke 15:11, 12.
c. What was the result of the younger son’s foolish ideas of freedom? Luke 15:13, 14; Jeremiah 17:5, 6. What may we learn from this story about selfishness?
“Whatever the appearance may be, every life centered in self is squandered. Whoever attempts to live apart from God is wasting his substance. He is squandering the precious years, squandering the powers of mind and heart and soul, and working to make himself bankrupt for eternity. The man who separates from God that he may serve himself, is the slave of mammon.”—Ibid., pp. 200, 201.
2. EMPTINESS OF WORLDLY PLEASURES
a. What situation developed, and what did this once well-nurtured young man have to do? Luke 15:15, 16.
“A great famine arises, [the young man of the parable] begins to be in want, and he joins himself to a citizen of the country, who sends him into the field to feed swine. To a Jew this was the most menial and degrading of employments. The youth who has boasted of his liberty, now finds himself a slave. He is in the worst of bondage—‘holden with the cords of his sins’ (Proverbs 5:22.) The glitter and tinsel that enticed him have disappeared, and he feels the burden of his chain.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 200.
b. As a result of his painful and humiliating experience, how did the prodigal son respond to the power of the Holy Spirit? Luke 15:17–19.
“The young man turns from the swine herds and the husks, and sets his face toward home. Trembling with weakness and faint from hunger, he presses eagerly on his way. He has no covering to conceal his rags; but his misery has conquered pride, and he hurries on to beg a servant’s place where he was once a child.”—Ibid., pp. 202, 203.
c. What lessons does Solomon give us after spending most of his life chasing happiness in wealth and worldly pleasure? Ecclesiastes 2:4–12, 17, 18.
“By his own bitter experience, Solomon learned the emptiness of a life that seeks in earthly things its highest good. He erected altars to heathen gods, only to learn how vain is their promise of rest to the soul.
“In his later years, turning wearied and thirsting from earth’s broken cisterns, Solomon returned to drink at the fountain of life. The history of his wasted years, with their lessons of warning, he by the Spirit of inspiration recorded for after generations. And thus, although the seed of his sowing was reaped by his people in harvests of evil, the lifework of Solomon was not wholly lost. For him at last the discipline of suffering accomplished its work.”—Education, pp. 153, 154.
3. THE DEMONSTRATION OF A FATHER’S LOVE
a. As the prodigal son put his faith into action, what did he find out as he neared home? Luke 15:20, 21.
“In his restless youth the prodigal looked upon his father as stern and severe. How different his conception of him now!”—Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 204.
b. How did the father demonstrate the love and interest that he had always felt for his erring son? Luke 15:22–24.
“The father will permit no contemptuous eye to mock at his son’s misery and tatters. He takes from his own shoulders the broad, rich mantle, and wraps it around the son’s wasted form, and the youth sobs out his repentance, saying, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son’ (Luke 15:21). The father holds him close to his side, and brings him home. No opportunity is given him to ask a servant’s place. He is a son, who shall be honored with the best the house affords, and whom the waiting men and women shall respect and serve.”—Ibid., pp. 203, 204.
c. How great is the joy of our heavenly Father when a lost soul returns to Him today? Zephaniah 3:17. What command will He give? Zechariah 3:4, 5.
“Through [the plan of redemption] the sinner is forgiven his sins, and will be finally received into heaven—not as a forgiven culprit pardoned and released from captivity, yet looked upon with suspicion and not admitted to friendship and trust; but welcomed as a child, and taken back into fullest confidence. . . .
“We are saved because God loves the purchase of the blood of Christ; and not only will He pardon the repentant sinner, not only will He permit him to enter heaven, but He, the Father of mercies, will wait at the very gates of heaven to welcome us, to give us an abundant entrance to the mansions of the blest.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 7, p. 950.
4. THE FATHER’S LOVE FOR THE SINNER
a. What is the attitude of the heavenly host when a sinner returns to God? Luke 15:7.
“Fallen man is to learn that our heavenly Father cannot be satisfied until His love embraces the repentant sinner, transformed through the merits of the spotless Lamb of God.”—God’s Amazing Grace, p. 99.
b. How deep is the love of God for man, and what does it lead Him to do? Jeremiah 31:3; John 3:16; 12:32.
“While the sinner is yet far from the Father’s house, wasting his substance in a strange country, the Father’s heart is yearning over him; and every longing awakened in the soul to return to God is but the tender pleading of His Spirit, wooing, entreating, drawing the wanderer to his Father’s heart of love.
“With the rich promises of the Bible before you, can you give place to doubt? Can you believe that when the poor sinner longs to return, longs to forsake his sins, the Lord sternly withholds him from coming to His feet in repentance? Away with such thoughts! Nothing can hurt your own soul more than to entertain such a conception of our heavenly Father. He hates sin, but He loves the sinner, and He gave Himself in the person of Christ, that all who would might be saved and have eternal blessedness in the kingdom of glory.”—Steps to Christ, p. 54.
c. How does God desire us to manifest this love in our own life today? 1 John 4:20, 21.
“When the heavenly principle of eternal love fills the heart, it will flow out to others, not merely because favors are received of them, but because love is the principle of action and modifies the character, governs the impulses, controls the passions, subdues enmity, and elevates and ennobles the affections. This love is not contracted so as merely to include ‘me and mine,’ but is as broad as the world and as high as heaven, and is in harmony with that of the angel workers. This love cherished in the soul sweetens the entire life and sheds a refining influence on all around.”—Testimonies, vol. 4, pp. 223, 224.
5. A WARNING TO THE SELF-RIGHTEOUS
a. What was of most concern to the self-justifying elder son? Luke 15:29, 30. What class of people does he represent?
“By the elder son were represented the unrepenting Jews of Christ’s day, and also the Pharisees in every age, who look with contempt upon those whom they regard as publicans and sinners. Because they themselves have not gone to great excesses in vice, they are filled with self-righteousness. . . . Like the elder son in the parable, they had enjoyed special privileges from God. They claimed to be sons in God’s house, but they had the spirit of the hireling. They were working, not from love, but from hope of reward.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 209.
b. What was the father’s appeal to the elder brother? Luke 15:31, 32.
“In the parable the father’s remonstrance with the elder son was Heaven’s tender appeal to the Pharisees. ‘All that I have is thine’ (Luke 15:31)—not as wages, but as a gift. Like the prodigal, you can receive it only as the unmerited bestowal of the Father’s love.
“Self-righteousness not only leads men to misrepresent God, but makes them coldhearted and critical toward their brethren. The elder son, in his selfishness and jealousy, stood ready to watch his brother, to criticize every action, and to accuse him for the least deficiency. He would detect every mistake, and make the most of every wrong act. Thus he would seek to justify his own unforgiving spirit. Many today are doing the same thing. While the soul is making its very first struggles against a flood of temptations, they stand by, stubborn, self-willed, complaining, accusing.”—Ibid., pp. 209, 210.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What lesson is given by the parable of the prodigal son?
2. How is a life of sin in reality a life of bondage?
3. How does God receive the sinner that returns to Him?
4. How does the Father draw the sinner to Himself?
5. How can we be like the elder son in this parable?