He was a good boy. The responsible big brother. Loyal to his father. Faithful to the family’s affairs. Hard-working and obedient.
His little brother was another story. Selfish, irresponsible, a squanderer, and a run-away.
But who got the elaborate homecoming celebration? Not the successful, faithful son. The rebellious, destitute prodigal did.
This seeming unfairness revealed much about the older son. His reaction provides the perfect picture of someone enslaved by an orphan spirit.
Last week I talked about how an orphan spirit began when Satan planted a seed of doubt in Eve, causing her to question if God really had her best interest at heart. And when God sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden—lovingly protecting them from eating of the Tree of Life which would cause them to remain in their brokenness for eternity—Satan convinced them God had abandoned them.
Sadly an orphan-hood theme continues throughout the Old Testament.
A couple years ago I blogged about the depiction in the Bible of God as our heavenly Father. In studying to write that post, I looked up the Hebrew and Greek words used for father. Interestingly, the word used in the Old Testament was only one specific term. It basically meant the chief—as in the head of a household.
That puzzled me because I remember many Old Testament references depicting God as a loving Father. For example:
“Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.”
“How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!
And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house;
And You give them to drink of the river of Your delights.”
Psalm 36:7-8 (ESV)
Matt Carter from Austin Stone Community Church, in his sermon called Adopted: Rescued by Love helped me make sense of this.
In Old Testament times, people considered it extremely irreverent to address God personally. In fact, they removed the vowels from His personal name Yahwey, so that in ancient manuscripts His name is spelled YHWY. Though they recognized God as their creator and Lord, in their fallen nature they failed to realize God longed for an intimate relationship with them.
God is indeed holy, and we experience a depth of blessing in worshiping Him as such. But He never desired that this awareness separate us from experiencing the joy and freedom found in an up-close relationship with Him as Abba.
“Abba” is an affectionate term meaning “Daddy.” It connotes a child-like, pure, uninhibited, vulnerable, dependent, tender, loving relationship.
Abba has actually been the term for Father God throughout the Old and New Testament. However, in the Old Testament, God was never addressed in such away. Talked about, but not talked to.
When Jesus came to earth, He began to teach what’s been true from the beginning of time. When the disciples asked how Jesus to teach them to pray, the first two words of His answer are what? “Our Father.”
Not sovereign Lord, which is how David addressed God. David, whom God said was a man after His own heart, failed to grasp the level at which he could approach God. But Jesus clearly instructed—invited—us to start addressing God in prayer as “Daddy”.
I don’t know about you, but that idea makes me a little queasy.
Knowing that in our orphan-hood we would struggle with this, Jesus helped us out by giving us a human picture of the Father. “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father,” He said to Philip in John 14:9.
I think it’s pretty clear that Jesus was very approachable. He didn’t fear touching the leper, or talking about deeply personal issues with a Samaritan woman, or pardoning a prostitute. He fed thousands, walked on water in a storm in order to rescue a boatload of fretful men, and forgave a convicted criminal.
There is no sin, no weakness, no snarkiness, no bad attitude that drives Him away.
We are His children. And He loves being our Father. Up close and intimate.
So what was the big brother’s problem?
I always wondered that and have never been quite satisfied with answers I’ve heard until I read James S. Macchi’s explanation in No Longer Orphans, (p. 44).
In the prodigal son story the older son had lived his entire life, never realizing that everything that was the father’s was his. After all those years with his father right there, he never came to the awareness that he was loved not for what he did, but for the pure, simple fact of who he was.
That’s why Jesus tried to teach that God gives to us not based on how hard we work, but completely on the truth that we are His children on whom He loves to lavish gifts. Think of these passages:
• The parable of the “unfair” wages where an equal amount (not rate) of pay was dispensed no matter how many hours the workers worked.
• The rich young ruler who wanted to know what to “do” to inherit eternal life; and when told to surrender his possessions (those things that validated his accomplishments and self-prescribed measure of worth) he couldn’t do it.
• “We love because He first loved us.”
(1 John 4:19, NASB)
• “You do not have because you do not ask.”
(James 4:2, NASB)
I wonder how much it would help if when we think our behavior needs changing, we worked on it from the safety of the Father’s love.
We each place ourselves somewhere on the good girl/bad girl spectrum. But no matter where we land, we assign a quantity of God’s love that’s doled out based on where we land on that spectrum. We think the more we obey Him, the more He’ll love us. And those of us who tend to be more obedient, are more prone to get caught in orphan-hood when we start thinking we deserve God’s bounty.
The point is, God’s bounty is available to all of us, all the time. The prodigal knew he had walked away from God’s bounty. But it was the obedient son who failed to realize that bounty was available all the time, anytime. All he had to do was ask the father.
So, when was the last time you doubted God’s provision of things He’s already provided?
How about peace? Joy? Wisdom?
As a loving Father, He not only supplies all our needs (Phil 4:13), He lavishes His goodness and grace upon us.
If you’re not walking in this, is it possible you’ve allowed yourself to fall back into orphan-hood?
Last week I introduced a journaling method that helps overcome an orphan spirit.
At the end of the post, I offered a free download of a printable worksheet to help you walk through the process. If you didn’t get the worksheet, I’ve included the form again below. Simply fill in your first name and email address. Within a few minutes you should receive one or two emails with links to a pdf of the form. If you have trouble printing it, you made need to convert it to a Word document.
I hope your find the worksheet helpful. Or if you want, you can follow the process in your own journal. The steps are as follows:
• Write down what it is you want God to do for you. Remember, we have not because we ask not. Don’t be afraid to ask Abba.
• Then ask yourself why you feel you have this need. Keep asking seven times, layering deeper each time, in order to get to your root concern.
• Then envision yourself climbing into God’s lap, looking deep into His eyes, and asking Him to meet that root need.
• Finally, pay attention to how He responds. Not necessarily the words He used, but the ways in which He answered.
To receive free worksheets for Overcoming Orphanhood, enter your first name and email address.
Within a few minutes you'll receive an email instructing you how to download and use the worksheets.
Feel free to print as many as you wish to create your own journal.
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