Definition: In relation to the parable of the Prodigal Son which Jesus told, the term “prodigal” refers to someone who is returning to the Lord and His service after having abandoned them for selfish, worldly pursuits.
1. We’ve all been prodigals at some time, either by leaving God’s work or by going astray spiritually.
* Psalm 40:12 For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.
* Psalm 53:3 Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
* Psalm 130:3 If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?
* Isaiah 53:6a All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.
* Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
* 1 Peter 2:25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
[See also Psalm 14:3; 20:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10-19,23.]
2. Returning prodigals should have a repentant, broken, humble attitude.
* 2 Chronicles 7:14 If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
* Psalm 41:4 I said, Lord, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against Thee.
* Psalm 51:3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
* Psalm 84:10 For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.
* Psalm 119:176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Thy servant; for I do not forget Thy commandments.
* Jeremiah 14:7 O Lord, though our iniquities testify against us, do Thou it for Thy name’s sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against Thee.
* Jeremiah 24:7 And I will give them an heart to know Me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be My people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto Me with their whole heart.
* Ezekiel 36:31 Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations.
* Luke 15:18,19 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and before thee, 19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
* 2 Corinthians 7:10,11 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. 11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
3. God promises mercy to those who return to Him.
* 2 Chronicles 30:9b The Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away His face from you, if ye return unto Him.
* Isaiah 54:7,8 For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. 8 In a little wrath I hid My face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.
* Isaiah 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.
* Jeremiah 3:12b Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord; and I will not cause Mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever. [See also verse 14.]
* Daniel 9:9 To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against Him;
* Hosea 14:4 I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for Mine anger is turned away from him. [See also Jeremiah 3:22; Hosea 6:1.]
[See also Isaiah 1:18; Jeremiah 3:14a; Joel 2:12,13; Zechariah 10:6.]
4. The Lord is able to restore repentant prodigals to useful service.
* Job 14:7 For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.
* Psalm 51:3,10,13 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me… 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 13 Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.
* Ezekiel 36:26,27 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them.
* Daniel 4:23-26 [God dealt heavily with King Nebuchadnezzar because of his pride (see verse 30), but He restored him later, after he had repented:] And whereas the king saw a watcher [angel] and an holy one coming down from Heaven, and saying, Hew the tree down, and destroy it; yet leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth… and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him; 25 …[Daniel explained to the king:] and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will. 26 And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule.
* Ephesians 4:22-24 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. [See also Colossians 3:9,10.]
5. We are to show a loving, forgiving attitude toward returning prodigals.
* Luke 6:36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
* Luke 15:4-7 [Jesus taught this parable:] What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? 5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. 7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. [See also Matthew 18:12-14.]
* Luke 17:3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.
* Ephesians 4:31,32 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. [See also Colossians 3:13.]
* 2 Timothy 2:25,26 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves [who are in opposition]; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will [to do his will].
6. Returning prodigals must prove themselves; they must earn the respect and position they once had by grace.
* Matthew 3:8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance. [See also Luke 3:8a; Matthew 7:20.]
* Proverbs 17:2a A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame.
* Luke 13:6-9 [Sometimes prodigals need special care in order to become fruitful again, but they must show themselves responsive.] He [Jesus] spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. 7 Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? 8 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: 9 And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
* Luke 15:21 And the [prodigal] son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
* Luke 15:31 [Although the Prodigal Son was allowed back into the Father’s house, everything belonged to the faithful “older brother”:] And he [the Father] said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
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