Today’s selected passage continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah, and more specifically, is found in the first nineteen verses of the thirty-sixth chapter. When you begin reading this particular chapter found within the prophetic book of Jeremiah, you will discover that this was the second time the prophet Jeremiah was instructed by the Lord to write all the words which He spoke unto him. This chapter opens up with the prophet being instructed by the Lord to “take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day” (Jeremiah 36:1-2). What’s so incredibly interesting about the Lord’s instruction to the prophet is not necessarily what He instructed him to do, but why He did so. If you continue reading the third verse of this chapter, you will encounter the Lord’s purpose for this recounting and recording that which He had spoken—“It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin” (Jeremiah 36:3). The purpose of Jeremiah’s writing in a scroll all the words he prophesied to the lands of Israel and Judah was to reveal unto them all the vil which He purposed to do unto them. The words which Jeremiah was to write on the roll of a book was to reveal and to remind the inhabitants of the land of that which the Lord of hosts desired and purposed to do unto them because of their evil and wickedness. What’s worth noting is that the Lord hoped that in the hearing of His purposes they would return every man from his evil way, and in the process and act of their returning from his evil way, the Lord would forgive their iniquity and their sin. This begs the ultimate question concerning the true purpose and intention of the Lord concerning His people. When you read the third verse of this chapter it might be incredibly easy to consider the purpose of the Lord was to bring destruction, calamity, catastrophe and devastation upon His people. It would be incredibly easy to read this particular verse and think that the ultimate purpose of the Lord was to bring destruction and devastation upon His people. The truth of the matter is that this simply isn’t the case. The ultimate purpose, desire and intention was not to bring destruction upon His people, nor to give them over to famine, pestilence or the sword. I am convinced that the third verse of this chapter reveals an absolutely overwhelming contradiction to our way of thinking concerning the divine plan and purpose of the Lord. Consider this for a moment—if the ultimate purpose and intention of the Lord was to bring destruction, devastation and calamity upon His people, why would He speak of and reveal their release and return before they even entered into their captivity? Why—if the Lord’s express purpose and intention was to destroy and bring to a complete end Jerusalem and Judah—would the Lord declare unto His people that in submission to the king of Babylon they would find rest for their souls? If we believe the Lord’s ultimate purpose for His people during the days of Jeremiah was destruction and devastation then we must reconcile this reality with His intention to release, return and restore them to their own land. There are many who would read the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah and immediately think that the Lord was, and the Lord is a vengeful God who desires, and even delights in taking vengeance upon His people. There would be those who would read the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah and think to themselves that the Lord’s ultimate purpose was to destroy His people and to remove them from the land. I must declare with everything inside of me that if the Lord’s ultimate goal and desire was to remove the people from the land, then why would He speak of returning that people to the very same land, and why would the Lord speak of restoring the people within the land? One of the things that I absolutely love about the Lord is that while it is true that He removed His people from their land—the land He promised and swore on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—He didn’t bring them into another land. The Lord didn’t remove the children of Israel from the land He swore on oath to them and to their ancestors, and then bring them into a completely different land. What I so love about the Lord is that while He did indeed remove the people from the land—when it came time for Him to release His people from their captivity, He restored them to the land they dwelt in at first. The Lord didn’t spend seventy years searching for a new land to bring His people into, for after all—they did everything to screw up the land He had given them.
THE GOD WHO BRINGS YOU BACK TO THE VERY SAME LAND YOU DEFILED! THE GOD WHO BRINGS YOU BACK TO THE VERY SAME LAND YOU POLLUTED! THE GOD WHO BRINGS YOU BACK TO THE VERY SAME LAND YOU CORRUPTED! THE GOD WHO GIVES YOU A SECOND CHANCE WITHIN THE LAND! THE GOD WHO GIVES YOU A SECOND CHANCE WITHIN THE INHERITANCE! It’s absolutely incredible that when the time came for the Lord to release His people from their captivity—a captivity that was spent in a strange and foreign land that was not their own—He returned them to their own land. Even though the people had defiled the land once already, the Lord still returned them to that very same land. Even though the people had polluted the land once already, the Lord still returned them to that very same land. Even though the people had corrupted the land once already, the Lord still returned them to the land. What’s more, is that He even permitted them to rebuild the Temple of the Lord in the midst of the land—a reality that would reveal that not only had the people been returned to the land, but the people were also making a conscious decision to return to the Lord. I so love the fact that we serve a God who is perfectly able to bring us back to the very same place we once defiled, corrupted and polluted. Perhaps the single greatest reality surrounding their release from captivity and their return to the land is that the Lord not only preserved the people for the land, but He also preserved the land for the people. What’s more, is that the Lord never made a complete end of His people, nor did He make a complete end to the land. There would come a day when the Lord would reunite the people with their land, and the land with its people. The Lord watched over and preserved the land during those seventy years, for even though His people had defiled, corrupted and polluted the land, the Lord did not, the Lord would not, and the Lord could not take the land from them. Despite the fact that they had rebelled against the Lord and committed great wickedness in the land, the Lord never took the land away from the people. It is true the Lord removed the people from the land, but the Lord never took the land from the people, nor did He cut them off from the land. The Lord in His infinite mercy not only preserved the land, but the Lord also preserved the people as well. How absolutely awesome and wonderful it is to consider the fact that even though the children of Israel had made a complete mess of the land and their inheritance, they weren’t cast away from the land forever.
To bring this reality home even more, and to help illustrate it even further, I can’t help but be reminded of the parable Jesus told concerning the prodigal son, the religious brother, and the merciful father. If you journey to the New Testament gospel according to Luke, you will encounter Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son in the fifteenth chapter. “And He said, A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and jointed himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. Nowhis elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and they father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gave east me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: but as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art every with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:11-31).
THE FAMINE IS THE MERCY! THE FAMINE IS THE GRACE! When we read this particular parable we tend to either view it in light of the prodigal who squandered the inheritance of his father which was given unto him, or we tend to view it in light of the father who ran with open arms to embrace his son while he was still yet a far way off. As I sit here and consider this passage, I have to admit that I see something different in this passage—something that isn’t always considered. When you read this particular passage you will notice that when this son had spent all that he had been given, there arose a mighty famine in that land. It would be very easy to focus on the squandered inheritance when reading this passage, yet it is not the squandered inheritance that is truly the focal point of this passage. Pause for a moment and consider what could have happened had this son spent all he had been given of his father, and yet there did not arise a mighty famine in that land. Think for a moment what the outcome of this passage of Scripture could have been if this son had squandered all that he had been given of his father, and yet didn’t have to walk through or experience the famine. I would dare say—and I fully recognize there would be those who might disagree with me on this—that the famine was absolutely necessary in the parable. When Jesus taught His hearers in parables, I am convinced there was no detail that was unnecessary in such parables. When Jesus taught in parables, He never said anything by accident, and there was always a reason and a purpose for what He spoke. When we read this particular parable of the prodigal son, we must recognize and understand that the famine which struck the land was incredibly significant. Think about it—why would Jesus even mention the fact that a mighty famine rose in that land if there wasn’t a divine reason and purpose for it. THERE’S A REASON FOR THE FAMINE! THERE’S A PURPOSE FOR THE FAMINE! THERE’S A PLAN IN THE FAMINE! THERE’S A MESSAGE IN THE FAMINE! When we read this particular parable of Jesus, we dare not overlook the reality of the famine that arose within that land, for it was the famine that actually plaid a crucial role ink the life of this son. As you read this parable, you will notice that the son could have very easily have spent all he had, and continued living in a land without experiencing the famine. It would have been very easy for this son to have spent all that he had and then continued living in that land without the famine, yet I do not believe for minute that we would have had the same outcome were it not for the famine. You will notice when reading this passage that Jesus didn’t simply declare that a famine had risen within the land, but a mighty famine had risen within the land. Pay close attention to this fact, for this reveals something truly and absolutely necessary within our own lives and spiritual experience.
I believe with all my heart that the famine was an act of mercy used as a tool and instrument within the life of this son. We dare not, we cannot, we must not read this passage and think for one moment that the famine which arose in the land did not serve a purpose in the life of this son. The more I read and study this passage of Scripture, the more I am convinced that it was the famine that begun the process of returning this son to his father, and restoring him to his place and relationship as son with his father. It wasn’t the fact that he had spent all he had that began the process of this son’s return to the house of his father. I am convinced that this son could have learned how to survive in this land even though he had spent all he had. I believe this son could have survived within this land had the famine not struck the land, for he might very well have found work that would have helped get him back on his feet. When I read this parable, I am immediately gripped by the fact that even though the son had spent all he had, Jesus seems to suggests that he was never intended on forging or creating a life for him in that distant and foreign land. Despite the fact that the prodigal son had spent all he had, it was never his lot to develop or establish for himself a life in that land. In all reality, I am convinced that the mighty famine which struck the land was the beginning of his journey back to his father’s house, and was the beginning of his removal from that land. The mighty famine arose within and arose upon the land, for it was through that famine this son would begin the long journey and process of returning to his father. Did you know that famine is part of the process? Did you know that a mighty famine is part of the process? We cannot afford to miss this very important truth, for the prodigal did not come to the end of himself simply because he had spent all he had. Did you know you can spend all you have and still not come to the end of yourself? Did you know that you can squander everything you have and yet still not reach the point where you have come to the end of yourself, and to the place where you will return the way in which you came? Merely losing it all wasn’t enough to cause this son to rise from that land and return to his father—a reality that proves and reveals to me that it is possible even in this generation to lose everything we have and yet still not come to the end of ourselves.
YOU CAN LOSE EVERYTHING AND STILL NOT COME TO THE END OF YOURSELF! YOU CAN LOSE EVERYTHING AND STILL NOT COME TO YOUR SENSES! It is true this son had spent all he had, but spending all he had merely meant that he had spent that which was given him of his father. If merely losing all he had was enough to bring this son to his senses, then when telling the parable Jesus would have declared that after he had spent all he had he came to his senses and decided to return to his father’s house. Jesus could have very easily described how this son came to himself because he had lost and spent everything he had been given. The truth of the matter is that this isn’t how the parable was told at all, and I am convinced Jesus knew and understood this. There is not a doubt in my mind that Jesus didn’t know, and Jesus still doesn’t know that it isn’t merely when we lose everything that we come our selves and come to our senses. The more I read this parable the more I am convinced that it reveals the powerful reality that losing it all isn’t enough to bring us to the place of desperation within our lives. Had Jesus told this parable in such a way that the minute this son spent all he had and then came to his senses, we might conclude that merely losing and/or spending it all is enough to bring us to that place where we come to our senses. The truth of the matter is that that simply isn’t the case, and I believe Jesus knew, recognized and understood that. There are men and women in this generation who have spent everything they had and yet still not come to themselves—still not come to the place when they have come to the end of themselves. There are men and women within this generation who have lost everything they had, and yet they still have not reached or come to the place where they have come to themselves and made the decision to return to the Father. I am going to be bold again right here and declare that I do not believe losing everything is enough to bring us to the place where we come to the end of ourselves. While I will acknowledge that losing everything does position us in a vulnerable place before our God, and perhaps even in front of others, I do not believe that it that act of losing everything that causes us to come to the end of and reach the end of ourselves. Losing everything is merely the beginning of coming to the end of ourselves, and is but the first step in the process of returning to the Father.
Would you be surprised if I told you that losing everything was only the beginning and that it could very well get a whole lot worse before things actually start to turn around? Would you be surprised if I told that you losing everything was only the start and that you may very well have to expect much worse than what you have experienced? Would you be alarmed if I told you that losing everything only positions you for something even greater, and something far worse to take place? This son had spent all he had, and yet that wasn’t even the worse thing that could happen, or did happen to him. When we read this parable, we find that Jesus didn’t declare that this son had spent all he had and then entered into the place of being in want. Jesus didn’t tell this parable and present this son as spending all he had and then began to be in want. When Jesus told this parable, He declared that this son had spent all that he had, and then only after he had spent all he had did a mighty famine strike the land, and only as a result of that famine did this son begin to be in want. Pause for a moment and consider that it is possible to lose everything and yet still not arrive in that place where you begin to be in want. Ponder the idea that it is possible to spend everything you have and yet not enter into or reach the place where you begin to be in want. This son had spent all he had, yet that was only the beginning of his process of returning to the father. First came the spending of all he had, yet it was his spending all he had that positioned him perfectly when the mighty famine arose within and struck the land. WHEN LOSING EVERYTHING POSITIONS YOU FOR THE FAMINE! I realize that this goes against fiber and grain within our hearts and minds, yet it is utterly and completely true. This son had spent all he had, and yet it was in the spending of all he had that he was positioned perfectly when the famine had struck. Imagine if the famine had struck the land and the son hadn’t squandered or spent all he had. I am convinced that if the famine had struck the land while this son still had plenty of his inheritance left, he would, and perhaps even could have remained in the land. The truth is that that simply isn’t the way Jesus told the parable, for Jesus told the parable as the son spending all he had, and then a mighty famine striking the land. WHEN LOSING EVERYTHING POSITIONS YOU FOR DROUGHT! WHEN LOSING EVERYTHING POSITIONS YOU FAMINE! Please don’t miss or lose sight of this reality, for I am convinced that this is where a number of men and women are within their lives right now.
The more I read this parable, the more I am convinced that it was the son’s spending all he had that perfectly positioned him to enter into the famine. WHEN YOU ENTER THE FAMINE WITH NOTHING! WHEN YOU ENTER THE DROUGHT WITH NOTHING! Have you every been there? Have you ever been in the place where you have entered into a famine within your life, and you have entered it with absolutely nothing? Have you every entered into a famine or drought within your life without any hope? Have you ever entered into a famine without any joy of peace? Have you ever entered into a famine or draught without any faith or trust? Have you ever entered and walked into a famine without any strength or resolve left within you? When this son entered into the famine, he entered into it with absolutely nothing—a reality we must pay close attention to. THERE ARE TIMES WHEN THE ONLY WAY TO ENTER INTO A FAMINE IS WITH NOTHING! THERE ARE TIMES WHEN THE ONLY WAY TO ENTER INTO A DROUGHT IS WITH ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! It is true and it is possible that we cannot enter into a famine with everything together, for entering into a famine with everything may very well be detrimental to our spiritual process and journey. I read this parable and I believe with everything inside me that there are times when the only way for us to enter into a famine or drought is with absolutely nothing, for it’s only when we enter into a famine with nothing that we can truly be in want. Consider the fact that Abraham and Isaac each experienced a famine within the land, and while it is true they both went down into the land of Egypt, we don’t read of them being in want. When the famine struck the land of Egypt, Joseph had already spent three and a half years preparing for the famine by stockpiling grain in the vats of Egypt. When this son experienced this famine, however, he was completely unable to do anything to plan or prepare for it, for it came upon him suddenly, without warning and unexpectedly. Please catch that last part, for not only must we at times enter into a famine with absolutely nothing, but we might also need to walk into and experience it without any prior or advanced warning. The Lord didn’t announce the famine Abraham and Isaac went through, and the Lord didn’t announce the famine this son went through. Here I go being bold again, but I feel the need to declare to you that the Lord does not need to, and He might not even provide you with any advance warning concerning the famine that is about to strike.
THERE ARE TIMES WHEN WE MUST ENTER INTO THE FAMINE WITH NOTHING! THERE ARE TIMES WHEN WE MUST ENTER THE FAMINE WITHOUT ANY ADVANCE NOTICE OR WARNING! When you read this parable you will notice that it was the combination of the son selling all he had, and the mighty famine which struck the land that caused this son to begin to be in want. It was out of and from that place that he began to seek after and search for that which would satisfy him. I believe with all my heart that the famine was an act of mercy and an act of grace, for it was the famine that positioned this son in the place where he would begin to be in want. SOME TIMES YOU CAN’T TRULY BE IN THE PLACE OF TRUE WANT UNTIL AND UNLESS YOU ENTER A FAMINE WITH ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! This son entered into the famine with absolutely nothing and it was from that place of having nothing in the midst of a famine that he began to be in want. In that incredibly vulnerable place of being in want that this son joined himself to a citizen of that country and was sent into the fields to feed swine. What we read next is actually a further step in the process, for we read of his desire to have filled his belly with the husks the swine did eat, yet no man gave unto him. SPENDING ALL WE HAVE! ENTERING INTO A FAMINE WITH NOTHING! BEING GIVEN NOTHING BY ANY MAN! THE PERFECT STORM: SPENDING ALL WE HAVE, ENTERING INTO A FAMINE WITH NOTHING, AND BEING GIVEN NOTHING BY MAN. I have to admit that I absolutely love that Jesus revealed how not man gave unto him, for there was only one who could give to him, and that was his father. It is significant and worth noting that no man gave unto him, for the positioned him in the place where the only one who could truly provide for him was his father back home. It was the famine that positioned him in the place where he would begin to be in want, and it was from the place where no man would give unto him that he was positioned to receive only from his father. THERE ARE TIMES WHEN NO MAN CAN GIVE YOU ANYTHING! THERE ARE TIMES WHEN NO MAN WILL GIVE YOU ANYTHING! Did you know that there may very well be times within your life when no man can give you anything because you need to be positioned in the place where only the Father can give you what you need and desire? Did you know that there may be times within your life when no man will give you anything because you need to be in the place where it is only the Father who can give unto and provide you what you need and desire. It was in the entering into the famine with nothing that caused him to be in want, and it was from the place where no man would give unto him that caused him to come to himself. The son spent all he had, which perfectly positioned him to enter into the famine with nothing. It was his entering into the famine with nothing that positioned him to begin to be in want. It was from that place of being in want that he began searching for that which would satisfy his desires. It would be from that place where no man would give unto him that he would come to his senses. All of these elements combined to create the perfect storm within this son’s life, thus causing him to rise up and return to his father’s house.
Do you want to know what I love about this parable? I love that when the son returned to his father, his father didn’t give him enough to return to the land he had just came from, and to create a life for himself. I love that the father didn’t despise or reject this son when he saw him a long way off, thus shunning him and restricting him from entering into and returning to the house. Despite the fact that the son had spent all that his father had given him, the son never lost his place in the father’s house. This parable reveals the incredibly powerful reality that the son could have returned to his father’s house at any point in time. With that being said, however, I am convinced that this son needed to experience and encounter the perfect storm in this foreign land before he could eventually come to his senses and return to his father’s house. THERE’S ALWAYS A PLACE IN THE FATHER’S HOUSE! I presented this parable of the prodigal son to help illustrate the fact that even though the children of Israel had polluted, had defiled and had corrupted the land, the Lord did not take the land away from them, nor cause them to create a life for themselves in a new and completely different land. Despite the fact that they had squandered what they had in the earth, the Lord still preserved the land for the people, and preserved the people for the land. Despite the fact that the son had squandered all his father had given unto him, the son still had a place within the father’s house. THE PRODIGAL HAS A PLACE IN THE FATHER’S HOUSE & THE PEOPLE STILL HAVE A PLACE IN THE LAND! The ultimate objective and end goal of the Lord was not to cast His people off forever, but to return and restore them to the land. When you read this passage of Scripture in the prophetic book of Jeremiah, you will notice that the instruction to write down all the words the Lord spoke to Jeremiah from the days of Josiah until that day was to ultimately position them where the Lord would forgive their iniquity and sin. The ultimate purpose and desire was not judgment, nor was it captivity, but it was in that place of captivity the Lord would preserve the people, for captivity itself was an act of mercy on behalf of the Lord toward His people. CAPTIVITY WAS A DIVINE ACT OF MERCY! CAPTIVITY WAS A DIVINE ACT OF GRACE! Oh that we would recognize and understand that the Father always has a place for us within His house, and that the people always have a place within the land. The Lord did not cast His people forth from the land forever, and in fact, He not only restored and returned them to the land once, but twice. Please don’t forget this fact, for it reveals just how incredibly powerful the mercy and grace of the Lord is.