Then 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 falls to me.' So he divided to them his livelihood. "And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. "But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. "Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. "And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. "But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 'I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, "and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants." ' "And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still 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 to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.' "But the father said to his servants, 'Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 'And bring the fatted calf here 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. - Luke 15:11-24 NKJVThis story in Luke's Gospel tells of a man who had two sons...one son decided he wanted to take all that was due to him (his inheritance) and leave. The father concedes and the son goes into the world and wastes away all his possessions. Everything that was given to him was quickly lessened to the clothes on his back and a likely emptiness in the pit of his stomach...and in his heart. He had nothing, he was far from anyone who loved him, and he had to feed pigs and eat what was left from the pigs slop to survive. But, His father never went after him. He had to find his own way back home.
And when he finally repents, turns home, and seeks out his father and his forgiveness, everyone stopped what they were doing and celebrated.
---The Lost Sheep---
"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? "And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. "And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' "I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. - Luke 15:4-7 NKJVHere, a shepherd is counting his sheep one day and discovers that one of his sheep is missing. He leaves behind the 99, knowing that they are still together as a flock, and begins his frantic search for his one missing sheep. The shepherd found the sheep, put it on his shoulders, and carried it back to his flock.
And when the sheep was found and the shepherd brought it back to it's flock, everyone stopped what they were doing and celebrated.
Both the father and the shepherd found reasons to celebrate: their loved lamb and son were home again.
The prodigal, choosing for himself the life that he thought he wanted, had to make the choice to come home on his own.
The sheep, being lost, hadn't realized what it had done and strayed from the flock.
The prodigal knew the difference between the right and wrong decision.
The sheep didn't know that what he was doing was wrong.
The prodigal knew that the inheritance would come, that his father would one day give it to him (as was the custom of the time), but he still asked for it.
The sheep didn't understand the consequences of his actions (death, despair, pain) or the comfort that he left behind.
The prodigal turned his back on the love, comfort, and hard work that came with being a part of a family and having that rich inheritance.
The sheep turned away, likely because he thought that where he was going was the proper path to take, or because he didn't know any better.
The prodigal's father didn't chase after him, but let him choose for himself whether he wanted to repent and come home, or stay away in a world that only took from him and left him feeling empty.
The sheep's shepherd stopped everything the moment he was found missing and pursued after him as quickly as possible because his sheep had gone away into a place that would hurt him if he weren't protected by his shepherd and with his flock.
The prodigal chose his path but knew his way home...and had to come back himself. His father was waiting with forgiving and open arms for him, but he had to make the decision to repent and turn back.
The sheep got lost but didn't know his way home...and had to be found. His shepherd searched for him with open arms, not to discipline him but to bring him back into his flock.
You see, in both stories, when the lost loved one returns home, the celebration is similar. There is a rejoicing knowing that a loved one is restored back to it's rightful place: in the family and in the flock. But the difference is in the circumstances leading up to the celebration. The difference is whether or not that returning loved one chose to turn it's back or simply strayed.
Yet, whether the Lord has brought a prodigal or a lost sheep to your mind, keep praying knowing that no matter which it is, the celebration will be the same and the rejoicing will be glorious when they are returned to their proper position in the body of Christ. The love of the Lord doesn't waver and the grace and mercy He gives to each and every one of us will last a lifetime of prodigal or lost sheep moments.
Through the LORD's mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!" - Lamentations 3:22-24 NKJV