The Parable Of Two Idolaters

idols abound
Photo by Gabriel Meinert on Unsplash

Turn with me in your Bibles first to Matthew 5:17-20. We’ve studied this text in detail just a few Sundays ago, but I want to refresh our memories. Jesus said:

Matthew 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

When Jesus came to this earth – God become perfect Man – Jesus lived the Law. He fulfilled the Law of sacrifice by dying on the Cross as “the Lamb of God”. There are no more animal sacrifices accepted from God to cover sins. If you are saved, your sin is covered by the blood of Christ.

It is His Blood that brings us near God (Ephesians 2:13)
It is His Blood that establishes the New Covenant (1 Corinthians 10:16)
It is His Blood that makes it possible for us to serve God (Hebrews 9:14)
It is His Blood that covers our sins once and for all (1 Peter 1:19)

Under the Old Covenant, God called His people to the Temple to worship. Under the New Covenant, the people of God ARE His Temple. God lives in us who are saved! We are to cherish God above all else.

Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial and shadow laws of the Old Covenant, but did not erase the need to love and obey God. His commandments are still in effect, even today. The Law is holy, and the commandment Holy and Just and Good” (Romans 7:12). When Jesus spoke of the GREATEST COMMANDMENT, He said:

Matthew 22:37-38 … Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment.

God is to have ALL of our love. He is to be loved much more than those that are around you. God is to be loved more than you love yourself. God told His Old Testament believers

Deuteronomy 10:12 … what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,

God demands that His people love Him first and foremost. If we love God most, then we will love those around us who are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). If we love God most, then we will love the spouse God has given us, and the children that are His gifts. We are to “love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). And if we love God, “we will keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3-5).

One of the most grievous sins in all the Scripture is to not love God, but to place your love on other gods. This is the sin of idolatry. Idolatry is to make a god in our image and in our likeness, to create a false god to follow. This is what the Pharisees and the Scribes did – they were idolaters.

Jesus told us in Matthew 5:20, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. What did Jesus mean by that? In order to understand this, we will look at what many called “The Parable of the Prodigal Son”. Turn with me to:

Luke 15:1-2 Then drew near unto {Jesus} all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

The phrase “Prodigal Son” is not found in the Scripture. Many Bibles have it posted just before the parable, but this is an addition by the translators. Jesus never called it “The Parable of the Prodigal Son”. If I ask people “What does ‘Prodigal’ mean?”, most would not have a clue. Some would guess it to be “wayward” or “wandering”, but you would be wrong. The word “prodigal” comes from Latin, and means “one who wastes resources by spending it recklessly”. By titling the parable “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” you miss the entire point. Let’s focus. Jesus said:

Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven

Now Jesus is near all the publicans and sinners, but far off the scribes and Pharisees murmur against the Son of God. “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them, they bitterly say. Their righteousness will not get them into the Kingdom of Heaven. It will not save them. They are self righteous. They are IDOLATERS. Go down to Jesus’ parable.

Matthew 15:11 And he said, A certain man had two sons:

Though Jesus doesn’t give the sermon a title, it is not “The Parable of THE Prodigal Son”. It is a parable about “two sons. It is a sermon about “TWO sons who were IDOLATERS. Neither son initially loved the Father of this parable.

The two idolatrous sons could be called
“Publican Sinner” and “Pharisee Scribe”

PS and PS – both initially missed the mark!

Since Jesus looked at “Publican Sinner” first, let’s read about him first.

Publican Sinner Worshiped SELF & STUFF

Luke 15:11-13 And he said, A certain man had two sons: 12 and the younger {Publican Sinner} of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And {Father} divided unto them his living. 13 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.

The younger son, Publican Sinner, took what the Father gave him. As the younger son according to Jewish Law, he was allowed 1/3 of the estate, and his older brother the double portion. Publican Sinner is like every person born into this world. Every person who has ever lived has benefited from the Grace of God. It is by God’s Grace that we are given life. It is by God’s Grace that we are not immediately destroyed because of our sinful nature. The Bible says:

Psalm 145:9 The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.

God is so good to us all. Jesus said,

Matthew 5:45 … your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Luke 6:35 … {our God} the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

God gives life and breath to us all, even though we are born idolatrous. God does “good, and {gives} us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness”. Old Publican Sinner went to the Father and said, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. Give me what YOU owe me. And the Father – filled with Grace – is “slow to anger and great in power” (Nahum 1:3). He didn’t give his son what he deserved. He gave his son grace – the grace that God gives to us all. Note that our text states:

Luke 15:13 … not many days after the younger son gathered all together

Young Publican Sinner didn’t immediately wander away from the Father. He stayed home for a few days. But then he gathered ALL together. He is suppose to be loving the Father with “ALL his heart, ALL his soul, ALL his mind”, but his heart is set on his stuff, his things. Gathering up his things, he moved into a far country. What is a far country? It is a place in your heart where you turn away from the God Who loves you, and begin to follow false gods and goddesses. The far country is a life that ignores the kindness and Grace, the Presence of God. The far country is when I stop loving God with my all, and instead make myself a god.

You can be in a “far country”, far from God, sitting in Church. Anytime your idol is yourself, you are far from God. Satan even tempted Jesus to leave God.

The devil told Jesus, “If you’re hungry, command these stones be made bread {That’s a “far country”}. If you’re the Son of God, cast yourself down, and God will save you {That’s a “far country”}. If you’ll worship me, the devil, I will give you all the best this world has to offer” {That’s a “far country”} (see Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus REFUSED to go into a far country – He refused to wander from God. Publican Sinner wandered from God.

Illustrate Beloved, God is everywhere, but in your mind you can go into a “far country”. I loved the illustration Pastor Kyle Idleman used, saying, “God is like electricity”. There is electricity all around you in this building, but few of you notice it unless it is mentioned. Electricity is there. If you were to probe into an electric socket, you would know it is there. God is there. He is there. In one sense Publican Sinner could not get away from God. In our minds, however, we can go into “a far country” by allowing idolatry & sin in our lives.

Proverbs 15:29 The Lord is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.

Publican Sinner took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. He is his own idol, his own god. The Bible says “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). When you love yourself more than you love God, when you are your own idol, you invest everything into that god. But in time, the good times end. Jesus said:

Luke 15:14-16 And when {Publican Sinner} had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

Idolatry always destroys those who worship it. Idols are nothing at all – they cannot do evil, nor is it in them to do good. Idolatry exchanges the truth of God with a lie (Romans 1:23-25). Idols were always placed in the “high places”, but worship of idols will always bring you low. The Bible says,

1 John 5:21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

The younger son Publican Sinner lost everything. Now he is off feeding pigs. Under the Old Covenant Law, pigs were considered unclean creatures (Leviticus 11:7; Deuteronomy 14:8; Isaiah 65:4; 66:1). The young idolater is hungry. No man gave unto him. He is eating the slop he is feeding the pigs. Then Publican Sinner REPENTS. That’s what we read:

Luke 15:17 … And when he came to himself

This is what the Bible calls REPENTANCE.

Preach This! REPENTANCE is when you stop making excuses and WAKE UP. REPENTANCE is when you get tired of eating the slop of the hogs. REPENTANCE is when you stop saying “I deserve this” and humble yourself, saying “I will go to my father”. You cannot be saved without REPENTANCE. You are not a child of God but for REPENTANCE.

The Apostle Paul preached, “they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance” (Acts 26:20). Repentance is when you wake up, and realize that YOU are not a god – that there is but ONE GOD – and there is access to this ONE GOD through ONE JESUS CHRIST ALONE.

God the Son said in John 7:37, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink”. The Holy Spirit says “Come”! The God of Heaven says “let the one who is thirsty COME. And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).

Young Publican Sinner repented, saying (Luke 15:17-18) “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee”.

Notice there are no EXCUSES made here. God never forgives an EXCUSE. He will, however, forgive those who repent. The picture of REPENTANCE is in these words:

Luke 15:19 {I} am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

Young Publican Sinner stopped doing things HIS way, and decided to let God be God. Like the Publicans and Sinners, he drew near to God.

Luke 15:20-24 {Publican Sinner} 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. 21 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. 22 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: 23 and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 24 for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

Publican Sinner is given a new name, a new start. In the arms of his Father he is blessed. In the arms of his Father he is made alive. Jesus earlier said:

Luke 15:7 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.

Who need(s) no repentance? Everyone needs repentance. You cannot be saved without repentance. The Apostle Paul said:

2 Corinthians 7:10 … godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of …

Repentance is a gift of God that leads us to God. It is “God Who grants repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18). God gives the gift of life freely and daily. He kept young Publican Sinner alive until he “came to himself”, or woke up from the stupor of idolatry. Because God is longsuffering (2 Peter 3:9) and kind (Romans 2:4), this young man came to repentance. Repenting, he came to the Father. Repenting, he was received into the family of God.

Pharisee Scribe Stayed With The Father –
But He Too Was In A “Far Place”

The younger Publican Sinner has come home, and there is rejoicing throughout the house. Now we read:

Luke 15:25-27 Now his elder son {this is Pharisee Scribe} was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.

I want you to notice what Pharisee Scribe did. He did NOT call the Father. He called one of the servants. He asked one of the servants what was going on. Jesus chastised the Pharisees and Scribes because:

Matthew 15:3 … {you} transgress the commandment of God by your tradition

and in Matthew 15:6 … {Pharisee Scribe} ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.

Pharisee Scribe did not consult God, nor His Word, when determining right or wrong. Pharisee Scribe was faithful to be in Church, faithful to the Temple, faithful to the rituals, but had no personal relationship to the Father. Pharisee Scribe wanted the Father to wait on HIM – and was upset that Publican Sinner was being forgiven and blessed. Our Lord said:

Luke 15:28 {Publican Scribe} was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him.

Pharisee Scribe was just as much an idolater as his younger brother Publican Sinner used to be. The Father came out to him, and begged him to come in. The older idolatrous son says:

Luke 15:29-30 Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: 30 but as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.

Now, if you’ll notice, as Jesus speaks the parable, 2/3rds of the parable is devoted to the younger son, but only 1/3 to the older son. God first called the Pharisees and Scribes to Himself through Abraham. God chose out a nation to be His own, a nation called Israel. It was to Israel that God first made His covenants. And yet, when Jesus comes to save the lost, Jesus:

John 1:11 … came unto His own, and His own received Him not

Pharisee Scribe should be pleased that his brother repented, and returned to the fold. But instead he is jealous, and upset. “Why is Jesus sitting with Publicans and Sinners? If He were the Messiah, He would know what sort of people these are”.

Jesus never finishes the parable. There is never a “The End” placed on it. We read:

Luke 15:31-32 And {the Father} said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. 32 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.

Jesus does not say that the Pharisees and Scribes are not saved. He leaves that open. But He does tell us that – if they are saved – then they should be OVERJOYED that Publicans and Sinners are coming home to God. The saved should be ecstatic that the Kingdom of God is growing.

Jesus didn’t just tell this story to get REBELLIOUS people to repent. He told this story to convict RELIGIOUS people, to get us to repent.

The Kingdom of God is not about what I want. It’s about what Jesus wants. The Kingdom of God is calling whosoever will to repent – to come to themselves – and to return home. The “Prodigal” younger son took the grace of God, wandered off, and got far away from home. He wasted his life until he came to Himself. But the older brother was also “Prodigal”. He was upset because the Father did not give HIM a party. The Father said, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. The Older Son had access to a party any time that he wanted. But the Older Son became complacent, then idolatrous. Though he was at home with Father, Father was miles away.

Christian – if you are a Christian – are you complacent in your faith? Have you wandered far away from God in your hearts? Are you just going through the motions? The Expositor’s Bible Dictionary says:

We call it the parable of the Prodigal Son; it might with equal propriety be called the Parable of the Bereaved Father, for the whole story crystallizes about that name, repeating it, in one form or another, no less than twelve times.”

Oh, how the Father loves us! Would that every one who reads this message or hears it’s preaching would open their hearts to Him. God is everywhere, but your heart makes God seem close or far away. As a Church, our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees and Scribes. Our Love must be Christ centered, and our focus joyfully on who we are in Christ. It is time for us to “break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12). If we want God to bless our nation, revival must begin here. The Prophet Isaiah, tired of the mess that Israel had become, prayed:

Isaiah 64:1-2 Oh {God} that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, 2 as when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!

The Parable Jesus spoke – whether you call it to Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Parable of the Grieving Father, or the Parable of Two Idolaters – is left hanging, with no resolution. It is as if Jesus says, “Now, will you repent? The ball is in your court. I am here. The Father is here. The Spirit is here. What will you do?” Oh Father, make the Holy Spirit of God move in our midst. For your glory and honor. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen and Amen.

About bibleteacherorg

A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
This entry was posted in Luke, Sermons Preached and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.