Luke 15 - Steve Wiggins Daily Devotional
“All the tax collectors and sinners were approaching to listen to Yeshua. And the Pharisees and Scribes were complaining, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!’” Luke 15:1-2
The idea that sinners can be restored to the L_rd, as if their sin had never happened, is not an entirely New Testament concept. In 1178, a rabbi named Maimonides published a compilation of Judaism’s ancient requirements. He wrote:
“Let not the Jew who repents and returns to Judaism suppose that because of the iniquities and sins he has committed he is kept at a distance from the level attained by righteous men. It isn’t so. He is loved as tenderly by the Creator as if he never sinned.”
To clarify: I am NOT suggesting that people can be saved by returning to rabbinic Judaism and following its requirements. The Bible is clear that we are saved by G_d’s grace, when we repent from our sin, and place our faith in Messiah, Yeshua, alone. Ephesians 2: 8-9. I am simply saying that in the days of Yeshua, the Jewish understanding of the “concept” of G_d’s great love towards repentant sinners was consistent with Yeshua’s message.
The rabbis’ rejection of Yeshu’s approach to the “lost sheep of Israel”, proved they were not practicing what they were preaching. Yeshua’s response to their criticism was to tell three parables. The symbols He uses become more valuable with each consecutive parable. One parable concerned a sheep, and the other dealt with a lost coin.
Finally, Yeshua describes a father with two sons. One brother left home and squandered his inheritance, while the other stayed. But the greater lesson for the Pharisees did not concern the prodigal. It concerned the response of the brother who stayed at home. Filled with self-righteousness, he refused to rejoice over his brother’s return.
Levites were the tribe of priests, whose inheritance/birthright was not in the possession of land. Their inheritance was to serve the L_rd and minster to Him on behalf of others. When your inheritance is “The L_rd” (and you choose to receive it), nobody’s actions or any circumstance can diminish the value of your inheritance. Yet, these Levites (Pharisees & Scribes) in Yeshua’s day were working so hard for G_d’s approval that they became envious of anyone who might receive G_d’s love, by His grace. They looked down upon others who “squandered” their lives…even when they turned back to the L_rd! For these Pharisees, the title of “prodigal” would never be removed and replaced with “son” or “daughter”.
Yeshua has called us ALL to a holy priesthood. So let’s put all envy and strife aside, and rejoice with one another when our lost “prodigal” brothers & sisters come home…just as the angels in Heaven rejoiced when we came home!
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, G_d’s special passion, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of G_d; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:8-10
~Steve Wiggins, Assistant Rabbi
Daily Devotional, Monday, June 17, 2013