(Based on the story of the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11-24)
Eliab plodded to the top of a familiar rise. Just ahead he could see the flat rooftop of his ancestral home. Eliab’s heart began to drum in his ears, his face grew hot with shame, and sweat trickled down his back. Soon Eliab would face his father.
As he watched his feet take one step after another, thoughts circled around one question:
What would his father say?
Perhaps, “Get out of my sight! I no longer have two sons, only one.”
Perhaps, “Alright, Eliab, you may work in the fields and barn to pay back your debt. You may also sleep in the barn and take your meals with the other hired hands. Such flagrant waste of your inheritance must be recompensed.”
Eliab would soon know the response that would determine his fate. He looked up once again to check his progress. A man was running toward him down the road. What would cause him to be in such a hurry?
No sooner had the question formed in his mind than he recognized the bearing of the approaching figure. It was his father. Eliab’s knees grew weak, and not just from hunger. He collapsed to the ground in a heap, tears streaming down his face.
Quick steps approached; strong arms lifted Eliab up and grasped him in a tight embrace. He heard his father cry, “Oh, Eliab!” And together they wept.
Moments passed and Eliab steeled himself for the speech he had prepared during his long journey.
“Father,” he choked, “I’ve sinned against God and I’ve sinned before you. I know I can no longer be considered your son, but…”
Eliab’s father wasn’t even listening. He turned to call out to his servants, “Get a clean set of clothes and new sandals. Bring the family signet ring. Then prepare the grain-fed heifer for roasting. We are going to have the grandest celebration our village has ever seen! My son that was as good as dead to me is alive again!”
And with that, Eliab, caretaker of pigs, was lavishly honored because his father:
- Forgave him for being so foolish, squandering his inheritance.
- Restored his position in the family, symbolized by the specific request of shoes. (Family members wore shoes; slaves did not.)
- Clothed him in fresh, clean robes.
- Honored him with the signet ring, a symbol of authority.
- Loved him, pure and simple.
Now I’ve never been a caretaker of pigs. You probably haven’t been either. But I’ve certainly committed my own foolish acts of selfish rebellion. Maybe you have, too.
And yet, when we throw ourselves on God’s mercy, he
- Forgives our sins and remembers them no more (Hebrews 8:12).
- Adopts us into his family, making us his children (John 1:12-13).
- Clothes us in the righteousness of Jesus (Isaiah 61:10), and God sees us as if we had never sinned (Colossians 1:21-22).
- Honors us (Psalm 91:15)—with his presence and countless gifts. Someday we’ll receive a crown of glory that will never fade away (1 Peter 5:4).
- Loves us, pure and simple, for now and always (Jeremiah 31:33).
* * * * * * * * * *
How I thank you, Heavenly Father, for taking pity on me, as the father did in the story of the prodigal son. You redeemed my life from the pig sty. You forgive my sins–every one of them. You have more than satisfied me with your goodness and faithful love. Never do I want to lose the wonder of your love and grace!
(Psalm 103:1-5, 13)
Eliab means “to whom God is Father.”