Honor affects our lives beyond the church; it affects every part of our life. Pastor Andrea felt drawn to the story of the prodigal son and the comparison and contrast between honor and dishonor. We tend to try to contextualize a story that does not fit our culture. Jesus told this story in the time of His culture. There is a big difference between our culture and that of the Middle East. They are based on honor vs. shame, and we are based on reward vs. punishment. This story views honor and shame which was the context Jesus told it.
We raise our children based on morality, right or wrong, whereas with Middle Eastern culture was based on whether an action brings honor or shame to the family. A threat of dishonoring the family is what usually promotes people to good behavior, so it is a different mindset.
Honor becomes the umbrella that extends over the set of behaviors, commitments, and attitudes that preserve a culture in society. Individuals reared with the desire for honor will seek the good of the larger group willingly embodying the groups values in their journey for self-fulfillment. It was all about community and family; you cannot separate family out of this story or community.
When Jesus went to the cross it was the most shameful death that Rome could inflict. Jesus bore the shame and dishonor in our place. It was such a shameful thing to be crucified in Roman culture. Jesus embodied the fullness of honor by walking to the cross.
Read Luke 15:11-31
A father would give an inheritance to his sons with the older son getting the double portion and then the rest was split equally among the other children. The older son took care of the other siblings, so he received a double portion in the Old Testament.
The son asking for his portion was not in violation of the law. This was a violation of the relationship between a father and son. It was a violation a brokenness in the relationship that began to fracture. It was beyond cash. It would be livestock, property, and buildings. The father had to divide the estate. It not only jeopardized the son’s inheritance it jeopardized the whole family.
The word inheritance is not used here. Pastor Andrea defined the Greek context which means wealth, property, or substance. He was asking for the wealth, property and substance that is attached to his father’s name when he would die. Inheritance also means responsibility to the family. The younger son did not care about the family. He just wanted what he considered his with no strings attached and did not care what happened to the rest of the family.
He asked for the substance of the family. He wanted to take the money and run and have no further ties to the father. Imagine the heartache the father experienced. This was one of the ultimate active dishonors in that culture because there was no concern for the family.
He squandered everything, with no concern for the value, therefore he dishonored the family. He traveled away from his own people and went where there were no family or any part of his community. The word squandered literally means scattered. He lived irresponsibly.
Aristotle defined a prodigal as a man who has a single evil quality that of wasting his substance. He literally wasted what God had given him, and what his father had given him. He came to his senses and decided to be a hired laborer for his father, returning home.
He was no longer a part of family or the community. He was an outsider in a foreign land with nothing. He wasted everything and, in a culture, where he now lived outside the community, he was left to fend for himself. Not only did he break the relationship with his father, but he left the protection of the family and the community.
In the Jewish community pigs were unclean and detestable. He was living outside of the Jewish community. Since, he was in contact with pigs, it was the final straw of dishonor. He had no honor left in him.
Kenneth Bailey, a historian scholar, knew the Middle East culture. if a Jewish son lost his inheritance among Gentiles, and then returned home, the community would perform a ceremony, called the kezazah. They would break a large pot in front of him and yell, “You are now cut off from your people!” The community would totally reject him.
The father upon seeing his son returning home, — shamed himself — to get to his son before the community got to him, so that his son did not experience the shame and humiliation of their taunting and rejection. After this emotional reuniting of the prodigal son with his father, it was clear that there would be no kezazah ceremony; there would be no rejecting this son — despite what he had done. The son had repented and returned to the father. The father had taken the full shame that should have fallen upon his son and clearly shown to the entire community that his son was welcome back home.
The father had his best robe put on his son to cover his shame and a signet ring. This represented that he would belong to a family and characterized social status within the community. The signet ring was a stamp of approval for verification of identity. The son had the biggest failure of his life and brought the biggest shame and dishonor to his father, his family, and his community yet the father still showed him the absolute highest honor.
When you honor someone that hurt you, watch what happens…you watch a transformation take place in their lives. Pastor Andrea shared a personal testimony of their brokenness and how a simple act of love and honor helped them overcome shame.
You are welcome in this family not because of what you do, not because of what we want you to do, or what we want from you. You are welcome because you have a place in the family.
Read: Numbers 20:2-12; 2 Timothy 2:4; Joshua 4:14
Moses and Aaron failed to trust God enough to honor Him as holy, so they would not lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land. The punishment may seem harsh, but Moses’ actions, was in disobedience of a direct command from God to speak to the rock. Instead, Moses struck the rock with his staff. God wanted Moses to trust Him. Moses did not need to use force; he simply needed to obey God and know that God would be true to His promise.
After Moses died, Joshua lead Israel. Joshua was a mighty man of valor, commander of the Israelite army, assistant to Moses, leader of the Israelite people, petitioner before the Lord, and ‘a servant of the Lord’.
When the entire nation of Israel lined the banks of the Jordan River to cross into the Promised Land, the river was flowing high. It flooded during harvest season and moving swiftly. Joshua ordered the priests to carry the ark of the covenant about half-a-mile in front of the people. God’s presence dwelt there and would lead them. He promised that when the soles of the priests’ feet stepped into the river, the water would immediately stop flowing.
The priests went ahead as planned, and the waters began to roll back. A waterfall flowed in reverse, defying gravity and a tower of water rose higher as an entire nation walked across a dry riverbed.
The people stood in awe of Joshua exactly like they did with Moses. Joshua never promoted himself. He never sought praise or showcased his own abilities. Instead, God honored him as a leader. God calls leaders and equips them—God showed the people He was with Joshua just like He was with Moses.
God marked Joshua with unquestionable authority and exalted him before the people. All Joshua had to do was pursue God, meditate on His words, and stay obedient. God’s leaders are simply the ones who seek God above all else, listen to Him, and then obey. Joshua did not have to exalt himself. God put his seal of approval on him. God truly honored Joshua, as Joshua honored God through his obedience and worship.
In Deuteronomy 4:40 the Lord gave the Israelites this command: “Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.”
On the 4th of July, we as Americans celebrate the birth of our country and the freedom we enjoy. It is a day of patriotism, pride, and joy. In celebration of the birth of our nation, may we take time to thank God for our freedom and liberty, and honor all who have served our country.
“…if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14