"And the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, it is unclean to you. The flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. They are unclean to you." Leviticus 11:7-8
"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 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 the 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." Luke 15:11-16
We all know that the son came home to his father and that the father welcomed him.
But we don't know if the father ever knew that his son had been living with the pigs. Don't you know, if he had of known, he would have hated it. The father would have hated the pig pen. He would have been sickened at the thought of his son living such an unclean life. If he had known, the father would have probably wondered if there was any hope for his son. You know, being so unclean and everything.
The thought of it would have broken his heart. What word could describe how he felt about the pig pen? Sorrow. Grief. Shame. Fear. Guilt. Maybe there wasn't a word to describe his feelings about it.
I kind of think that maybe the father would have felt about the pig pen like I've felt about my past. My mistakes. My rebellion. The wasted years I've spent away from the Father. I hate it. And I've hated my pig pen. A place I never thought I would find myself.
I love the fact that when Jesus told this story to the Jews, He used something they could all relate to. Pigs. Pigs were dirty. The law said they were unclean. You couldn't eat them and you couldn't touch them. There was no ambiguity about it. No social excuses or psychological babble. They were just unclean.
It seems like Jesus wanted to include all sins by using the son's association with the pigs. He wanted the people he was talking to that day. . . and me . . . and you, to know our sin . . . our rebellion, and the places we've found ourselves are covered. They're covered by His grace. The worst of the worst. My pig pen. All pig pens. His grace is enough.
I wonder if . . . when the son came home and the father realized it was true. . . that his son had been living with the pigs . . . did his thoughts about the pig pen change? When the son told his father that it was while he was living with the pigs that his heart had begun to long for home and to long for him, did the father see the pig pen differently? When the son told his father that while he was feeding the swine and willing to eat their food, it was then he remembered the times they sat around the family table talking and laughing and how filling his father's food had been, did the father begin to change his mind about the pig pen? If the son told his father that living in the pig pen, with it's shame and filth and loneliness, was where he realized that he had been created for something much greater, what would the father have thought?
Would the father's perception of the pig pen change if he had heard his son say, "Dad, it was in the pig pen that I started believing that maybe, just maybe, there might be a place for me back home with you. Even if it was just as your hired help."
Would the father have still hated the pig pen? Or, in all of it's filth . . . and all of it's pain . . . and all of the shame, would he have seen the pig pen as no longer a curse but as a gift?
The Bible tells us to rejoice in all things. But, we don't want to. We hate the shame. The pain. The filth.
I know I do. I hate my mistakes. My "bottom of the barrel." But, God's Word tells me "to rejoice in all things."
But, I don't want to rejoice because I can't see. I can't see how any good can come from the pig pen.
As I think about my pig pens . . and the pig pens of the people I love, I hear the Father reminding me of two things. His love and His sovereignty.
"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8: 38-39
Even the pig pen? Yes. Even the pig pen.
And. . .
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
Even the pig pen? Yes. Even the pig pen.
"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." Luke 15: 20