Well known is the story of the Prodigal Son who became bored and tired of living a life of moral and spiritual excellence. He decided he wanted to take the portion of family inheritance that was his, establish his independence and partake of another lifestyle that would allow him to live free from any restrictions. Although his Father’s heart was broken, he granted his son’s request and did not prohibit him from pursuing that for which his heart desired.
After a time of tasting all for which he had longed, and having squandered all of his money, the Prodigal ended up working in a pigpen, and became impoverished, lonely, empty, and thoroughly dissatisfied. One day as he began to assess his situation, he compared his present lack to his past of plenty. Instead of thinking as many would: “Woe is me, I have chosen my position so in it I must remain…” he thought to himself, “Why should I continue in this situation when I can return to my Father who loves me and will be allow me to live and work on his property.” Shortly thereafter, the Prodigal started his journey homeward.
Upon the Prodigal’s arrival home, his Father saw him from a distance and ran to him. In his Father’s embrace the Prodigal admitted his wrongdoing, acknowledged his unworthiness to be called son and asked for forgiveness. Believing he no longer deserved to be called son, the Prodigal expected to be restored to the family as one of the hired servants. How surprised and pleased he was when his Father wholeheartedly received him as son rather than servant, and insisted that a ready calf be killed for a celebration. And this amazing display of love by the Father was minor in comparison to that which was to be expressed through the further instruction the Father gave concerning the Prodigal.
The Father quickly told one of his servants to bring out and put upon his son standing in rags, the best robe, a ring, and sandals (Luke 15:22). Each statement the father made, and each item that was to be placed upon the son contains priceless and profound insight into the character of Father God, and His amazing love toward all those who are His, and bear the title of son or daughter.
“Bring forth the best robe and put it on him” In having the best robe placed on the son, the Father was telling the Prodigal as well as all observers present that his position as son was being restored. It was an immediate demonstration of His incredible mercy, complete forgiveness, approval, love, and protection – major benefits of being a son. In addition, everyone witnessed the Father’s transfer of the primary inheritance from the eldest son to the youngest son.
The same thing occurred in Genesis 27:15. In Hebrew culture the eldest son, the firstborn in the family, received the best inheritance – distribution of property, goods, etcetera. Yet, Rebekah took the choice clothes of the eldest son Esau, and put them on the younger son Jacob. In the instance of the Prodigal, as had happened with Jacob, the inheritance was transferred from the father’s eldest son to the youngest son.
Another likeness is found in Zechariah 3:4-5. God told Zechariah to remove from Joshua the High Priest his filthy garments, and replace them with rich robes. This spoke of the great favor Joshua had found with Father God, and the fact that all condemnation of the law had been removed from him. Dressed in rich robes Joshua stood clean and free, dressed in the best robe the Prodigal stood clean and free!
“Put a ring on his hand” Long ago, presenting a ring to someone was a sign of great affection, and also a symbol of being placed in an office of authority. Among the rich it was a sign of wealth and dignity. Pharaoh removed his signet ring and put it on Joseph’s hand when installing him into office in Egypt (Genesis 41:42). In the book of Esther the King took off his ring, the royal signet by which the decrees of government were signed, and gave it to Mordecai (Esther 8:2). The ring showed Pharaoh’s affection for Joseph and the King’s affection for Mordecai, and transferred to them all power and authority necessary for the promotions they received, one as Governor and the other as Prime Minister.
The ring placed on the hand of the Prodigal evidenced the great affection the Father had toward him. It also announced, once again, the transfer of inheritance which would ordinarily have gone to the first-born.
“Put sandals on his feet” In ancient biblical times only servants and slaves went barefoot. The prodigal returned home without shoes, a sign of having become extremely destitute. Therefore, when the Father ordered shoes to be brought out and put on the Prodigal’s feet he said for the third and final time that the Prodigal was not to be treated as a servant but as a son with all entitlements.
Forgiveness would be empty without restoration to the privileges forfeited by sin. Therefore, if you bear the name son or daughter through having received Jesus as Lord and Savior by the power of the Holy Spirit you have found favor with the Father. The best robe has been placed upon you, a demonstration of the Father’s complete approval of you, and His love and protection for you. A ring has been put on your hand representing the riches you have in Christ, the authority you have been given in the name of Jesus and installation into the the office of king and priest to God. Sandals have been put on your feet, affirming sonship and all of its benefits, including but not limited to healing, lovingkindness, tender mercies and every good thing (Psalm 103).
You are an heir of God, and a joint heir with Christ Jesus who has been appointed heir of all things (Romans 8:17, Hebrews 1:2). You can join Isaiah in saying what he said in 61:10: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”