In this episode, we will discuss the end time prophetic implications of the Parable of the Laborer’s Penny, Yeshua’s encounter of the woman at the well, Yeshua healing the nobleman’s son and the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard
Matthew 20:1–16, In this parable, Yeshua likens the kingdom of heaven to one who owns a vineyard and who hires laborers to work in his vineyard. During the course of the day the owner agrees to pay all of his workers a day’s wages regardless of when during the day they were hired. When pay time arrives, those hired at the beginning of the day murmured against those hired at the end of the day, since the owner paid them all the same wage. When accused of unfairness by those hired at the start of the day, the owner insists that they all agreed to the terms he offered and that they had no right to complain.
Prophetic Points to Analyze
- verse 1— owner of the vineyard
- verse 1— vineyard
- verse 1— hired laborers
- verse 2— their wages
- verse 16— the last shall be first, and the first last
One possible interpretation of this parable is that the owner of the vineyard is YHVH, while the vineyard is a metaphor for Israel which is comprised of the house of Judah and the house of Israel (Isa 5:7). The vineyard can also be a metaphor for this world, which is like a field in which Yeshua’s saints have been called to work (Matt 13:38; 9:37; John 4:35).Salvation is the reward or wage that everyone receives regardless of when during their lifetime YHVH called them to work in his spiritual field.
During the course of time, YHVH has “hired” laborers to work in his vineyard whether it is to help gather the lost sheep of the house of Israel, or to preach the gospel to the world in general. Those hired at the beginning of the day to tend his vineyard will receive the same reward (eternal life) as those hired just prior to the advent of YHVH’s millennial kingdom at the return of Yeshua. Our Lord speaks of this when he declared that on resurrection day when he hands out the gift of eternal life, many who were first shall be last and many who were last shall be first (Matt 19:30). That is to say, all the saints will be resurrected at the same time and will receive the same reward of everlasting life regardless of their length of service in YHVH’s spiritual field regardless of how long they have been serving him.
This parable is reminiscent of the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, where the prodigal son was given the same honor by the father as the son who had stayed faithful all along. It is possible to view the prodigal, in the most general sense, as a representing the house of Ephraim (the Christians), who went into a far country and joined himself with the citizenry of that country where he wasted his inheritance on heathen living and then ended up eating the leftovers from pigs just to stay alive.
Truly, this parable could apply to many of Judah, as well, who have traded their spiritual inheritance for what the world has to offer, and who also turned away from the Father in heaven by rejecting the Messiah.
Not withstanding, a remnant of Judah who has remained faithful to their Torah-roots (and who believe in Yeshua the Messiah as well) may feel slighted when those who have recognized Messiah Yeshua, though they have lived like the world, including the eating of swine and other nonkosher foods, finally return to the Hebrew roots of their Christian faith and become Torah-obedient only to find that their reward in the world to come (olam haba) is neither greater nor less than the returning prodigals (or those Christians who have only recently embraced the Torah).
There may be other, even more precise, allegorical interpretations to this parable that are yet to be discovered.
Yeshua Talks to the Samaritan Woman at the Well
John 4:3–42, This is the account of Yeshua stopping in his travels at a well in Samaria for a drink of water. There he encounters the Samaritan woman and discusses with here physical versus spiritual water, her marital status, his Messiahship, that salvation is of the Jews, and about the importance of worshipping the Father in Spirit and in truth. Yeshua then preaches the gospel to the Samaritan city of Sychar for two days.
Prophetic Points to Analyze
- verse 3— left Judea and departed again into Galilee
- verse 4— needed to go through Samaria
- verse 5— Sychar
- verse 5— Jacob’s well that he gave to Joseph
- verse 7— give me to drink
- verse 9— the Jews have no dealings the Samaritans
- verse 10— the gift of Elohim
- verses 13–14— living waters
- verse 18— five husbands
- verse 22— salvation is of the Jews
- verses 23–24— spirit and truth
- verse 35— four months of harvest
- verse 39— many Samaritans believed on him
- verse 40— two days
In this Gospel account, Yeshua takes the good news (or the gospel) to the mixed people-group (Israelite and Gentile) called the Samaritans. Historically, the Hebrew Scriptures record that the Northern Kingdom or Ephraim became intermixed with the Gentile nations (Hos 7:8; 8:8) into which it had been dispersed at the time of and subsequent to its deportation into captivity. The Samaritans are one aspect of the fulfillment of this prophecy. The story of Yeshua’s encounter with the Samaritans has many prophetic implications pertaining to evangelizing the people of the nations as we will now see.
John records that Yeshua stayed with the Samaritans for two days (verse 40), which prophetically and allegorically represents the 2000 year time span between his first and second comings, which is commonly known as the “times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24). During this time, Ephraim (most generically speaking, the Christian church) will recognize their Messiah (Jesus), while most of those of Judea (the Jews) would be blind to Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah.
Here is an analysis of some key prophetic points in Yeshua’s brief encounter with these mixed-race Gentiles:
verse 3— left Judea and departed again into Galilee. Yeshua left Judea departing for Galilee (the region of the former Northern Kingdom) passing through Samaria where the Samaritans lived, who were a mixed racial group comprised of Israelite ancestry and that of the Gentiles or people of the nations.
verse 4— needed to go through Samaria. Yeshua had to go through Samaria. He could not overlook these rejected mixed people who were basically scorned and rejected as second-class citizens by most respectable Jews. They too needed to hear the gospel message and had a place in YHVH’s kingdom.
verse 5— Sychar. Yeshua stopped at the Samaritan city of Sychar, which derives from the Hebrew word shekar meaning “strong or intoxicating drink, fermented or intoxicating liquor.” According to Lightfoot, Samaria, during the first temple period, was the name of a city, and during the second temple period, it was the name of a country. Its metropolis at that time was Shechem, which the Jews derisively referred to as Seckar based on the words of Isaiah, the prophet, in Isaiah 28:1 that states, “Woe to the drunken Ephraimites….”
It is interesting to note that the Samaritans as a mixed people also had a mixed religion. They had the Torah, and yet followed a YHVH-type religion that was also mixed with some pagan traditions.
Prophetically speaking, is this not the religious state (i.e., religious Babylon) out of which YHVH is calling his people in the end times (Rev 18:4)? Can it be denied that the Christian religion contains many non-biblical traditions that are totally antithetical to the truth of the Scriptures? This is not even counting those doctrines, beliefs and traditions that derive from overt pagan sources. To be sure, mainstream Christianity is a mixture of truth and error, and is part of spiritual Babylon (meaning “confusion” or “mixture”).
Indeed, religious Babylon has made all nations drunk on the wine of her (spiritual) fornication;that is to say, all have committed spiritual harlotry with her by following many of her pagan and idolatrous traditions. All have had their spiritual senses and inhibitions dulled to the truth of YHVH by her sensual overtures.
Sychar is either the historic city of Shechem or near Shechem, which is situated between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal (where the Torah promises and curses were pronounced upon the Israelites upon entering the Promised Land under Joshua, Josh 8:30–35). Shechem is also the historic entry point of the Promised Land by the Israelites. That is why Joseph requested to be buried there as an act of his faith. Many other notable Jews are also buried there.
verse 5— Jacob’s well that he gave to Joseph. This event occurred at the well that Jacob gave to Joseph. This speaks of the birthright blessings Jacob passed on to Joseph’s descendants who would end up mixing themselves with the nations as Hosea the prophet had foretold (Hos 7:8; 8:8).
According to rabbinic interpretation, a well can be a metaphor for the Torah. Scripturally, water can represent both Torah or word of Elohim (Deut 32:1–2 cp. Eph 5:26) and the Spirit of Elohim (Joel 2:23). This well was located in the historic region of the tribe of Manasseh, the son of Joseph, while Mount Gerizim, to which the Samaritan woman refers later, is in the historic territory of Ephraim.
verses 7–10— Give me to drink. Yeshua asked this woman (who represents the spiritual “mixture” that is in the Christian church) for a drink of water. Spiritually speaking, as noted above, water is a biblical metaphor for both Spirit and Torah-truth. This woman did not understand what Yeshua meant. Once he explained it to her, she wanted the spiritual water (Torah and the Spirit) he had to offer. Likewise, how many Christians today understand the full ramifications of the Torah and the Spirit and how it applies to them? Many today, like the Samaritan woman of old, are hungering for more.
verse 9— The Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. The Samaritan woman was likely all too well aware of the literal wall of partition (or soreg) that had been constructed in the Jerusalem temple to keep non-Jews from entering therein. To a certain extent, such a wall still exists between those who insist that the Christian church is comprised of Jews and Gentiles, even though Yeshua came to break down that middle wall of separation and bring all the Gentiles into the nation of Israel (Eph 2:11–19), and to reunite these two estranged people groups (or the two houses of Israel) in himself, which Scripture now refers to as “the one new man” (Eph 2:15), where there is no longer Jew or Gentile (Gal 3:26–29). Additionally, let us never forget, there is no Gentile gate in the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:12)!
verse 10— The gift of Elohim. What is the gift of YHVH to which Yeshua makes reference here? It is the loving gift of his Son, Yeshua, to redeem the world as John 3:16 states. It is the good news of the gospel message. It is the living waters of Spirit and truth (or Torah) that Yeshua would make available to those who thirst. It is all of these things and more.
verses 10— 13–14, Living water. The living waters springing up into everlasting life are none other than Yeshua the Written Torah and Yeshua the Living Torah, the Word or Torah of Elohim incarnate.
verses 16–18— Five husbands. The woman had had five husbands and was living in sin with another man at that moment. This speaks of the Christian church (the house of Israel) who has been cohabiting with the foreign and pagan spiritual lovers almost from its nascence in the second century (just after the death of the last apostle) by adhering to many pagan belief systems and customs. We see this by its heavy emphasis on and devotion to such blatantly pagan and nonbiblical traditions as Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Lent, and Sunday observance and the like, all of which are rooted in paganism.
verse 22— Salvation is of the Jews. The Messiah was Jewish and the human foundation stones of the “church” and the authors of the Testimony of Yeshua—the twelve apostles—were all Jewish (Eph 2:22), and the Jews were the preservers of the oracles of YHVH (Rom 3:2); therefore, salvation was of the Jews.
verses 23–24— Spirit and truth. This is another way of saying Yeshua the Living Torah and Yeshua the Written Torah or Logos. Otherwise stated, it can be a reference to Elijah and the prophets and Moses and the Torah, the two witnesses of Ephraim and Judah, the Tanakh or Hebrew Scriptures and the Brit Chadashah or the Testimony of Yeshua, grace and law, mercy and judgment, and the spirit and the letter of the law. All these are different ways of saying the same thing.
verses 28–30, 39–42— Many…Samaritans…believed in Him. This prophetically speaks of the harvest of the lost sheep of the house of Israel beginning at the time of Yeshua’s first advent culminating with a great end time harvest that is yet to come when Ephraimites and the Gentiles, who have attached themselves to Ephraim, will come to faith in Yeshua the Messiah. He speaks of this harvest in verses 34–38.
verses 34–38— Four months and then comes the harvest. Yeshua’s encounter with the Samaritan women occurred around the feast of Shavuot (Pentecost) in May, and four month later the great fall harvest prior to Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) would occur. Between Shavuot and Sukkot are the summer months, or prophetically, the two thousand year period Yeshua refers to as “the times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24), when the gospel would go out to the people of the nations. Many Gentiles would be given those living waters to which Yeshua made reference. These four months represent the time period between Yeshua’s first and second comings.
verse 40— He stayed there two days. Yeshua stayed with this mixed group of people (Israelite and Gentile) for two days, prophetically representing 2000 years, or the two thousand years between his first and second comings. The phrase “two days” is used elsewhere in the Scriptures to represent 2000 years of Messiah’s work on earth prior to his second coming (e.g., Hos 6:2).
What You Can Do
As Yeshua walked along the road of life, he met many people in his day-to-day activities. He took every opportunity to sow spiritual seeds into the lives of those people, to meet their needs (both physical and spiritual), to ask them questions, to listen to them, and to build a relationship with them. Then when the time was opportune, he shared with them the gospel message and the truth of the Torah. For him, this was a lifestyle, a modus operandi.
This should be our method of operation as well. Be a spiritual Johnny Appleseed by continually looking for fertile soil into which to plant the seeds of the Word of Elohim, the Torah, the gospel message, the life, hope and light of Yeshua the Messiah. In this way, we will be helping to advance the kingdom of Elohim one life at a time as we reach out in an effort to gather in a bountiful harvest of souls—the lost sheep of Israel.
Yeshua Heals a Nobleman’s Son
John 4:43–54, “Now after two days he departed from there, and went into Galilee. For Yeshua himself testified, that a prophet has no honor in his own country. Then when he had come into Galilee, the Galileans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast, for they also went unto the feast. So Yeshua came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Yeshua was come out of Judea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then said Yeshua unto him, ‘Except you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.’ The nobleman said unto him, ‘Sir, come down before my child dies.’ Yeshua said unto him, ‘Go your way; your son lives.’ And the man believed the word that Yeshua had spoken unto him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, ‘Your son lives.’ Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to get better. And they said unto him, ‘Yesterday at the ninth [HRV, as found in the Old Syriac] hour the fever left him.’ So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Yeshua said unto him, ‘Your son lives,’ and himself believed, and his whole house. This is again the second miracle that Yeshua did, when he had come out of Judea into Galilee.”
Prophetic Points to Analyze
- verse 43— after two days
- verse 43— went to Galilee
- verse 43— a prophet has no honor in his own country
- verse 46— came a gain into Cana of Galilee
- verse 46— where he made the water wine
- verse 46— a certain nobleman whose son was sick
- verse 46— Capernaum
- verse 47— come out of Judea into Galilee
- verse 47— heal his son for he was at the point of death
- verse 50— your son lives
- verse 52— yesterday at the ninth hour (HRV)
This event is a prophetic portrayal of Yeshua healing Ephraim (symbolic of the Christian church), the spiritually sick son. This healing or process of restoration began at the cross and continues to this day until the ultimate restoration of Ephraim occurs at the final redemption (the restoration of all things, Acts 3:21) when the prodigal (the house of Israel or Ephraim) will be restored to his former estate spiritually as part of the commonwealth of Israel. This will be true in all its fullness at the coming of the Messiah Son of David. YHVH’s prophets and the Jewish sages, for several thousand years, have been predicting that this would occur.
An analysis of some key points in this event:
verse 43, After two days prophetically and allegorically suggests “after 2000 years” or just prior to the return of Yeshua. The prophet Hosea alludes to this when he speaks of Ephraim and Judah’s (who together are YHVH’s son, Hos 11:1) “offence” or wrong doing against YHVH of turning away from him spiritually. They will repent and return to him, seek his face, and he will heal them. This occurs after “two days” (prophetically speaking). His healing them began with Yeshua’s death at the cross and will continue till the end of two thousand years just prior to Yeshua’s return and into his millennial reign(Hos 5:15–6:1–2).
verse 44, A prophet has no honor in his own country. Yeshua was rejected by most of his own at his first coming, and the majority of Jews still reject him to this day.
verse 45–46, So Yeshua came again into Cana of Galilee. He came to Galilee, the land of Ephraim, where he turned the water to wine (which was a picture of the his upcoming wedding feast at his second coming).
verse 46, A certain nobleman, whose son was sick. This nobleman with a sick son reminds us of the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 11:15–32), where the prodigal is a type of the wayward (spiritually) Ephraim.
verse 46, Capernaum. As noted earlier, the name of the town, Capernaum, which is located in the land of the house of Israel, means “to repent, be sorry, regret and to be comforted”by having one’s sins covered over through atonement. Prophetically, this speaks of the house of Israel repenting of their ungodly ways and returning to Yeshua prior to and at his second coming (an event referred to as the “return of the exiles” or “final redemption” in Jewish thought).
verse 47, Yeshua had come out of Judea into Galilee. Yeshua the Messiah came out of Judea, and he came into the region of Galilee (or Ephraim) where the sick son was at the point of death. He was a Jew coming from the land of the people from whence salvation derives, for Yeshua is the Lion of the tribe of Judah who declared that salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22).
verse 50, 53, Yeshua heals the son. “Your son lives,” Yeshua pronounced. The name Yeshua literally means “salvation”. The purpose of his ministry was to come to seek and save, or give life to those who are lost and spiritually damned, namely, the lost ten tribes of Israel.
verse 52, Yesterday at the ninth [according to the Aramaic] hour yesterday. Prophetically this speaks of the Ephraim’s (or the Christian church’s) healing of the sickness of sin. This occurred 2000 years ago, when Yeshua died on the cross at the ninth hour as the Passover Lamb and provided healing to Israel for its sin sickness (i.e., the sin of spiritual adultery). Hosea prophesied about the healing of Ephraim (along with his brother Judah) at the first coming of Messiah (Hos 5:14–6:2). There we read, “Come, and let us return unto YHVH, for he has torn, and he will heal us; he has smitten, and he will bind us up.” Then the prophet speaks of Yeshua’s second coming, two thousand years later, and the resurrection of the saints and re-establishment of the kingdom of Israel. They will then “live in his sight” in his kingdom as sons and daughters of Abraham (Hos 6:2).
verse 53, Your son lives. This declaration is made after which it is recorded that the nobleman and his “whole house” believed in Yeshua (i.e., they received salvation). In Hosea 6:2, we find that “after two days [YHVH] will revive [both Ephraim and Judah (or the Christian church and the Jews in Judaism], in the third day he will raise [Ephraim and Judah] up and [Ephraim and Judah] will live in his sight.” The whole house of Israel will be reunited to live as YHVH’s son (Hos 11:1) in his sight (with YHVH-Yeshua ruling the earth from Jerusalem during the Millennium).
The Parable of the Prodigal Son
Luke 15:11–32, In this parable, a certain man had two sons the youngest of which requested his share of the inheritance of his father’s estate prior to his father’s death. The young man took his inheritance from his father and left home to journey into a far country where he wasted it on riotous living. A famine broke out and the penniless and hungry son joined (literally, glued or joined tightly) himself to a citizen of that country as a servant. His new master then sent him into the fields to feed husks to the swine. Conditions were so bad for the son and his hunger so acute that he desired to eat the swine’s food. Out of desperation and in realization of his sinful condition, the young man determined to return to his father’s house, considering himself no longer worthy to be received as a son, but to be received only a hired servant. His father spotted him a great way off, had compassion on him, ran to greet him and fell on his neck and kissed him, where upon the son confessed to his father that he had sinned against heaven and that he was no longer worthy to be called a son. The father, out of joy, dressed his son in the finest robe, put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. The father had the fatted calf killed and merriment was made over the return of the prodigal. To the father, the son had been dead, but was now alive, was lost and was now found. Feasting ensued with music and dancing. When the elder brother, who had remained with the father all along, heard the feasting and found out about the return of his younger brother, he was angry and refused to participate in the celebration. The father pleaded with him to join the feast. The jealous older brother stated that he had faithfully served the father during the intervening years and that a feast had never been made for him, but that the younger son who had wasted his inheritance on harlots and riotous living was now receiving royal treatment. The father replied that the elder son had no reason to be angry, since he had always been with the father enjoying the rights and privileges of that position and that it was only proper to celebrate the return of the prodigal brother who had been “dead” and was “alive” again, had been lost and was now found.
Prophetic Points to Analyze
- verse 11— two sons
- verse 13— far country
- verse 13— riotous living
- verse 15— joined himself to a citizen of that country
- verse 15— feed husks to the swine
- verse 16— desired to fill his belly with the husks that the swine did eat
- verse 18— return to my father
- verse 22— best robe
- verse 24— he was lost, and is found
- verse 25— elder son
- verse 27— your younger brother
- verse 30— wasted his inheritance with harlots
- verse 32— was dead and is alive again
- verse 32— was lost and is found
This parable, in a nutshell, outlines much of the history of Israel up to the end times final redemption. So what was Yeshua teaching prophetically in this parable? Let’s analyze the pertinent details to unpack the prophetic implications of this parable.
This parable is in the ancient literary style known Jewish aggadah. The purpose of aggadic literature was not to establish line-by-line dogma, doctrine or theological truth, but was a means of teaching a general moral principles in story form. We will discuss this style of Jewish literature in greater detail latter in our treatment of the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16.
The main characters in the story symbolize significant aspects of Israelite history. The father in the story represents YHVH Elohim our heavenly Father. The two sons symbolically represent the two houses of Israel: the house of Judah or the Jews (descended from Judah as represented by the older brother) and the house of Israel or the Christians (as represented by Ephraim the son of Joseph, who was the younger brother to Judah among the twelve sons of the patriarch Jacob).
The inheritance that YHVH, represented by the father in the parable, had for his two sons (the houses of Judah and Ephraim), among other things, was that they were to become a great nation and a source of spiritual light to the godless nations of the world (Deut 4:6–8). They were to inherit the promises made to the patriarchs under the Abrahamic Covenant. All the blessings mentioned in Deuteronomy 28 were to be theirs. From this great nation would ultimately come the Messiah, who would redeem the world and bring many peoples of the nations into the commonwealth or family of Israel (Eph 2:11–13). These people would become sons and daughters to Abraham through faith in Yeshua (Gal 3:28–29; Rom 4:16; 9:8–11), and would inherit eternal life and become members of YHVH’s eternal kingdom. Paul talks about this in his epistles to the Romans, Ephesians and Galatians. (It is beyond the scope of this work to address all these issues in detail, but references are made to this throughout the body of this work.)
In this parable, the younger son assumes his rights, takes his inheritance, leaves his father’s house and squanders it away on riotous living in a far country. This represents the Northern Kingdom leaving Elohim, the Torah, the covenants of Israel, and falling into paganism. This occurred immediately after the Northern Kingdom split from the commonwealth of Israel under King Jeroboam. In this parable, the younger son spent time pursuing women. There are numerous prophetic warnings and rebukes in the Tanakh that speak of the adulteries and whoredoms of the Northern Kingdom (as well as the Southern Kingdom). Whole chapters in the prophets are devoted to this subject.
The far150 country prophetically speaks to Israel’s captivity and exile into a foreign land as a result of her wickedness. Israel, like the son in the parable, literally joined or glued herself to her foreign lovers, where she mixed herself with the nations physically and spiritually. Not only was Israel scattered among the heathen nations, but she became assimilated into them as well.
With his inheritance spent and with the rigors of famine gripping the son, he soon found himself literally in slavery or captivity feeding a foreigner’s swine. He realized that he was no better than the pigs that were eating while he was starving. Isaiah speaks of YHVH’s people going into captivity and becoming famished and dried up with thirst. Such a state of being was no better than the grave itself (Isa 5:13–15).
The son became as one of the beasts of the field—a biblical metaphor for the people of the heathen nations.He lived with the swine, fed the swine and probably ate swine as well, which is something that is contrary to the Torah’s dietary laws (see Lev 11), and a practice considered to be an abominations in YHVH’s eyes (Isa 65:4; 66:17), but a practice that most Christians relish and celebrate (especially on their pagan holidays of Christmas and Easter) as an example of their “freedom” from the constraints of the Torah!
In that sad state of affairs, reality came knocking on the door of the prodigal’s life. The wine, women and song grew old, since the proverbial grass was not greener on the other side of the fence. The younger son soon found himself out of money, starving to death and living with the pigs. He began to long for the good life back in his father’s house.
Speaking prophetically of YHVH’s prodigal son, long ago Hosea prophesied that Israel (in part, a prophetic reference to Christians) “will follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them. Then shall she say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for then was it better with me than now.’ For she did not know that I gave her corn and wine and oil and multiplied her silver and gold…” (Hos 2:7–8). The younger son in Yeshua’s parable is a picture of this prophecy. He is a symbol of believers in the mainstream Christian church, who have to one degree or another exchanged the Truth of the Torah (YHVH’s instructions in righteousness) for pagan traditions and man-invented humanistic theologies that make of non effect the Word of Elohim (Mark 7:9, 13).
In a state of physical and spiritual despair, the prodigal son returns to his father’s house in a very humble and repentant state. His father greets him with open arms, places a robe on him, and kills the fatted calf in his honor.
Prophetically, has this event occurred yet? Has apostate Israel (the mainstream Christian church) returned to YHVH? The Jewish sages teach that this will happen at the end of the age prior to the coming of Messiah at the establishment of his millennial kingdom—an event known as the “regathering of the exiles” of the “lost ten tribes of Israel” and which is part of the final redemption. (See Part 3 of this book where we discuss the return of the lost sheep of the house of Israel in more detail. ) And indeed, the return or regathering of the scattered sheep of the lost Israel is prophesied in the Scriptures. This process started at Yeshua’s first advent and will continue to his second coming and on into the Millennium. YHVH says that his people, the house of Israel, when they turned from him, ceased being a people and were “not a people”or “not my people,”156 but that they would eventually become “a people” of YHVH once again (Hos 2:23).
In Isaiah 11:10–13 we read that Yeshua, the Root of Jesse, will recover the remnant of his people from Assyria (where the Northern Kingdom was taken captive) and “shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. The envy [or jealousy, or passion] also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off. Ephraim shall not envy [or be jealous of] Judah and Judah shall not vex [or to bind, to cause distress to] Ephraim.”
This unique prophetic passage gives us some insight into the sibling rivalry between the two houses of Israel. We see this same rivalry between the older son and the younger son in Yeshua’s parable that we are now analyzing. Paul likewise cautions the Gentiles Christians (or people of the nations), who are presently being brought into the commonwealth of Israel through Messiah Yeshua (Eph 2:11–19), and being grafted into the olive tree of Israel, against acting pridefully toward the roots of that tree that support and nourish them. Just because they, through the mercies and grace of YHVH, have been granted equal status with their Jewish brothers (Rom 11:18, 13–25 for context) does not give them boasting rights.
Batya Wootten in her book Redeemed Israel—Reunited and Restored, has made some profound observations concerning this parable. She also sees the prodigal as representing Ephraim, while the older brother, who stayed home to tend the farm, as representing Judah.
About the prodigal (Ephraim) being hungry while feeding the pigs, Wootten sees this as a fulfillment of the prophecy in Amos 8:11, “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Adonai YHVH, ‘That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of YHVH.’” In most churches in Christianity, not only is the Torah and the Word of YHVH not being preached in a substantial or meaty manner, but neither are many hearing, doing or obeying the Word of YHVH, which is the meaning the word “hearing” in Amos 8:11. “Today, Ephraim feels he is wasting away in gatherings that offer only the elementary milk of the Word when he needs the filling protein of meat. He craves the excitement of doing the Father’s will (John 4:34)” (Wootten, pp. 129–130).
Wootten also sees parallels between the prodigal’s and the church’s involvement with pigs. She notes, “Being close to pigs describes the younger Ephraim, not Judah. Judah does not touch pork, while Ephraim celebrates his supposed “freedom” by eating pork and Easter hams. Although he has been out wallowing in the mire, Ephraim will repent and return home, and the Father will welcome him” (ibid). While feeding the pigs, the prodigal came to his senses and began to repent of his youthful sins. At the same time our Heavenly Father says, “I have surely heard Ephraim grieving,” to which repentant Ephraim cries, “‘Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, like an untrained calf; bring me back that I may be restored, for Thou art YHVH my Elohim. For after I turned back, repented; after I was instructed, I smote on my thigh; I was ashamed, and humiliated, because I bore the reproach of my youth” (Jer 31:18–19). Simultaneously, the father of the prodigal yearned for his son even as our Heavenly Father says, “Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a delightful child? Indeed, as often as I have spoken against him, I certainly still remember him; therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him” (Jer 31:19–20; ibid., p. 130).
“When the prodigal returned, the older son was not pleased with his reappearance. He was even angry. Like the older son, first century Jewish leaders were not happy about the return of those once lost among the nations. They accused Paul of bringing Greeks into their temple and thus defiling their holy place. Some were even angry enough to kill (Acts 21:27–31). Sadly, they walked in the same spirit as some of their fathers: ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem…said [of scattered Ephraim], “Go far from YHVH; this land has been given us as a possession”’ (Ezek 11:15). Today, some Jewish believers are likewise unhappy about Ephraim’s reemergence; they reject the idea that the non-Jews might be equal heirs in Israel. Some even want non-Jewish believers to be in their synagogues for the wrong reasons, thus Paul says of such types, ‘They make much of you, but for no good purpose; they want to exclude you, so that you may make much of them’ (Gal 4:17, NRSV). In other words, they want to appear superior, so that you might look to them for acceptance” (ibid., pp. 130–131).
Lest some believers feel that Judaism is the expression of the Father’s will for his people, and that somehow the Parable of the Prodigal Son teaches that believers must return to Judaism, Wootten asserts that an important point from this parable needs to be noted. She says, Those who feel jealous of Judah need to see that the prodigal was in the house, making merry with his father, but that the older son was outside, in the field. In the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, Yeshua says, “The field is the world.” The older son was not inside the father’s house, but was approaching it, or drawing nigh (Matt 13:38). Those who feel jealous also need to see that the father’s love for his older son was so great that it compelled him to go outside to meet with him, even to plead with him. Such is the Father’s heart toward Judah (the modern, non-believing religious Jews). He has sworn concerning this beloved one, “YHVH will possess Judah as His portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem” (Zech 2:12). Abba wants brother Judah to join the party, and he wants Ephraim to behave in a way that makes him want the same (ibid., p. 131).
What provoked the older brother to want to join in the feasting in the father’s house? Wootten observes that the older brother was provoked because his younger brother was in the house with the father, celebrating, rejoicing and making merry. This teaches us that legalism and religion will not provoke Judah to jealousy, but celebration will. According to Wootten, having others see us in a joyous frame of mind might even be Abba’s plan of evangelism. When people see that our relationship with Messiah Yeshua makes us glad and causes us to rejoice, they will want to join in. Celebration is one of the secrets to our reunion, which is perhaps why so many non-Jews now feel an overwhelming urge to celebrate the feasts of Israel. In our rejoicing, we need to take a fresh look at these prophetic times. We need to see the many ways in which they rehearse and foretell the Father’s plan of salvation for His people, and the many ways in which they speak of the redeeming work of Messiah Yeshua (ibid., pp. 131–132).
What You Can Do
In order for us to be fishers of men fishing for the lost sheep of the house of Israel, we must possess a deep love not only for the Christian sheep of Israel, but for YHVH’s Jewish sheep as well. Besides this, we must learn to be breach repairers (Isa 58:12), and joiners of the two stick or trees of Israel (Ezek 37:15–28).
If you don’t have it already, pray that the Father will give you a deep love for our Jewish brethren and for the land of Israel. Pray that you will receive an empathy and understanding of the Jewish heart and religious system. YHVH is not calling his saints to go into rabbinic Judaism, but by understanding it, we will be able to reach out to our Jewish brothers in love and wisdom.