The Gospel of Luke contains one of the most comprehensive accounts of the life and ministry of Yeshua HaMashiach/Jesus the Messiah. In this article, as well as next week’s article, we will explore three of the most widely known parables within the Brit HaDashah (New Testament), which are all found within Luke chapter 15. This prophetic chapter includes the parables of the lost sheep, the lost silver coin, and the prodigal son.
During Yeshua’s ministry, He used parables to communicate truths about His Father and our relationship with Him. This technique was not only used to state the obvious, but also to “veil” a prophetic truth of what He was teaching to those unwilling to seek the deeper meanings of His Word.
Mark 4:10-12, “He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that “While seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven.” (see also Matthew 13:10-16).
The veiling of a deeper truth in God’s Word did not begin with Yeshua’s parables, but rather originated throughout the Old Testament Prophets (Deuteronomy 29, Isaiah 6, Jeremiah 5:21, Ezekiel 12:2). Certainly, Yeshua is the ultimate Prophet, who came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). By examining His parables from this perspective we can gain a deeper understanding of the wonderful prophetic picture that is communicated throughout His Living Word.
In this series of articles, we will explore the prophetic picture that is presented in these parables, and within this framework we will begin to understand where we are on God’s prophetic timeline. Like any parable in the Holy Bible, these parables use symbolism and inference to reveal hidden meanings, thus we must first identify what or to whom Yeshua was referencing when He spoke the parable.
John 12:49-50 “For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. “I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”
John 7:16 …“My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.”
This was also prophesied by Moses:
Deuteronomy 18:18 “I will raise up a Prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command him.”
During Yeshua’s ministry, He clearly was not teaching random or foreign concepts. Rather, as the Word (God) made flesh (John 1), Yeshua was speaking directly from the Father, so we must look to the words of the Father for the answers to His parables. Now, armed with this knowledge, let us begin with the parable of the lost sheep.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
Luke 15:1-2, “Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
This introductory paragraph sets the stage. Yeshua was speaking to two groups: “sinners” (tax collectors and sinners) and the “righteous” (Pharisee’s and scribes), which included the educated and uneducated, the “clean” and the “unclean,” as well as everyone in between. Despite these differences, all of the people had these things in common: all were raised in the culture and customs of Judea, knew about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and had an understanding of the Old Testament, which includes the Torah and the Prophets. Yeshua knew exactly who He was addressing, and He continued to teach them with three parables.
Luke 15:3-7 So He told them this parable, saying, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? “When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. “And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
In the first parable, Yeshua uses a shepherd and his sheep as symbolism for his message. Any person who tends sheep is a shepherd. One of the first times we encounter the concept of a shepherd within the Holy Bible is found when Jacob (Israel) is blessing his twelve sons.
Genesis 48:15 He blessed Joseph, and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day.”
Jacob is clearly referring to God as his “shepherd.” This occurs at a very special time when Jacob is about to bless his sons, and specifically just before he crosses his hands and gives the blessings of the firstborn to Joseph’s younger son Ephraim, rather than the elder son, Manasseh. In next weeks’s article, we will explore this very important event in more detail.
There are literally dozens of times within scripture where either God Himself, or the rulers of Israel are called “shepherds” (Numbers 27:17, 2 Samuel 5:2, etc). King David specifically calls God his “shepherd” or Israel’s “shepherd”:
Psalm 23:1, A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. (Also Psalm 28:9, 49:14, 78:71, 80:1).
The prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Micah, and Zechariah also reference the leaders of Israel, and specifically God as “shepherds” or “shepherd.” While God is always the faithful and true shepherd and has raised up several Godly shepherds, we often find that the human “shepherds” who are supposed to watch over His people are not good, and actually lead His people astray (Jeremiah 50:6, Zechariah 11:16-17, Isaiah 56:11). However, there is one ultimate “shepherd,” who was prophesied to be the true and Good Shepherd of Israel and the world, Yeshua!
Micah 5:4, “And He shall stand and feed His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God; And they shall abide, for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth; And this One shall be peace.” (Ezekiel 34, 37:24)
John 10:11, “I am the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (John 10:14, Isaiah 40:11)
Hebrews 13:20-21, “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
It is clear that the leaders of Israel are shepherds, and Yeshua, as the ultimate leader, is the one and only perfect “Good Shepherd.” But are the leaders the only ones called “shepherds?” Absolutely not! We as followers of Yeshua, are also called to be shepherds as well!
A great example of this truth is after Yeshua’s resurrection, when He asked the Apostle Peter three times if Peter loved Him, to which Peter answered with an emphatic “Yes!” Each time, Yeshua commanded Peter to “Tend to My lambs” and “Shepherd My sheep” (John 21:15-17). Yeshua also gave all believers instructions to become shepherds in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). So, if Yeshua is the “Good Shepherd,” and we as believers are to “shepherd” His sheep, then who exactly are the sheep? Sheep are first represented in the scriptures as God’s people, the children of Israel.
Numbers 27:17, “Who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the LORD will not be like sheep which have no shepherd.”
This is reiterated throughout the Holy Bible in 2 Samuel 7:8, 2 Samuel 24:17, 1 King 22:17, 1 Chronicles 17:7, 1 Chronicles 21:17, 2 Chronicles 18:16, the Psalms, Prophets, and the New Testament. In the New Testament we learn that Yeshua Himself confirmed that He was sent to the “lost sheep of Israel.”
Matthew 15:24, “But He (Yeshua) answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
In Matthew chapter 10, Yeshua sends His disciples out to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven and He specifically states:
Matthew 10:5-6 …“Do not go onto the road of the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.”
Who exactly are the “lost sheep” of Israel? Remember, the northern House of Israel (northern ten tribes) split off from Judah (southern two tribes) after the death of King Solomon (1 Kings 12). In 722 B.C., after hundreds of years of idolatry and wickedness, the Lord “divorced” the House of Israel (Jeremiah 3:8), and it was conquered by the Assyrians. The people of the northern ten tribes were assimilated into the nations, and the Northern Kingdom eventually repopulated and became the domain of the Samaritans and other Gentile nations (2 Kings 17-18). While in the above verse Yeshua instructs His disciples to avoid the Gentiles and Samaritans at that time, it is clear that the Gospel of Messiah is to be brought to all nations and people.
The House of Judah, on the other hand, was taken into captivity (circa 609-586 B.C.) and the first Temple was destroyed by the Babylonian empire (586 B.C.). After 70 years of captivity in Babylon, a remnant of Judah was allowed to return to Judea and rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the Temple. Together, the House of Israel and the House of Judah make up the “lost sheep of Israel.”
Clearly, Yeshua was sent to regather His “lost sheep” of both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. In Matthew 10:5-6 it is clear that salvation was sent to the “Jew first, then the Greek (Gentile)” (Romans 1:16). Because of the historical assimilation of the ten northern tribes into the general population of the Gentile nations, we cannot be sure who has direct lineage to these “lost sheep.” But were these the only “lost sheep” He was sent to? Absolutely not! He was sent to all mankind, including the Gentiles!
John 10:16, “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.
This was also prophesied by Isaiah:
Isaiah 53:6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him (Messiah).
Now we see the full picture of to whom Yeshua was sent in the parable of Luke 15: to all those who have gone astray and who hear His voice, both Jew and Gentile! By hearing His call, repenting and choosing to follow Him, one is brought to righteousness before God. The sheep have been called out of a world that does not know the One True Shepherd, and because of their faith they join the flock of Messiah. The sheep receive the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh) from the Shepherd which guides them in their new life, worshiping Messiah in spirit and truth!
John 4:23-24, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
By hearing the call of Messiah, repenting and choosing to follow Him in faith, we as “lost sheep” are carried out of the “wilderness” (a world that does not know God) on the shoulders of Messiah (Good Shepherd) and become “grafted in” to His flock (Romans 11:17-24), inheriting the promises of His covenants (Galatians 3:7-8, 26-29). When one lost sheep is found, there is great rejoicing in heaven!
Luke 15:7, “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
If those who hear the voice of Messiah are His sheep, then how will we know His voice?
This brings us to the next parable: The Lost Silver Coin.
The Lost Silver Coin
Luke 15:8-10, “Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? “When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’ “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Here again we see a parable of something lost and found. To discover what Yeshua was referencing, we must again explore the symbolic significance of His examples.
The very first woman mentioned in the Bible is Eve, the wife of Adam. She is followed by several other prominent women; Sarah (wife of Abraham), Rebekah (wife of Isaac), Rachel (wife of Jacob/Israel), Ruth (wife of Boaz), etc. While these prominent women were real people, they often symbolize those that are “married” to the Messiah/LORD.
The prophets frequently use the term ‘woman,’ or a feminine designation such as ‘her,’ ‘daughter,’ or a female person, to refer to the children of Israel or Judah (Isaiah 26:17, 32:9; Jeremiah 3:20, 4:31, 31:8, 31:22; Ezekiel 35:17; Book of Hosea; Micah 4:10). This is continued in the New Testament as well (Revelation 12).
By understanding these prophetic foreshadows, it is clear that “woman” is often a type of Israel, both national Israel and/or spiritual Israel (all followers of Messiah). Of coarse, not every time “woman” is mentioned in the Bible does it represent national and/or spiritual Israel. In fact, “woman” is also used frequently to symbolize something much more sinister: Babylon (false spiritual systems). This is seen clearly in Isaiah 47 and Revelation 17.
The woman in the parable of the lost coin clearly represents both Israel and Babylon. She symbolizes both of those that come from Israel/Judah (lost sheep) and those that come from the pagan nations (other lost sheep that hear Messiah’s voice). But what is the first thing Yeshua tells us the woman does to find the lost coin? She lights a lamp!
Lamp’s are frequently mentioned in Scripture and have a very prominent role in symbolism. The first mention of lamps is during God’s command to Moses to fashion the Menorah for the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:37).
Job tells us who his Lamp is:
Job 29:2-3, “Oh that I were as in months gone by, as in the days when God watched over me; when His lamp shone over my head, and by His light I walked through darkness”
Kings David and Solomon expressed similar thoughts, that the LORD and His Word/Commandments are lamps/light.
2 Samuel 22:29, “For You are my Lamp, O LORD; and the LORD illumines my darkness.”
Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.”
Proverbs 6:23, “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light, and reproofs for discipline are the way of life.”
Also, Yeshua the Messiah is prophesied as a lamp as well!
2 Chronicles 21:7, “Yet the LORD was not willing to destroy the house of David because of the covenant which He had made with David, and since He had promised to give a lamp to him and his sons forever.” (Psalm 132:17)
John 5:35, “He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in His light.” (2 Peter 1:19, Revelation 21:23)
Certainly, the lamp that Yeshua is referencing to in this parable is God, His Word, and the Messiah as the Word made flesh.
What about the silver coins?
Throughout all of history and in every culture, silver has been considered a precious metal. It is used extensively throughout Scripture, most commonly to describe adornments, decorations, or money, but it is not often that we encounter it as a symbol. However, if we search hard enough, we can find how silver is used symbolically in the Scriptures.
Psalm 12:6, “The words of the LORD are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.
Proverbs 8:19, “My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver
Clearly, the words of the LORD are as silver, and the fruit of the LORD is better than silver. So how do we understand the Lord’s words that are as silver and His fruit that surpasses choice silver?
Job 8:28, “And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” (Psalms 111:10)
Job 28:12, “But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?”
Job 28:15, “Pure gold cannot be given in exchange for it (wisdom and understanding), nor can silver be weighed as its price.
What is this knowledge of God that brings wisdom and understanding, and is more valuable than silver?
Psalm 111:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.
By taking all of these verses into account, a wonderful picture begins to emerge. Wisdom begins with fear of the LORD, which leads to humility and repentance. Humility and repentance leads to obedience, which is accomplished by listening to the “refined silver” words of the LORD and following His commandments. God’s words are as refined silver, and leads to valuable fruit and priceless understanding. So what are God’s words?
In the story of the Exodus, Moses and the children of Israel leave Egypt and camp at the base of Mount Sinai. They have been instructed to prepare themselves for their very first meeting with God Almighty. After consecrating themselves for two days, they finally hear the voice of the Creator of the universe! God descends onto Mt. Sinai in smoke, fire, thunder, lightning, with the blast of trumpets, and suddenly from all of this theophany He speaks directly to the children of Israel:
Exodus 20:1 Then God spoke all these words, saying…
The proclamation of the Ten Commandments is the first and only time God Himself spoke directly to all of the children of Israel. The Ten Commandments are the foundation of the Commandments of God, and from these ten all of the other commandments follow. They are to define our relationship with Him (first 5), and each other (last 6, as Commandment #5 applies to both our physical father and spiritual Father). While no one is perfect, and we have all transgressed the Law, all followers of Messiah should agree that these Ten Commandments are of utmost importance and we should strive to follow them to the best of our ability.
Amazingly, if the woman is looking for the one lost coin in the parable, i.e., one lost Commandment, which one would seem most likely? Remember, the woman represents those who follow the LORD (spiritual Israel/called out of Babylon) and has become aware that she has lost a valuable pure silver coin (one of God’s Commandment), and now has lit the lamp of Messiah/Word to search for this missing Commandment.
Let us briefly review these Ten Commandments:
- You shall have no other gods before Me
- Do not make/worship any graven images of Him or other gods
- Do not misuse the name of the LORD
- Keep the seventh day Holy as the sabbath
- Honor your mother and father
- Do not murder
- Do not commit adultery
- Do not steal
- Do not bear false witness
- Do not covet
Many will have their own opinion about this, and one could argue that any number of these Commandments have been lost. However, there is only one of the Ten Commandments which has been institutionally lost to the greater body of Messiah: the seventh day Sabbath.*
The Sabbath is one of the most directly referenced commandments in the entire scripture. It is mentioned over 150 times and has extensive instructions associated with it. It is a holy day unto the LORD and is a day that we are commanded to keep holy as it is the covenant sign between God and His people:
Exodus 31:13, “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between Me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.'”
While it is specifically given as a Commandment during the time of Moses, the origins of the Sabbath date back to creation itself, when God rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2). Unfortunately, through thousands of years of man-made traditions, indoctrination, laws, and institutions, the greater ekklessia (assembly/Church) of God has forsaken this covenantal Commandment of blessing and replaced it with another day, the first day of the week. (The Sabbath has much significance associated with it, and we will explore this in depth in a later article).
Regardless of which of the Commandments a person has lost, the parable of the woman and the lost silver coin shows the heart of one who is called by Messiah coming out of the world by repentance. Repentance (Hebrew: תשובה teshuvah) literally means turning back toward, or returning to, God. By turning back to God this leads to searching for God’s Commandments by turning on the light of Messiah (Word made flesh). Upon discovering God’s precious words in the Light of Yeshua/Jesus, that woman rejoices and there is much rejoicing among the angels!
These two parables, the lost sheep and the lost coin, shows us the heart of God as He seeks His lost sheep as the Good Shepherd, and the heart of the believer who seeks God through His Messiah and Word. So how does this relate to God’s prophetic timeline at the end of the age?
In the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21), we see Yeshua clearly teaching that His followers will be persecuted, fall away, and lawlessness will increase; yet the Gospel will be preached to the whole world before the end of the age.
Matthew 24:9-14, “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
Many prominent evangelical organizations believe that within the next 10-15 years (and possibly much sooner), the Gospel will have gone out to every nation, tribe, and tongue. This does not mean that everyone will have accepted Messiah, but simply that He will be known throughout the world. Regardless of the exact time in which the great commission is fulfilled, we are clearly nearing it’s completion. As God gathers His elect (lost sheep) through His Messiah, we should cast our eyes toward heaven.
Unfortunately, because of the misunderstanding and misapplication of some of Sha’ul’s (Paul’s) epistles, much of the greater Church does not focus in any substantial way on the commandments and prophecies of God as revealed in the Torah and the Prophets. This is often done under the assumption that “we are no longer under the law, therefore we do not need to know or obey it” or “we are under New Testament grace rather than the Old Testament commandments.” Unfortunately, this disregard for the Instructions/Commandments of God (Torah) has undoubtedly led to much lawlessness and negated much of the blessing associated with it (Deuteronomy 11: 26-27), both outside of and within the greater Church body. But is this what Yeshua taught?
Matthew 5:17-19, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
While it is clear within scripture that no man can be saved by works of the Law (Torah/instructions/commandments) or any traditions of man, and righteousness is imparted to us only by grace through faith in Yeshua the Messiah (Ephesians 2:8-9), it is also clear that God gave us His Torah so that we would would be able to discern sin from righteousness. The Law (Torah) is not a means to justification for anyone, but rather it is the instructions by which God gave us to live. It is also God’s testimony about the righteousness of God through His Messiah, Yeshua (Romans 3:20-22). Following it cannot “save” us, but rather is our response to God’s love toward us, and it is to be on our hearts as an expression of our love toward God and mankind (Deuteronomy 6:4-6).
Matthew 22:36-40, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
How do we love God and mankind?
1 John 5:1-3, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.”
1 John 3:16, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.“
In the parable of the Lost Coin the woman sees that she has lost something valuable. This was not a salvation issue, it was not something that could ever separate her from the love of God, but rather it was the realization that something with great value was missing from her household. When she found it, she rejoiced, and the heavens rejoiced! Our response to God’s commands (Torah) through our faith in Him should be joy, as His commands are not burdensome.
At the end of the age, when Messiah returns for His Second Coming, it is certainly clear that He will rule the nations and govern by His Word, the Living Torah!
Isaiah 2:3, “And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain (kingdom) of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.” For the Torah will go forth from Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 51:3-5).
Just as Yeshua said, before the end “lawlessness will increase.” There is no doubt that we are currently experiencing this lawlessness, and as a result the love of many is growing cold and many are falling away. As followers of Messiah, we must be grounded in His word, His commands, His Instructions (Torah), led by the Holy Spirit, and delight in the light of our Savior and the freedom He has won for us. Only by doing this can we hope to withstand the temptations that come with tribulation.
In next week’s article we will complete our examination of these three parables with the parable of the Prodigal Son. We will see how these three parables relate, and explore the prophetic significance that relates to the end of the age. Amen!!
COMING THIS FALL (Sept/Oct)!
Introduction-Are We the Terminal Generation?
Chapter 1-The Terminal Generation
Chapter 2-The Vision of a Ram and a Goat (Daniel 8)
Chapter 3-The Vision of the Four Beasts (Kingdoms) (Daniel 7)
Chapter 4-The People of the Prince Who is to Come (Daniel 9)
Chapter 5-Nebuchadnezzar’s Statue Dream (Daniel 2)
Chapter 6-What kingdom is our generation living in today?
Chapter 7-The Antichrist’s kingdom
Chapter 8-Mystery Babylon the Great, The Mother of Harlots
Chapter 9- The Second Coming
Chapter 10-Messiah’s Millennial Kingdom
Chapter 11-The New Jerusalem
Chapter 12-Messiah’s Final Warning