A farmer had two sons. The eldest worked with his father learning how to run the farm. The second son was studying at an Agricultural College. When he returned with his degree, he had several new ideas that would improve the farm operation. The father sent his son out onto the farm to work with his older brother. As they were working, he tried to tell his brother about the latest ideas and how things should be done. The elder son became angry and killed his "know all" brother.

When the father discovered what had happened, he had no choice but to call the police. The oldest son was arrested and the court sentenced him to 20 years in prison. He was incarcerated in a high-security prison thousands of miles away from where his father lived. The prison clothes were uncomfortable and the food was terrible, so life for the son in prison was very miserable. His father could have provided him with food and clothing, but this was not allowed. The elder son was cut off from his father's abundance.

The father could not manage the farm on his own. He found a younger beggar in the town and adopted him as a son. The father taught him how to be a farmer, as they worked the land together. The adopted son studied the younger brother's college notes. He learned an applied the new methods so the farm prospered. However, the farm was too large for two men, so they were never able to bring it to the full potential.

In jail, the oldest son became extremely angry with his father. He was angry because his father had reported him to the police. He became even more angry when he heard that his father had given his inheritance to his adopted brother (this was not true, the adopted son would only inherit the dead brother's portion).

One day the adopted brother and a friend travelled to visit the older brother in prison. He was still angry and started "mouthing off" about his father. The friend was so upset that he punched the imprisoned brother and gave him a black eye. This really spoilt the relationship. The older brother began to hate his adopted brother. The adopted son decided that his brother was not worth the trouble and that he would have nothing more to do with him.

When the older brother was fifteen years into his sentence, he was moved to a low-security prison closer to his home. The father still loved his son and longed to bless him, but his son was angry and would have nothing to do with him. So the father asked his adopted son to visit his brother. He told him how much he loved him and that when his sentence was finished, he wanted to set him up on the land again. He explained that he wanted the two brothers to work together and that the oldest son would still inherit his half of the farm. For the first time, the son saw his brother through his father's eyes.

When the adopted son visited his brother in prison, he was filled with love and compassion for him. He began to bring his gifts of food, books to read and other things to make life in prison more bearable. Gradually a friendship began to develop between them.

During his stay in the high-security prison, the oldest brother had become a real "hard" man. He was still very angry, and he used his strength to bully some of the weaker prisoners. When his father heard about what he was doing, he was angry and wept, but he never stopped loving his first born son.

The adopted son continued to build a relationship with his brother. As he blessed his brother, his love for him increased and grew. However, he never pretended that his brother was not a murderer. He could see the brutalising effects of life in a high-security prison, but he did not condone his victimisation of his cellmates. He knew that his brother's bad behaviour in prison meant that he would have to serve his full term, so never gave him false hope by suggesting that would get an early release from prison. He also knew that before his brother could be returned to his place with their father on the farm, he would need to repent of his anger and violence. The adopted brother would gently remind him of this fault, even as he continued to love and bless him.

A few days before the older son was due to be released, he bullied a new inmate. A couple of rogue prison guards caught him in the act and turned on him. Their anger stirred, they beat him to "within an inch of his life". His injuries were so severe that on the day he was released, he could barely walk. So his adopted brother took him home and nursed him back to health.

Strangely enough, the hiding proved to be a beneficial experience. For the first time in his life, the older brother experienced anger from the other side. He decided that he would live differently in the future. As soon as he was strong enough, he went to his father and apologised.

The farmer who had never stopped loving his son welcomed him back to the farm. The adopted brother taught the other brother how to apply the principles introduced by the dead brother. The two brothers learned to work together and turned the farm into one of the best in the region. The father was delighted to have his oldest son home again. He really enjoyed the way that his two sons worked together to make the family farm a very successful business.


The father is the Father. The oldest son is Israel; the younger son is Jesus; and the adopted son is the church. The farm is the Kingdom of God and the rest is history.

The father never stopped loving his oldest son, even though he had murdered his younger brother. Although the father loved his son and did not remove his inheritance, the son still had to pay the penalty for his crime. The son had to repent and embrace his adopted brother before he could receive his inheritance.

The requirements of justice and mercy were both met.

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