Prone to Wander: Today You May Be the One, Tomorrow You Might Be One of the Ninety-Nine

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by the apostle John. More specifically today’s passage is found in verses twenty-two through forty-two of the tenth chapter. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and thew sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them” (John 10:1-6).

 

            “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is in an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The fireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father konweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And the other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lahy down my life, that I might take it again. NO man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10:7-20).

 

            “And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. l My Father, which gave them to me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; ;for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (John 10:21-33).

 

            “Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him. Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand, and went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode. And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true. And many believe on him there” (John 10:34-42).

 

            EZEKIEL 34! PSALM 23! THIEF! ROBBER! STRANGER! HIRELING! THE WOLF! HE CALLETH HIS OWN SHEEP BY NAME! LEADETH THEM OUT! PUTTETH FORTH HIS OWN SHEEP! HE GOETH BEFORE THEM! When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find Jesus entering into a role that was spoken about by both the Old Testament psalmist David as well as the words of the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel. As you come to the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John you will find and encounter a tremendous picture of Jesus as the good shepherd and His relationship with the sheep. In all reality if you wish to truly understand the words which are found in this portion of Scripture you must needs recognize and see it through two lenses. The first lens through which you must see it is the relationship between the sheep and the shepherd while the second lens is the relationship of the sheep and those who pose a threat to it. I would in fact dare say that this second lens is not so much the relationship of the sheep and those who are a threat and danger to it but the lack of relationship that exists. Upon reading the words found in this passage of Scripture you will undeniable notice the presence of the sheep and how incredibly important and valuable the sheep are. It is absolutely unmistakable when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture and not encounter the incredibly powerful truth Jesus spoke concerning the sheep and what those sheep were like. It is quite clear when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture that the sheep in this passage have their own unique relationship with the shepherd and it is that relationship that helps them to manage the threats and dangers which are presented against them by those who would seek to destroy and scatter them.

 

            As I sit here today thinking about and considering the words found in this passage of Scripture I can’t help but be brought face to face with the wonderful relationship that exists between the sheep and the shepherd and how that relationship entirely and altogether shapes and impacts their relationship to and with the world around them. If you take the time to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will discover that at the very heart of the reality of the sheep is the relationship which the sheep have with the shepherd and how incredibly valuable and important the shepherd truly is. What’s more is that we must needs understand that this isn’t the first time Jesus would speak of the relationship between a sheep and the shepherd, for if you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the physician Luke as well as the words found in the eighteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew you will find Jesus once more describing sheep, the shepherd and the great lengths the shepherd will indeed go to if any of his sheep are in danger. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in each of these passages as they help set the stage for what we find within this passage in the gospel written by the apostle John:

 

            “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:10-14).

 

            “Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having and hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance” (Luke 15:1-7).

 

            It is incredibly important we recognize and pay close attention to the words found in these two passages of Scripture for they call and draw our attention—not only to the relentless pursuit of the shepherd when one of their sheep is in danger and has gone astray but also concerning the sheep themselves which are prone to go astray. Perhaps one of the greatest truths we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in these passages of Scripture is that they not only highlight and underscore the unique relationship which exists between the shepherd and the sheep which had gone astray but also that the sheep had gone astray. THERE’S ALWAYS THAT ONE! THE ONE MIGHT NOT ALWAYS BE THE SAME! TODAY IT MIGHT BE THIS ONE WHO WENT ASTRAY! TOMORROW IT MIGHT BE THAT ONE WHICH GOES ASTRAY! One of the greatest truths that is found within these passages of Scripture is that Jesus speaks forth these parables concerning a shepherd who has one hundred sheep and how for one reason or another one of those sheep—essentially one percent of the total number of sheep—had left the fold and had gone astray. What we must needs understand when reading this passage of Scripture is that on this particular day it would be this particular sheep which would go astray and would not only go astray but would also be lost. Not only this but I would dare say that when this particular sheep went astray it would find itself lost, alone and perhaps even in danger of threats before and all around it. Perhaps one of the questions I can’t help but ask when I read this passage of Scripture is how long it took the shepherd to notice this sheep was gone and was no longer present within the fold. Did the shepherd notice right away that the sheep was missing or did it take a day or two to notice as it took a full day’s journey for Mary and Joseph to realize that their young son Jesus was not present with them?

 

            As I consider the words found in this passage of Scripture I can’t help but be brought face to face with the awesome truth that when Jesus delivered and spoke these parables he described a single lowly sheep which went astray. Jesus took time to describe how just one of the one hundred sheep had gone astray and how when the shepherd noticed that sheep was missing he would leave the ninety and nine to go and search for and find it. I have often wondered what the shepherd did with the sheep which he left behind and whether or not he left them with a trusted colleague—perhaps another shepherd or perhaps a friend whom he would trust to look after and care for the sheep. I find myself thinking about where the shepherd left the ninety and nine sheep which he left behind and whether or not he left them in a pen where they would be safe and secure from the present dangers and threats that would seek to destroy them. Jesus is entirely and altogether unclear where the shepherd left the ninety and nine that he might go and find that one sheep which was gone astray, however, we can be absolutely certain that he wouldn’t have left those sheep in danger to seek and search for that one which was lost. I am absolutely and completely convinced that when the shepherd left those ninety and nine sheep he would have either left them in the care of one whom they trusted and/or even leaving them in a pen which would provide shelter, safety and protection from the dangers and threats which were around them. Once those sheep were secure and safe this shepherd would then set out on a journey to search for that one sheep was lost—that sheep which had gone astray and had left the fold of the other sheep.

 

            If there is one thing I find so incredibly unique and interesting within this passage of Scripture it’s how Jesus describes this sheep as being lost and yet perhaps the single greatest truth surrounding this sheep is how it came to be lost. The more I read the words found in these passages of Scripture the more I can’t help but find and discover that this sheep had become lost—not because the shepherd refused to take care of it but because it wandered off and went astray. What we must needs realized and understand concerning these two passages of Scripture is that this sheep was in fact lost because it wandered away and went astray from the fold of the rest of the sheep. Oh Jesus doesn’t describe in detail how this sheep came to be lost and when it went astray and departed from the fold—only that the sheep was lost. It is with this in mind I feel compelled to think about exactly what prompted this sheep to wander astray and to go its own way. It is in the fifty-third chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah the prophet declares how all we like sheep have gone astray and how we have all gone to our own way. I am absolutely convinced the words which the prophet Isaiah prophesied and spoke according to the word of the LORD beautifully describe how this sheep came to be lost for it would go astray after seeking its own way. When sheep go their own way—not only do they go astray but they also find themselves being entirely and altogether lost. Oh this actually calls and draws my attention to the words which James the half brother of Jesus writes in his epistle found in the New Testament, as well as the words which are found in the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle of John. I would like to invite you to consider the following words found in each of these epistles as they help to describe just what this looks like within our own hearts and lives and how we are likened unto sheep:

 

            “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, WHEN HE IS DRAWN AWAY OF HIS OWN LUST, AND ENTICED. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:13-15).

 

            “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. IF any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever. Little children, it is the last time: and as aye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life” (1 John 2:15-25).

 

            When I read the words found in these passages of Scripture I can’t help but think about that which would cause the sheep within these two parables Jesus spoke to be lost—namely, that the sheep would be enticed, would be drawn away and would go astray. What we must needs recognize and understand when reading these two parables Jesus spoke concerning the sheep which was lost is that it would find itself being lost not because the shepherd didn’t care for or look after it but because it left the fold and because it went its own way. The sheep would ultimately become lost because it would seek its own way and would go astray, thus leaving the fold and the rest of the sheep. The sheep would be lost and this being lost would be entirely and altogether characteristic of its seeking its own way rather than following the shepherd. What makes it interesting is when you consider this in light of the words found in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle John for within it we find Jesus describing how the sheep would not follow another because they know the voice of the shepherd. With this being said I have to ask myself what would cause the sheep to go astray if it would not go astray because of following the voice of another which it did not know? Jesus made it very clear that the sheep knew the voice of the shepherd and that they would not follow the voice of another. With this being said we have to recognize and understand that there would in fact be dangerous voices which would rise up and seek to entice and draw away the sheep from the fold. There would in fact be dangerous voices that would raise themselves up seeking to entice and draw away the sheep and yet Jesus emphatically describes how the sheep would not follow the voice of one which they did not know. The sheep would indeed and would in fact know the voice of the shepherd and it would be their knowledge of the voice of the shepherd that would be the safety and guard which would protect them from following the voice of another.

 

            These words which are found in these two passages of Scripture seem to suggest that this sheep did not go astray because it followed the voice of a stranger or the voice of one it did not know and recognize. This sheep would not go away because it would be enticed away from the fold and away from the flock by a voice which would seek to seduce and lure it away. What I must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in these passages of Scripture is that the sheep would indeed go astray because it sought its own way and would wander off from the fold. Oh that we would recognize and understand this for there are a number of different threats to the sheep which are present all around it—some of these threats Jesus mentions in this particular passage in the gospel narrative written by the apostle John. With this being said I find it necessary to call your attention to the fact that we will indeed be getting into the words which are found in this passage of Scripture in the gospel narrative written by the apostle John, however, it is necessary that we understand one of the present dangers among and within the sheep. That danger which we must needs be aware of is the sheep themselves being prone to wander and go their own way. It would be their wandering away and going astray that would cause them to be lost—and perhaps not only lost but lost in a variety of different places. The parables which Jesus spoke describes the sheep being lost and the shepherd going into the mountains to seek after and search for the sheep where he would find it and bring it back to the fold. Within the parable Jesus spoke we find the sheep being lost in the mountains and the shepherd finding it there in the mountains and bringing it back unto the fold where it would be joined together with the rest of the fold.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words found in this passage of Scripture and I can’t help but think about two distinct realities surrounding these sheep and their being lost—namely, where the sheep was lost and found when the shepherd came across it as well as the fact that any one of the sheep could indeed and could in fact go astray. In the parable Jesus spoke we find the sheep being lost and undoubtedly wandering upon and in the midst of the mountains of that particular area. Without a doubt the shepherd would have retraced his steps and where he had led the sheep that he might seek to recover this lost sheep—either in a place he had led the entire flock or not far from one of the places where he had led the flock. Scriptures describes how this sheep was lost in the midst of the mountains and how the shepherd would find it there in the midst of the mountains. A question I can’t help but ask myself when reading this passage of Scripture is how far from one of the areas the shepherd had led the entire flock to and through would this sheep wander and ultimately be lost. Would this sheep be found a long ways from where the shepherd had led the flock or would it be close by to one of those places as it would and could not have gone far from such a place? I can’t help but think about the fact that this sheep would have undoubtedly wander away from the rest of the fold and from the sheep as they would make their way through the mountains—perhaps even the valleys—and would ultimately be present there until the shepherd would come for it again after seeking after and searching for it. Oh it is important for us to recognize and understand this as it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding this sheep and how it would indeed be found in the midst of the mountains away from the flock and apart from the shepherd.

 

            AWAY FROM THE FLOCK AND APART FROM THE SHEPHERD! One of the greatest truths we must needs recognize concerning this sheep being lost is that it would not only be away from the flock and the rest of the fold but it would also be apart from the shepherd itself. This sheep being lost wouldn’t just touch its absence from the rest of the flock but would also touch its distance from the shepherd. ABSENCE FROM THE FLOCK AND DISTANCE FROM THE SHEPHERD! Oh I can’t help but wonder how far this shepherd had to journey and travel that he might find this sheep which had gone astray and was lost. Did this shepherd have to travel a day’s journey to find this sheep as he would spend the hours of the day searching and seeking for this sheep while it was still light? Is it possible that this shepherd did not have to travel a great deal to find the sheep—even though he found it in the mountains? What’s more is I find myself asking how far this sheep was from where the flock went as they followed the voice of the shepherd. We know for a fact this sheep was lost and the question I can’t help but ask myself when thinking about and considering it is whether or not this shepherd had to travel a great distance to find the sheep. The parable makes it absolutely clear that the shepherd would travel as far as was necessary to find this sheep which was lost after having gone astray and having gone its own way. The shepherd would leave the ninety and nine in search for that one sheep which was lost after pursuing its own away and going astray from the fold. This shepherd would depart from the ninety and nine other sheep which had not gone astray and which had not gone their own way that he might find and bring back this sheep and restore it to the fold.

 

            I am sure it would have been easy for this shepherd to chalk this sheep up as perhaps being dead and no longer alive and not leave the ninety and nine. There is not a doubt in my mind that this shepherd could have had the mindset that he still had the other ninety and nine sheep and that one lost sheep which had gone astray was an acceptable loss compared to having the other ninety and nine. With this being said, however, I am convinced there is an underlying danger that surrounds the shepherd and not the sheep—namely, that if the shepherd feels it’s acceptable for one sheep to go astray and not go out seeking after and searching for it then it would become easier and easier to keep that same mindset for the rest of the sheep. Perhaps one of the greatest truths surrounding this parable is that on this particular day it would be this sheep which would go astray, however, tomorrow it could be a different sheep that would go astray. If there is one thing I find absolutely captivating about this parable is how Jesus described only one sheep which had gone astray and which was lost. I am absolutely and completely convinced this is necessary for by describing only one sheep as being lost and having gone astray He leaves room for that one sheep to be any. Remember in the upper room when Jesus spoke of one among them betraying Him and how each of the disciples talked among themselves whether or not it could be them. It would only be one of the disciples who would ultimately betray Jesus and yet they would all ask themselves whether or not they could be that one who betrayed Jesus. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that when we speak about this one sheep which was lost it could indeed have been any of the sheep at any time. By describing only one sheep as being lost and going astray Jesus would leave room for interpretation concerning which of the sheep it would have been which went astray. What’s more is that Jesus would describe how one of an hundred sheep would actually go astray and would depart from the fold and would depart from the shepherd as it would find itself being lost.

 

            The more I read the words found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with two distinct truths surrounding it. The first truth is that by describing only one sheep which would go astray Jesus would leave room for that one sheep to any among them. By describing this one sheep from among an hundred sheep as having gone astray Jesus would in fact leave room for that one sheep to be any of those one hundred. Not only this but we must needs recognize that any one of those one hundred sheep could have in fact gone astray and wandered away from the fold and from the shepherd. Not only this but we must needs understand that on this particular day it might have been this sheep which had gone astray and which needed to be searched out and sought after that it might be restored unto the fold while tomorrow it might have been another one of the sheep which was lost and needed to be rescued by the shepherd. Out of an hundred sheep I can’t help but wonder how many of those sheep had gone astray and had gone its own way thus being lost and needing to be rescued by the shepherd. We know this shepherd had an hundred sheep and how one was lost after having gone astray and how the shepherd left the ninety and nine which had gone astray. ON THIS DAY YOU’RE THE ONE, ON THAT DAY YOU’RE ONE OF THE NINETY AND NINE! I am absolutely and completely convinced that within this parable we must needs understand and acknowledge the fact that we can be on both sides of this equation and on both sides of the coin. On the one hand we can be that one sheep which was lost after having gone astray while on the other hand we can be one of the ninety and nine which had never gone astray. Remember the parable of the prodigal son and how the older brother was disheartened and frustrated with the father over the celebration for the son which had gone astray? Remember how the argument the older brother presented was that he had faithfully served the father all those years and had never gone astray or done his own thing. Remember also how Jesus would conclude how there would be much rejoicing over that one which was lost being found than the ninety and nine which had not gone astray?

 

            I sit here today thinking about the fact that this parable brings us face to face with the fact that it is very easy to be that one which was lost—perhaps easier to be that one which was lost than to be one of the ninety and nine which never went astray and went their own way. Perhaps the greatest question I can’t help but ask myself when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture is whether or not it is truly easier to be that one which went astray versus being one of the ninety and nine which never went astray. If I am being honest with you who might be reading these words I would dare say that it is much easier to be that one which went astray and went its own way and as a result found itself being lost, being cut off from the fold and being separated from the shepherd. There is not a doubt in my mind that it is much easier to be that one which went astray and found itself being lost than being one of the ninety and nine which remained part of the fold following the shepherd where he led them. With this being said I find it absolutely necessary to draw and call your attention to the fact that this sheep which was lost could indeed and could in fact have been any one of those one hundred sheep. In fact I would dare say that if this shepherd had one hundred sheep it is quite possible that there might have been at least more than one time when he had to leave the ninety and nine to go and search for that one which had gone astray. If this shepherd had one hundred sheep it is possible that there were one hundred different times when he would have to leave the ninety and nine in search for that one which had been lost after going astray.

 

            Pause for a moment and think about the fact that if this shepherd had one hundred sheep it might very well have been possible that he left the ninety and nine one hundred different times as that one sheep which was lost could have been different each time. We don’t know which one of the one hundred sheep was lost after having gone astray on this particular occasion and yet we must conclude that this one sheep could have been any of the one hundred which were led by and followed after the shepherd. The simple fact that Jesus described how one sheep was lost and went astray brings us face to face with the incredibly powerful picture that this sheep could have been any one of the hundred sheep which followed the shepherd and that it could have been a different sheep which was lost and went astray each time. The more I think about this particular truth the more I am brought face to face with the fact that this one sheep which had gone astray could have been one sheep today while tomorrow it could have been another one of the sheep. I can’t help but think about and consider the fact that this sheep could have been different each and every time and how the shepherd not only had to spend a considerable amount of time leading and caring for the flock but also seeking after and searching out that one sheep which went astray. Oh I can’t help but wonder how many times in a given week, or perhaps even a month, or perhaps even in a year this shepherd had to leave the ninety and nine to find that one which went astray. Would we be shocked and surprised to find out how many times the shepherd had to leave the ninety and nine that he might seek after and search for that one sheep which had gone astray? I would dare say that it might very well have been a number of times within and throughout the year this shepherd departed from the ninety and nine that he might seek after and search for that sheep which was lost that he might find it and restore it to the fold.

 

            With all of this being said there is a great need for us to recognize and understand that on this particular day it might have been this sheep which went astray while tomorrow it might have been another one of the sheep which went astray. The simple fact that Jesus described only one sheep as having gone astray not only suggests that one sheep could have been any one of the hundred sheep but also that it was possible to be one of the ninety and nine which remained. Within these parables spoken by Jesus we not only find the older brother who remained in the father’s house and never departed but we also find the ninety and nine sheep which did not depart and did not go astray. Oh it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this particular truth for I am convinced that at the very heart and center of this parable is indeed the number one—and not only the number one but what that number one represents. Within these parables we find that it was one sheep which had gone astray and had wandered away from the fold and from the shepherd. This one sheep could have been any one of those sheep which followed the shepherd as he led the fold through valleys and upon the mountains. With this being said we must needs understand that this power of one also surrounds those ones which remained part of the ninety and nine. We must needs acknowledge and understand that it is possible to be that one which went astray as well as being one of the ninety and nine which did not go astray. Not only this but on this particular day you might be that one who went astray and needed rescuing while on another day you might be one of the ninety and nine which remained together and part of the fold.

 

            Oh there is something to be said about this power of one as it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding this sheep which was lost after having gone astray and going its own way. I continue to find myself wondering which and whether is easier—to remain part of the ninety and nine which never went astray or to be that one which went astray and was lost. If I am being honest with myself and with you who might be reading these words I find it absolutely necessary to declare that more often than not it is easier to be that one which went astray and was lost than to remain part of the ninety and nine which never went astray and remained together as a flock. We would like to think that it is easier to remain part of the fold together with the other ninety and eight sheep which did not go astray and yet the truth of the matter is that this simply is not the case. If we are being honest with ourselves we must needs acknowledge and recognize the words which the prophet Isaiah spoke and how true and accurate they are concerning us and how we like a sheep have gone astray and have gone our own way. Oh we might be part of the fold and we might be part of the flock right now, however, it is possible that anything can happen and we can seek after and pursue our own way. We would like to think that we could never be that one which goes astray and follows our own way and thus find ourselves being lost and yet the truth of the matter is that this simply is not the case. I am absolutely and completely convinced that we deceive ourselves when we think and believe that there is not a danger within our hearts to be that one which goes astray and pursues our own way. We must needs recognize and understand that more often than not it is easier to depart and go astray and go our own way than it is to remain faithful and among the fold which abide with the shepherd.

 

            The parable which Jesus spoke concerning this sheep which went astray and was lost is absolutely remarkable and powerful for it brings us face to face—not only with a careful examination of our hearts and how we might have gone away at certain times but also whether or not there might be those areas and parts within ourselves where we have departed, where we have gone astray and where we have sought our own way. We must needs recognize and realize that it is far easier to be that one which goes astray and which follows our own way than it is to remain one of the ninety and nine which remain faithful as they follow the voice of the shepherd wherever he might lead. Not only this but we must needs admit that there was that initial time when we were indeed and were in fact lost and how the Shepherd searched after and sought us out that He might find us in our place of being lost. It is absolutely necessary that we understand that there is a great need for us to recognize just how incredibly easy it is to go astray and to pursue our own way and as a direct result finding ourselves being lost. I am absolutely and completely convinced we have a great need within our hearts and minds to understand how prone we are to wander and were it not for the grace of God so we go and are in danger of going astray. This parable which Jesus spoke concerning the sheep which went astray powerfully suggests the tremendous truth surrounding the fact that this one sheep could indeed be any one of the hundred sheep which followed the voice of the shepherd and perhaps at multiple times throughout their following after the shepherd were that one which went astray and sought their own way. I do not believe for one moment that there was simply one sheep from among the one hundred which went astray and which pursued its own way. There is not a doubt in my mind that it is highly possible that there were different sheep which would go astray and wander away from the fold and thus find themselves being lost and in need of the shepherd to come and find them.

 

            THERE’S ALWAYS THAT ONE WHICH IS MOST PRONE TO WANDER! THERE’S ALWAYS THOSE WHO ARE MORE PRONE TO WANDER! I am absolutely convinced when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture that there might very well be that one sheep which is more prone to wander than the other ninety and nine. There is not a doubt in my mind that there is not that one sheep among the hundred which is more prone to wander away and find itself being lost than the other ninety and nine and yet regardless of how many times this sheep wanders away and goes astray this shepherd will leave the ninety and nine to seek after and pursue it. One of the greatest truths surrounding this passage of Scripture is that regardless of how many times this same sheep wandered away and went astray the shepherd would still leave the ninety and nine to seek after and search for it. What’s more is if each sheep would and could be lost each day and there were one hundred sheep then it is possible that each sheep could have been lost at least three times within a given year. Not only this but it might very well be possible that some of these sheep found themselves being lost again and could have been lost a fourth time. Think about the fact that there are three hundred and sixty five days in a year and how there were one hundred sheep which followed the voice of the shepherd. Given this math it is quite possible for each sheep to have gone astray and been lost at least three times within a given year while others might have even been lost after going astray a fourth time. I do believe there is that one which is more prone to wander than the other ninety and nine and perhaps those which are more prone to wander than the rest of the sheep. We would be incredibly naïve to think about and consider that there was only one of those one hundred sheep which went astray and that there weren’t times when some of the other sheep always went astray.

 

            This reality and concept of some of the other sheep going astray and wandering away from the fold suggests the tremendous truth that there are times when it isn’t just one which needs to be rescued but there are times when others need to be rescued and searched after and sought out. I sit here today thinking about and considering the words found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the fact that if there are one hundred sheep it is very possible that each one of those sheep needed a rescue at one point in time or another. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this as it draws and calls our attention to the awesome and wonderful truth that there are times when this one sheep needed to be rescued while there are other times when another sheep needed to be rescued. Not only this but we must needs recognize that there has been that one time when we have needed to be rescued because for one reason or another we have gone astray and have pursued our own way. We know that we once were lost and were found when the Lord Jesus Christ searched after and sought us out, however, we must needs recognize that there might very well have been times within our lives when we have needed to be rescued by the Shepherd. There was that initial rescue which took place as the Shepherd found us lost and wandering in the mountains or in the valleys while there are those other times when even after we have been found we have still been in need of a rescue. I do not believe for a single moment that we have only needed one rescue within our lives and that there haven’t been times when we haven’t needed to be rescued a second time—and not only a second time but perhaps time and time again.

 

            If these is one thing this parable suggests that isn’t found within it it’s that it is possible for this shepherd to have had to leave the ninety and nine to rescue and search after this sheep more than once. We know the expression “there’s always one” and I can’t help but think about the fact that there’s always that one who is more prone to wander than the others. Oh I can’t help but wonder how many times this shepherd had to leave the other ninety and nine to find this one sheep who had wandered away and had gone astray. With this in mind I am reminded of Simon Peter’s question of the Lord and how he asked Him how often he ought to forgive his brother. Simon thought he was being righteous and gracious when he spoke of forgiving his brother seven times and yet Jesus declared unto him that he was not to forgive his brother seven times but seventy times seven. Please pay close attention to this particular truth for if Simon was to forgive his brother seventy times seven when he sinned against him then how many times do you think Jesus forgives us? How many times do you think the Father forgives us of our trespasses and our iniquities and sins? How many times do you think the Father has forgiven you within and throughout the course of your life after you have sinned against Him—and not only sinned against Him but have sinned against Him time and time again? This logic must be carefully examined and understood for if Simon was instructed by the Lord to forgive seventy times seven than I have to believe this shepherd would and could have sought after and searched for this sheep regardless of how many times it might have wandered away and how many times it went astray. There is not a doubt in my mind that even if this one sheep wandered away a hundred times this shepherd would have left the ninety and nine to seek after and search for it among the mountains and valleys. I do not believe this shepherd had a limit as to how many times he would seek after and search for the sheep after it had wandered away and had gone astray.

 

            HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU WANDERED AWAY? HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU GONE ASTRAY? While it is true that any one of the sheep could have been—and quite possibly was that one sheep which had gone astray and had found itself lost it is also true that this one sheep could have been lost multiple times. With it being lost time and time again I would dare say that this shepherd was more than willing to leave the ninety and nine that he might seek after and search out this sheep which was lost. In fact I would dare say that it was part of the job description of the shepherd to leave the ninety and nine that he might find that one sheep which had gone astray and which had gone its own way. I do not believe that this shepherd had a limit to how many times he was willing to seek after and search for that sheep which had gone astray and which was lost. If Jesus spoke unto Simon of forgiving his brother who trespassed against him seventy times seven than I have to believe with all my heart that this shepherd would have searched after and sought out this sheep regardless of how many times it wandered away and went astray. Not only this but I would dare say that this shepherd would have searched for and sought out each of those sheep regardless of how many times each wandered away and went astray. I firmly believe this shepherd would and could have diligently and desperately searched for and sought out each of these sheep when they went astray and when they departed from the fold and found themselves lost and in need of a rescue. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this as it brings us face to face with the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms as well as the words which are found in the thirty-fourth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel. Consider if you will the following words found in each of these passages of Scripture:

 

            “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever” (Psalm 23:1-6).

 

            “And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the LORD God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye at the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which broken, neither have ye brought again that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. Therefore ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; As I live, saith the LORD God, Surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the LORD God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. For thus saith the LORD God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seekth out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloud and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the LORD God. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment. And as for you, O my flock, thus saith the LORD God; Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats. Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures? And to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet? And as for my flock, they eat that which. Ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet. Therefore thus saith the LORD God unto them; Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle. Because ye have thrust with side and with shoulder, and pushed all the diseased with your horns, will ye have scattered them abroad. Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle. And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it. And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods. And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing. And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, and they shall be safe in their land, and shall know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bands of their yoke, and delivered them out of the hand of those that served themselves of them. And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen, neither shall the beast of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and none shall make them afraid. And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the heathen any more. Thus shall they know that I the LORD their God am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people, saith the LORD God. And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the LORD God” (Ezekiel 34:1-31).

 

            NEITHER HAVE YE BROUGHT AGAIN THAT WHICH WAS DRIVEN AWAY! NEITHER HAVE YE SOUGHT THAT WHICH WAS LOST! THEY BECAME MEAT TO ALL THE BEASTS OF THE FIELD, WHEN THEY WERE SCATTERED! MY SHEEP WANDERED THROUGH ALL THE MOUNTAINS, AND UPON EVERY HIGH HILL! MY FLOCK WAS CATTERED UPON ALL THE FACE OF THE EARTH! NONE DID SEARCH OR SEEK AFTER THEM! BECAUSE MY FLOCK BECAME A PREY, AND MY FLOCK BECAME MEAT TO EVERY BEAST OF THE FIELD! NEITHER DID MY SHEPHERDS SEARCH FOR MY FLOCK! BEHOLD, I, EVEN I, WILL BOTH SEARCH MY SHEEP, AND SEEK THEM OUT! AS A SHEPHERD SEEKETH OUT HIS FLOCK IN THE DAY THAT HE IS AMONG HIS SHEEP THAT ARE SCATTERED! SO WILL I SEEK OUT MY SHEEP! WILL DELIVER THEM OUT OF ALL PLACES WEHRE THEY HAVE BEEN SCATTERED IN THE CLOUDY AND DARK DAY! I WILL SEEK THAT WHICH WAS LOST, AND BRING AGAIN THAT WHICH WAS DRIVEN AWAY!

 

            Please don’t miss the tremendous significance of what is found within the thirty-fourth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous willingness of the LORD to seek after and search for the sheep which were scattered and driven away. Within this passage we not only notice that the sheep were scattered but we also notice how they were driven away which as a result would cause them to become meat and a prey to all those who would seek to destroy them. What you find within this passage is an indictment of the LORD toward the shepherds who cared only for themselves and did not look out or look after the sheep which were scattered and driven away. The LORD had a controversy with the shepherds of His pasture because they did not seek out nor did they search after the sheep which were scattered among the hills and mountains. Not only this but the sheep were indeed meat and a prey to those who would seek to consume them. As if this weren’t enough we find the sheep in danger both from the shepherds which the LORD indicted as feeding themselves as well as from the wild beasts which were present before and all around them. There is a powerful declaration within this passage of Scripture as the LORD declares that He Himself will search after and seek out the sheep which were scattered and driven away within the land and upon the mountains of the earth. It is absolutely wonderful to read the words found in this passage of Scripture for they highlight and underscore the powerful truth surrounding the LORD being willing to be a shepherd who would seek after and search out His sheep who had been scattered abroad and driven away and were sheep without a shepherd and without the pasture they were used to.

 

            As I prepare to bring this writing to a close it is absolutely necessary that we call and draw our attention to the fact that in the parable which Jesus spoke concerning the lost sheep it is possible that the sheep which was lost could be any one of the sheep and that it could very well have been a different sheep at a different time. There is not a doubt in my mind that it was possible to be that sheep which was lost while it was also possible to be one of the ninety nine sheep which remained. If there is one thing we must needs recognize when reading the parables which Jesus spoke concerning the lost sheep it’s’ that it is entirely and altogether possible to be that one sheep which was lost and in need of a rescue this time while the next time being one of the sheep that were safely in the fold. We have a great need to recognize that there are times within our lives when we have gone astray and/or when we have been scattered and are in need of a wonderful and powerful rescue from the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more is that within the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John we find how Jesus as the great shepherd not only knows His sheep but also knows them by name. If Jesus commanded Simon called Peter to forgive seventy times seven then I am convinced He is willing to seek after and search us out the same amount of time. There is not a doubt in my mind that the Lord Jesus Christ can and will seek after and search us out with reckless abandon knowing that there are times within our lives when we need to be rescued. Perhaps one of the greatest truths we must needs understand is that although we once were lost but now are found that doesn’t mean there aren’t times when we need to be rescued from our enemies and be rescued after going astray and going our own way. How incredibly powerful it is to think about and consider the fact that the Lord Jesus is willing to seek after and search us out as often as is necessary for us to be restored unto the fold.

 

            In all reality the underlying truth that is found within this parable is that of restoration for at the very heart of this searching after and seeking out is restoration unto the fold. The shepherd was willing to leave the ninety and nine that he might indeed find that one lost sheep which was in need of rescue and in need of being restored unto the fold. How absolutely incredible it is to think about and consider the fact that the shepherd wasn’t content in just allowing this one sheep which represented the one percent of the fold to be lost without seeking after and searching for it. It would have been very easy for the shepherd to simply chalk this sheep up as being expendable and perhaps even disregard it—particularly and especially if it had previously wandered away and was even prone to wander. I am absolutely convinced that the Lord Jesus Christ is willing to seek after and search us out time and time again regardless of how much we might be prone to wander and how many times we might have gone astray. Jesus Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost and despite the fact that the thief comes for to steal, to kill and destroy Jesus came that all might have life and life more abundantly. We must needs recognize and understand this for at the very heart of this seeking out and searching after is that of rescue and restoration as the good shepherd will always seek out and search after those who are lost that he might rescue them from where they are and restore them to where they are supposed to be.

 

One of the greatest truths we must needs recognize when reading the words which are found in the parables Jesus spoke concerning the lost sheep is that we at any point in time can be that sheep in need of rescue and being restored unto the fold or we can be one of the ninety and nine which never strayed away and remained with the fold. There are times when we need Jesus to seek and to save us while there are other times when we are those who lie down in green pastures and graze beside still waters. There are times when we are the ones who need a divine rescue from the Lord Jesus Christ and there are times when we are those whom the Shepherd leaves that he might find that one who has gone astray. What’s more is that we must needs recognize the very present dangers surrounding the sheep—particularly and especially within this generation. Jesus makes it very clear that such dangers include thieves and robbers who climb up another way, thieves which come to steal, to kill and to destroy, hirelings which see the wolf coming and leave the sheep as they fled, and the wolf which catches away the sheep. There are those who steal, kill and destroy the sheep while there are those who see danger approaching which threaten the sheep and instead of guarding and protecting the sheep they flee. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize the importance of knowing the shepherd’s voice as it is presented within this passage of Scripture as well as understanding the dangers surrounding the sheep—dangers which not only come from thieves and robbers which come to steal, to kill and to destroy but also from wolves who catch the sheep and scatter them as well as hirelings who care nothing for the sheep and abandon them. There is a great and powerful need within our hearts and lives to be those who not only recognize the shepherd’s voice but who also cannot and will not follow the voice of another.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s