June 21, 2014

Shepherds rescue lost sheep

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life . . .” (Psalm 23:6)

Drama programs on television sometimes have a person being pursued. That person usually knows it and shivers in apprehension. But when I was lost and being pursued by the Lord, I didn’t know He was following me. I never realized His relentless love and determination until after He caught me. Then, instead of shivering in fear, my heart overflowed with incredible joy.

Jesus told this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And 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 that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:3–7)

Those of us who are His sheep know the joy of being found and the joy of seeing Jesus bringing others to repentance and carrying them into the fold. We know that “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9) We know that our Shepherd cares for us and never abandons us.

Our daughter lives near a dairy farm. I hate looking at it. The farmer feeds the cows, but their barn is in a low spot, a pit that is always wet with muck. The ‘pasture’ where they go out to rest is filthy also, with no bedding, no dry footing, and no grass. They are muddy all the time and for a farm girl whose father would never let that happen, I am appalled. If these cows were sheep, this farmer would be a poor excuse for a shepherd. If I were one of his animals and could fight back, I’d stop producing milk and go on strike!

Yet I am not. I’m only one of God’s lambs who is well aware of myself and my sin. If I were to get what I deserve from God, my conditions would be worse than that of those cows. I’d not even get the food and water that these animals receive. Yet the Lord does not care for me based on what I deserve or even based on what He expects me to produce. His care for His sheep totally reflects who He is, the Good Shepherd.

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. (Psalm 30:1–3)

Here the “pit” is far worse than a mucky barn. It is a word for dungeon that points to the awful end of those who do not belong to the Shepherd, those who would rather be lost than repent and rejoice. All I can say is that I am thankful for His persistence in pursuit and thankful that I was oblivious to what He was doing until He found me and brought me into His strong support and care.

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