Image by Kari Yockey
What’s Up With That Flock?
“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray” (Matthew 18:12-13 ESV).
Remember the story of the good shepherd who left the ninety-nine obedient sheep to find the one that was lost? I was thinking about that today, and I realized (sometimes I’m a little slow), that this is not a salvation narrative; it is a redemption narrative.
What’s Up With That Sheep?
That one sheep that got lost was not an outsider. He was a recognized member of the flock. His family was there. His friends were there. He traveled with the flock, ate with the flock, slept with the flock, belonged to the flock. This sheep was not a stranger, and His shepherd knew him, cared about him, and called him by name. Just for kicks and giggles, let’s call this sheep “Wooly.”
Then one day, the flock was out traveling with their shepherd who took very good care of them. He made sure they had green pastures and still water. He protected them from danger, nursed them when they were sick, and bound up their wounds when they got hurt. All the sheep of the flock, including Wooly, were happy with their shepherd. Then, one day, for whatever reason, Wooly got lost. He carelessly went off in the wrong direction.
Maybe he was tempted by some greener grass and headed off by himself to try it out. Possibly, he was frolicking in the sunshine and not paying attention while the rest of the sheep moved on. Perhaps Wooly had a rebellious streak and didn’t want to be told where to go and what to do. Whatever his reason, he ended up lost, alone, and helpless.
What’s Up With That Shepherd?
That evening when the flock returned to their pen, the kind and careful shepherd watched them enter, counted them one by one, and realized that someone was missing. Wooly! The worried shepherd didn’t say, “Oh well, I always knew that Wooly would end up in trouble. He’ll get what he deserves. It doesn’t matter. I have ninety-nine more. My life will be so much easier without him.”
No, the shepherd still loved Wooly–careless, silly, self-centered, rebellious sheep that he was. The flock was not complete without Wooly, so the faithful shepherd left the ninety-nine obedient sheep in their pen and went looking for Wooly. His intent was not to scold, berate, criticize, or reprimand Wooly. It was not to haul him back and make an example of him. It was to save him and to restore him to his rightful place in the flock–to redeem him. Thankfully (especially for Wooly), the shepherd was successful. Wooly got home, safe and sound, and hopefully, a little wiser.
What’s Up With You?
Sometimes people, saved people, are like Wooly. It’s easy in this confusing world to take a wrong turn: to accept a job for a company that looks good on the outside, only to find out that they are not so morally sound; or to get involved with a group of people who you enjoy, then find out that they live unholy lifestyles; or to innocently accept bad advice and not realize it until you’re in too deep. You might “take a few drinks,” “try a little weed,” “take your mother’s pain pills because you just can’t get through the day with the headache,” and then things get out of control.
Staying home from church, skipping prayer time, gossiping, are easy habits to accrue. Fun, being with friends, playing sports, hobbies, etc. are not sinful activities in themselves, but they can take up more time than we intend, and if we’re not careful, we can find ourselves lost and alone in dangerous territory. Little seductions can pull us away from our Shepherd. Then there’s attitude: “Sure I believe in Jesus. I know He doesn’t approve of what I’m doing … but I have plenty of time to change … but I was born this way … but “Me and Jesus, we got an understanding” … Does any of that sound familiar? Guess what: the Good Shepherd does not kick you out of the flock! Your Shepherd has not given up on bringing you home. He wants to restore you to the place where you belong.
“All We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray.”
“We have turned every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6 KJV). I am Wooly; so are you. If you have given your life to Jesus Christ, you are an important, beloved part of His flock. If you have ever wandered away–NO MATTER WHAT THE REASON–Jesus still loves you! He has not forgotten you; He is not angry with you; He longs with all His heart to see you restored to His flock. He is patient, kind, and always good. From wherever you are, call out His name. He will bring you home.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me, I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14 NIV).
God bless you, and may your pastures be green and your waters be still.