Last week, we talked about the relentless pursuit of God for his kids, if you haven’t had a chance to read the post, you can do so here. Today, I want to dive into a different way of looking at that famous passage where Jesus promises to leave the 99 in search of the one.
“So he told them 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 (ESV)
In Bible times, shepherds were tasked with protecting their flock from predators since sheep were ill-equipped to protect themselves. The shepherds would guard against thieves, wolves, bears, lions, and other obvious attackers, but they were also on guard against those things that they were unable to see. Shepherds would regularly anoint each of their sheep, covering their heads with oil, to protect them from little pests and mites that, without the oil, could burrow their way into a sheep’s brain. Running away and isolation from the herd was one of the first signs these bugs were wreaking havoc on the poor sheep. That gives a little different perspective on the verses above.
When the shepherd brought this sheep back, he felt nothing but compassion for the poor animal. Their running away wasn’t because they were a malcontent, but because they were hurting. There was something wrong in their minds and they were dealing with the issue the best way they knew how. The sheep wasn’t met with rebuke or yelling or hitting, they were met with love, kind words, and that loving oil poured back on them again. The intimate act of a shepherd massaging the oil into the sheep’s wool and its ears was so precious and is such a beautiful representation of what Jesus often does with us.
It is so easy to feel discounted from the things of God when you have certain baggage.
My history makes me unlovable.
I can’t be used by God because of ______.
That sin was simply unforgivable.
God wouldn’t choose a person like me.
None of that is true. We are all like that sheep who has gone astray, allowing the pain or the lies or the fears we experience to drive us far from where we should be, yet God, being rich in mercy, follows us there. He meets us, when we’re so stressed we want to scream, when we’re so depressed we want to give up, when drinking has destroyed our relationships, when pride has led to a fall, when we’ve hit rock bottom, and he welcomes us into relationship. Whether you’ve known Jesus your whole life or have never met him before, let’s come to Jesus and accept his free gift of grace, love, and forgiveness.