Let's return now to the Bible, and look at the theme of LOST and FOUND. Luke 15 has three parables that Jesus told.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
The Parable of the Lost Coin
The Parable of the Lost Son (also known as "The Prodigal Son").
First let's read the introduction, which gives us the context:
Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathered around to hear Him (Jesus.) But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." (Verses 1 -2)
In First century Palestine, tax-collectors were people contracted by the Romans to collect taxes from the inhabitants, and from then until now, it has not been a dearly loved profession. There was some reason for the Pharisee's disdain of tax-collectors as they were notoriously corrupt, taking more than they were due, from their own people (tax-collectors were themselves Jewish). Those referred to as Sinners - well I'm not entirely sure, but I suspect that at least in the eyes of the puritanical Pharisees, they were people of questionable morals. The Pharisees had a severe case of superiority complex. They were generally accepted as taking the Law of God very seriously indeed and would not associate with "known sinners" at all. They looked down their noses at such people. The thing is about the Pharisees, was that they were blind to their own faults. Jesus had a different approach.
Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, "Rejoice with me, I have found my lost sheep." I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who do not need to repent. (Verses 3 -7)
The meaning of this parable is plain, but I would draw attention to one or two things that I feel are significant.
- Every sheep is important - the man was aware that the sheep was missing - he kept count. Not only that but when one went missing even though he had ninety nine others - he went looking for the one. To own 100 sheep, I think, was something only wealthy people could afford. No-doubt at some point lambing season would come around and many little lambs would be born. But still this man was concerned about the ONE sheep. You may be reading this today, and you may feel, that you are not very important, that nobody cares about you and that no-one would notice if you were gone. You may be a young person thinking about running away from home. You may be thinking of trying to kill yourself. Friend, if that's you - Your heavenly Father wants you to know that He loves you and YOU ARE SPECIAL to Him. There is no-one else in this whole entire world who is like you. You have special qualities, and God made you the way you are, and He accepts you, the way you are. Yes, you may have blown it but nevertheless, God will come after you. He wants to put you on His shoulders and take you home. You can fight it, but I'd suggest you let him do that.
"until he finds it" - God will persist until he finds you - though in fact, he never "lost you" in the sense of not knowing where you are, but you are/were not where you needed to be, spiritually speaking. I think again about my experience in the forest. God spoke to me and I responded and then He took me back to safety. Today God uses different ways of rescuing his lost sheep. He sometimes has them encounter a Christian who is willing to share the Gospel with them, sometimes through a radio broadcast or a TV programme that they happen to be listening to, and I suppose it may be through a Christian blog or website that people are confronted with the Word of God. There is many a testimony of a Gideon Bible in a hotel room, or gospel tract, found "lying around" that has stopped someone in their tracks.
God has not given up on you friend - don't give up on yourself. You, like that little boy in the forest, may not be aware that you are lost, or that you are in any particular danger - but you are, if you have wondered away from God. The Bible says that the devil, like a lion prowls around seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8) You may be walking down a street called "Experimentation with drugs," or "Internet Avenue", and be captivated by what you see in the shop windows, but beware my friend, these are very misleading and dangerous. You may have got snared by abuse (somebody else abusing you sexually, verbally or physically), and need help to get away. Reach out - tell someone what's going on and get help. The help is there friend. If you are a child or a teen there is a childline in most countries where you can phone or drop in and receive counselling. Don't hesitate to use these services. Don't accept the guilt trip that the abuser wants to lay on you.
As I write this, the words of Sunday school song I learnt when I was little come to mind:
We've got a great big
wonderful God, We've got a great big wonderful God
A God who is always watching over
us, always.... A Great big worderful God
He never, never leaves us,
always standing by,
to pick us up when we stumble,
we're in the apple of His
That song is so true - We're in the Apple of His eye, and He is standing by to pick us up when we stumble - the does say WHEN and not IF - We will stumble, that's for sure, but God will pick us up.
I'm sure the sheep that was lost didn't look around and say to itself, "Oh I wonder where everyone else went, I must be lost..." No - lost sheep would have just continued to walk and graze, walk and graze, it seemed to be familiar territory - but it wasn't; we lost sheep had wandered away from the flock. You may think you're not lost, you may even say you know exactly where you are, and that you are quite happy and content. You may be regularly attending a place of worship, but you are not in touch with the Lord - you have wandered away from the truth. You no longer read the Bible as you used to. Friend, it is possible to be lost and not be aware that you are lost. Turn around and look for your Saviour Jesus Christ, if you can't "see" him, you are lost. The great news is that you don't have to stay lost. Repent of your sin, and then you will be found.
I interrupt this meditation to bring a News Break - A Good News Break - this morning (Sunday) at Church God had a theme at the service I attended. It started out with the leader of the service sharing a message for those who were feeling inadequate, and that was that God was saying "you are special" - and then the Youth brought a skit, re-enacting the parable of the Ungrateful servant, who although He was forgiven much refused to forgive his fellow servant the little that he owed him. Then the word was preached and the text 2 Cor 10:3 -5 was about how to demolish strongholds - but coming through everything was that we need to remember who we are in Christ, that we are more than conquerors. I sense that God is saying something along the same line with my sharing on the lost sheep.
We are all valuable to God - yes we come with our baggage, our past hurts, our sins, our inadequacies, our weaknesses, and the Lord says to us as we enter through His gate, "You can leave all of that right here, all of it is taken care of. Take off your dirty shoes and walk barefoot on the grass."