“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open 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.’
Some years ago I had stopped outside Stratford-on-Avon to make a note in my journal. Looking up I saw a man walk around a curve in the road ahead. He was followed by a fairly large flock of sheep kept together by three sheep dogs. As the shepherd got near to my car he went off, through a gap in the hedge, and I could see him open a gate and wait. The dogs herded the sheep off the road and through the gate – all except for one. It broke away, crossed the road and stopped just in front of me. Never having dealt with sheep before I was puzzled about what I should do. Fortunately the shepherd appeared, took the sheep by the ear and led it back to where it belonged. I had just seen the parable enacted in front of me – even if I was not invited to the celebration!
Looking back on the event, what struck me quite forcibly was not just the very good news of the shepherd noticing that a sheep was missing, and coming to find it and take it home again. That was wonderful. However, the other side was that I saw just how the sheep, through its actions, had put itself at risk. It had left the flock, under the guidance and protection of the shepherd and the dogs, crossed a main road, and ended up by itself, facing in the wrong direction and with no idea of where to go or what to do next. It was lost – and the person in front of it was not much use! The shepherd, at that moment, was himself occupied with the other sheep and could afford it no immediate help. It had moved out from under his protection.
Scripture encourages us to stay close to the Lord, for our protection, guidance and blessing. If we move away from Him we take the full responsibility upon ourselves – one that we are completely unable to fulfil. In the parable of the vine we are told to ‘Remain in Me’ and warned of the consequences of becoming separated from Jesus. He mourned over Jerusalem because they would not come to Him and allow Him to protect them, and He foresaw the terrible tragedy in store for them. Even the Psalmist had recognised that,
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Ps 91:1-2)
Decide to stay close to the Shepherd –in prayer, Bible reading, becoming or remaining part of a ‘flock’ and in the way that you live. If you feel lost then ask Him to find you and lead you home again.
Lord Jesus, please forgive me for the times when I have gone off by myself, in thought or action. Please help me to stay focussed on You, and very close to You and Your people, and to turn away from anything that would draw me away. Amen.