An alert shepherd knows each of his sheep and quickly recognizes when one is missing. When a cast sheep is found, realizing that each minute is critical, the shepherd tenderly rolls it over and stands it upright, rubbing its legs until the circulation returns. Guiding its steps, he leads it back into the secure surroundings of the flock.
The shepherd’s heart is revealed to us again in one of the parables of Jesus found in Luke 15:4-6:
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which 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 neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'”
This parable expresses God’s attitude toward people who are “cast down” or lost. He rejoices when they are found. Jesus brought this revelation of the heart of His Father in direct response to the Scribes and Pharisees disapproval of the people Jesus associated with. This parable again contradicted the Pharisaical attitude which said, “There is joy before God when those who provoke Him perish from the world.”
God reaches out to be a shepherd to the lost. But what does it mean to be lost? There is the lost feeling of having no personal relationship with God. It can also mean the lost desire for guidance and direction from the shepherd and the “I’ll-do-it-my-way” attitude. It can even be the lost sense of no longer feeling special to the important people in our lives.
The greatest danger is when we do not realize we have strayed from a vibrant personal relationship with the Lord when the indicators in our lives show that we have: We have lost interest in the needs of people; we have become insensitive to the problems they bring upon themselves; and our words are only filled with negativism, judgment, and criticism. We have actually lost contact with the true heart of God. When this happens, we need a fresh experience with the Good Shepherd to be restored to real living.
When God finds men and women flat on their backs, He reaches out to lift them, putting them back on their feet, getting the circulation flowing again, and brings them back to the protection of His rod and the direction of His staff.
He is the restorer of our souls. He will fill us with new thoughts that will replace discouragement. He will bring clarity to His plans for our future. This is what the Lord says about our future: ‘”For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,’ says the Lord, ‘thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope'” (Jeremiah 29:11). He will set us free from confusion and give us the comfort of knowing we belong.
“Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:3).
We can have the confidence that He looks beyond our frailties and mistakes. His love is constant; it never changes. He does not get fed up with us; instead, He looks beyond today and sees the possibilities that lie ahead.