Many times Jesus communicates a truth to us through a parable. In the Gospel of Matthew we hear: “And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.” (Matthew 18:10-20).
The parable of the one and the ninety-nine is a comfort to us. We know that no matter if we mess up and go astray, the Lord still wants to find us and bring us back into His flock. It is not God’s will that we go astray; it is our own weakness. Why would a good shepherd deliberately lose one from His flock and have to leave the others and go and find the one?
We have low spiritual self-esteem when we don’t think that we are worthy of God’s concern for us. We tend to think of ourselves as ‘black sheep’ rather than ‘lost sheep’. To God a lost sheep is a lost sheep and nothing more or less. When He sees us moving away from Him it troubles Him. He has given us free will, and therein lays the problem. We have taken his gift of free will and used it to separate ourselves from Him, our Father, the one who gives us life.
David, the former shepherd boy got it right in the 23rd Psalm (NRSV). “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Take some time and read this familiar psalm all the way through several times. With a shepherd like the Lord, why would we want to stray? What is it out there that pulls us away from Him? Independence may be a virtue in the natural world, but it is a real negative in our relationship with God through Christ Jesus. God has sent us Jesus and the Holy Spirit to help us know and communicate with Him better. We refuse to fully surrender to Him.
Sheep provide more for man than most any other animal. There is wool, meat, leather and part of the ingredients in things from glue to fertilizer. When a sheep is lost, its contributions to us are lost. Figuratively speaking, sheep are bearers of much fruit. The shepherd has a valuable charge. Like sheep we have much to offer. God needs us to bear fruit in Him and for Him. If we are lost, God loses a valuable asset. He counts on His human sheep to bear fruit by spreading the gospel of His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away our sin.
As God’s sheep, we must recognize our value to Him and stay close by Him. We gain comfort, hope and confidence from David the shepherd boy’s closing acclamation, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.”