She had that wild-eyed look about her as she rushed around the corner. She declared for the world to hear, “Ashley is missing!”
The response from somebody standing nearby was, “What?”
“Ashley is missing!” was this frantic mother’s reply as she rushed to speak with a park official standing nearby.
This jolting exchange occurred about 20 years ago. I’m pleased to report that Ashley was quickly found without incident. She is now a young woman and doing well. However, on this day, when our church group was visiting the Oklahoma City Zoo, we had a real scare. The thought of this precious child being missing sent everyone in our group scrambling in response to what we believed was a developing disaster. We were all grateful that she was found quickly. No one more so than her mother, though.
As I reflect on this episode, I’m reminded of just how much God cares for His children. In fact, I believe that Jesus once told a story, which the Holy Spirit reports to us in the context of God’s interest in and concern for the welfare of His children, to underscore this very fact. We refer to this as the Parable of the Wandering Sheep. As recorded in Matthew 18:12-14, it reads as follows:
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.
When I think of these verses I remember a lot of lessons, some that I’ve taught, about our need to be like God and be about the business of searching for lost sheep. I don’t disagree that this is a valid application of the truth of these verses. However, I’m beginning to think that the primary purpose for these verses may be getting obscured by emphasizing this point of application.
It seems to me that the thundering message of the parable pertains to our heavenly Father’s will regarding wandering sheep. Make no mistake about it! God will come looking for sheep who wander from the fold! He will do that through humans who serve as His helpers in this regard, but the point is clear: God cares about and will passionately pursue wanderers.
This is very comforting. When sheep get outside of the stream of God’s will, there is nothing that the devil likes to do more than to pounce on them, telling them what wretched people they are. He will use their wayfaring status as leverage to convince them that their sin is so great, that they are so far gone in their departure that there is no hope for them. Some of us have had conversations with people who need to be convinced that this is a lie, foisted upon them by the father of liars. Some of us have been the wanderers. Regardless, we all need to remember that human sin will not take us anywhere that our loving God and His abundant grace cannot reach us and save us. Not only will God come looking for us, He does so because He wants us safe in the fold!
May God help us all to remember just how much our heavenly Father cares for each of us. May God help us all to remember that His one and only Son came to seek and to save what was lost. May God help us all to remember that our heavenly Father is not willing that any of His little ones should perish.
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© Bill Williams
March 2, 2007