A Lost Sheep

Scripture: Matthew 18:10-14, Luke 15:1-7, Isaiah 53:6
Date: 04/09/2011 
The sermon focuses on the parable of the lost sheep. Like sheep who wander, people wander from God. Without an initiative from God, they are in trouble. We are to join God in loving searching for the Lord's lost sheep.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Our bible study today is based upon a couple of passages in scripture from Matthew 18 and Luke 15 dealing with a lost sheep. And I’d like to read these to you quickly, perhaps start in Matthew 18. If you’ve got your bibles, you’ll turn there with me. Matthew 18 in verse, let’s say we’ll go to Verse 11. “For the son of man has some to seek and to save that which is lost.”

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains and seek that one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly I’d say to you he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so, it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Now in Matthew, I want you to just notice he bookends the story of the lost sheep by talking about children. Verse 10, for instance, he said, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones.” And then of course he says it’s not his will that one of these little ones should perish in Verse 14.

Now jump over to Luke, if you would. Luke 15 and I want to start with Verse 1. “Then all the tax collectors and sinners,” these are not little sinners, these are big sinners, “drew near to him to hear him and the pharoses and the scribes murmured and said, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’ And he spoke a parable to them. ‘What man is there of you who has a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them does not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness and go after the one that 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 his neighbors saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me. I found my sheep that was lost.’ I say to you the likewise, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just people who need no repentance.”

All right. Those two parables are really the stereo bookends for our message this morning dealing with a lost sheep. How desperately does a pastor, that’s what the word pastor means, someone who gives pasture to sheep, want to find a lost lamb?

You know, I remember this story and I looked it up yesterday, that back in 2005 there was a boy, Brennan Hawkins, in Utah who went camping, eleven years old. Went camping with his Boy Scout group and there were hundreds of kids, I guess, and they last saw him at a climbing wall and he wandered off in the bushes, as boys sometimes do, and disappeared. And when the Boy Scouts did an initial search and they couldn’t find him, they realized this is serious because this is a pretty rugged wilderness.

Matter of fact, just a few months earlier, another father had lost a boy in this same wilderness and after hundreds of people looked for a week, they never could find him.

Well, so they quickly got a search party together and there was, I heard in varying reports, between five hundred and one thousand people looking for this boy. And after one day and no success, and he’s eleven years old, and he spends the night alone and police are worried because there are bears and cougars and wolves had been reintroduced to this area a hundred miles north of Salt Lake City, and there’s a fast moving river from melted snow in the area. Eleven-year-old boy, no food or water with him when he wandered off.

Two good days go by, they keep searching. Three days go by, they keep searching. Finally, on the fourth day, there was a housepainter who saw Brennan wander out into a trail looking a little bit dazed and disoriented, but he had managed to survive four days. The parents said it was really a modern day miracle. Didn’t have a real good sense of direction as parents said, but other than being dehydrated and hungry, he was alive. What kind of rejoicing do you think there was among those parents and searchers when they found that boy?

And you know, I might mention also in this story, one of those who was also helping the search among the volunteers, was Kevin Bardsley, who’s twelve-year-old son Garrett was the one who had been lost the previous August and never found. He said he made up his mind if anyone else was lost, he would come and help search.

So there was great rejoicing and they were rejoicing over this one boy that had been recovered safe and sound. Matter of fact, after they gave him a drink of water, they were wondering if he was really okay and they gave him a granola bar, something to eat. He asked if he could play a video game on the rescuer’s cell phone. They knew all was well at that point. Great rejoicing, moreover than the hundred boy scouts that didn’t wander off and get lost.

I just wanted to put this on terms that you and I could relate to because how many of you have sheep? Not too many. In the bible times, sheep were very valuable. And of course, as long as the history of man goes back, you find sheep in the bible. You can go back to -- Abel was a keeper of sheep. There you are in the very beginning of the bible.

Even before Abel, the bible talks about the lambs slain from the foundation of the world in Revelation speaking of the sacrificial system that was instituted way back in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve sinned, they were covered with skin. What kind of skin do you think that was? Sheep skin probably. Sacrificial system was introduced. So you’ve got sheep in the beginning.

Go to the last chapter of the bible, Chapter 22 of Revelation, and it talks about that crystal water that flows from the throne of God and from the lamb. Lambs were valuable. They measured wealth by how many sheep you had. People did not have bank books with a Swiss bank account back then. Your bank account was on four feet usually.

Genesis 12:16, describing Abraham’s wealth, he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, female servants, female donkeys and camels. Talking about Isaac, Genesis 26:14, “For he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants.” There was a measurement of wealth. They were valuable. Proverbs, King Solomon said in 27:23, “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks and attend to your herds for riches are not forever.”

In other words, there’s a connection made between your flocks and your herds and riches. They were valuable. They used them for meat. They used them for milk. They used them for their wool. And so the number of sheep you had was very important. It was often used to trade. And they guarded them very tenderly. It was very time intensive, but it was very important to them.

The bible tells us Esau was a hunter who used to hunker down in the wilderness. Esau was a hunter and Jacob was a what? A shepherd. And when Jacob was going to buy his wife, what did he have to do? Seven years of taking care of somebody’s sheep.

What did Moses do for his father-in-law and he ends up marrying Zipporah? He tended Jethro’s sheep. And Joseph helped take care of his father’s flock. And David, he was feeding Jesse’s flock, his father’s flock. So all through the bible, when Jesus told this parable, they knew about what was involved in taking care of sheep. It’s a lot of work.

Jacob, after taking care of Laban’s sheep seven years for Leah, seven years for Rachel, seven years to try and get a dowry before he left for some money, he then tells Laban, Genesis 31:38, I want to give you a picture of what shepherds went through, “This 20 years I have been with thee, thy ewes and thy she-goats have not cast their young,” they did miscarry. “The rams of thy flocks have I not eaten. That which was torn of beasts I brought not to thee. I bore the loss of it. My hand, from my hand you did require it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night.” So, there were thieves. There were beasts they were dealing with. Thus there was health problems. They could miscarry. “Thus I was in the day the drought consume me.” There was thirst. “By night, the frost. My sleep departed from my eyes.”

Anyone want to apply for the job of shepherd? Had a lot of work, but they cared for those sheep and the same attitude that Jacob just communicated there was consistent among the bible shepherds, the good shepherds.

Not only does this parable tell us that sheep are valuable in that the shepherd is willing to go out ostensibly at night. You know, at the end of the day he counts, brings them back into the fold. They had their folds in the wilderness and they kind of would fence them off at night and they probably had dogs that would help them even back then.

And as they went through the little narrow gate and he counts them and they even knew their names. And Fluffy is missing, whatever he called this sheep. And he thinks, well, maybe I did it wrong. So he does another head count. She’s not here. The sun is going down. He could say, well, I’ll take a little look in the morning, but he doesn’t. He pins them off in the wilderness, probably leaves them with attendants and the dogs and he goes to find that one, because it’s so valuable. And not only are the sheep valuable, notice how one is valuable.

Some people say, well, I know God loves the world. Jesus so loved the world. God so loved the world. The world is a big group. I can understand him loving all those people. There’s billions. But sometimes I think we do ourselves a favor if we rephrase that a little bit. God so loved you that he sent his son. He would do it for one. Do you believe that? You think about what Jesus went through. Would he do it just for you? Consider the value of one.

Go to Luke 15:4, “What man of you who has a hundred sheep, if he loses one.” Notice that? Now, one is the lowest number possible for a sheep. Of course, you could half a sheep, but that’s usually not a live sheep, right? So in order to have a live sheep you need at least one. So for the very lowest number he would go.

Matthew 12:11, “He said to them, what man is there among you who has one sheep? And if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not lay hold of it and lift it out?” Of how much more value is a man than a sheep? One sheep.

You know, I read recently that the U.S. Mint -- actually it’s been for the last four years. It’s cost more to print pennies, you don’t print pennies, to mint pennies than they’re worth. A penny, now it cost 1.62 cents per penny and you’re wondering why we’re having budget problems.

Do you still stoop over and pick up a penny if it drops? How many of you will admit that you’ve seen pennies on the ground before out on some dirty street and you just let them go? They’re talking now about getting rid of the penny. I still pick them up because of that Benjamin Franklin proverb that says, “See a penny, pick it up and all the day you’ll have good luck.” And I guess I’m superstitious. No. I think it’s just good economy. If you’re good with your pennies, you’re usually good with your dollars. Right?

Matter of fact, when I was a kid in New York City, I discovered once, quite by accident, I dropped some money and when I bent down at the counter to pick up my money, there was a little ledge underneath the counter where the flooring meets the counter where it went in a little bit and I found more than I dropped. And so I started going into stores, I thought this is pretty good. I’d go into stores and I’d get to the counter and act like I’m ready to pay for something. I’d drop something, pardon me, I’d go down. I’d fish around to see what else anyone else dropped down there while I was down there.

And when I was a kid in New York, they had phone booths. I don’t even know if they have them anymore because everyone is on cell phones. But sometimes people would leave their change in the phone booth and all us kids back then, we’d reach into the coin return and see and, you know, one out of ten times you’d get lucky. There’d be a dime or a quarter or something in there. Anyone remember those days? Yeah.

You know, if you were really desperate for a nickel, you could get one Pixy Stix back when I was a kid and you’d check ten phone booths and you could get lucky. You think about what we’d do for a penny or a nickel. And this shepherd, of course a sheep is of much more value than that and then Jesus asked, of how much more value is a man than a sheep?

Nathan the Prophet, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, came to David one day with a parable because David had taken Uriah’s wife; killed Uriah, took his wife even though David had a harem of wives.

And this is the parable and he could relate this, he put it terms David could understand. “There is a poor man that had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished. And it grew up together with him and his children.” I understand sheep could live up to 23 years. That’s pretty long, though, but that’s like the record. “And it ate of his own food.” They gave it bread. It nibbled right there at the table. “And it drank from his cup and it lay in his bosom.” When the family went to bed, the sheep curled up with the family at night. I know, you think that’s pretty scary, but this is a poor family. Probably the inside of their house wasn’t much better than a barn. “And a traveler came to the rich man who was his next door neighbor, who refused to take of his own flock and butcher it to have a feast for the traveler, but he goes and takes his poor neighbor’s one ewe lamb that is so precious to the family and he kills it so he can feed the wayfarer man rather than taking it of his own.” Now, what do you think happened to David when he heard that story? Just the rage flushed in his face and he said that man will die. Why, it’s just a sheep? But how did David care about his sheep?

You remember the story when David wanted to go fight against Goliath and the King said, what in the world makes you think you can go against this giant who’s been a soldier since his youth? And David said, I kept my father’s flock. And one day a lion came out of the woods and took one lamb. He said, and I went out after that lion and I killed it to rescue one lamb. And then later a bear came and took a lamb and I put my life on the line for a lamb. For one.

Jesus, our son of David, put his life on the line to save the world, but he would have done it for one lamb. He would have done it just for you. Also tells us something about the value that God places on a soul and indirectly it says something about how much we care about souls. Should we care less about lost sheep than Jesus does or are we higherlings? You see the thief, you see the bear, you see the wolf, you run.

You’ve probably heard me share this story many times and I don’t want another story, it’s the only one I’ve got. But I used to have goats and one day a bear came. The goats slept under the house. I woke up with this tremendous bang, the whole house shook and then head Libby calling, baa baa, and I knew what had happened. And her voice was going up the hill as she was screaming and I thought, that’s a bear taking my goat. Well, all I had was a .22 rifle that was behind the seat in my Datsun pickup outside and it’s dark. And I thought to myself, am I going to go out there and start shooting off in the dark a hungry bear with a .22? And I’m ashamed to tell you, I was out of New York City. It scared the pants off of me to hear a bear, a wild animal, hauling off this goat in the dark. The idea of going out after it, I said, it’s just a goat. No, I didn’t say that. But it rattled our nerves and so when I read about David going out after a sheep, that’s pretty dedicated. Pretty serious.

Which brings me to the next point, shepherds are sacrificial. John 10:11, “Jesus said I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.” Now, a shepherd doesn’t always consider his convenience, does he?

Like we just read from Jacob, I was thirsty and beating the sun down on me during the day and chill with frost around me at night and I had to be on the guard. I’d hear things in the bushes and I’d have to chase off the wild animals and then thieves would try and prowl around and steal the sheep and the sleep went from my eyes and I shivered at night and I was sweating and hot and stifled during the day. And for what? For sheep?

I mean, when you think about that, it’s amazing at how far the shepherd will go to get that sheep. I think it’s hard for us to conceive, but maybe a better way to say it would be the Lord is comparing these sheep in Matthew to our children and in Luke to the loss describes in the pharoses and how much does one matter.

Do you love the lost more than the Lord loves his children? Do you love your children more than the Lord loves your children? And do you ever say to yourself, well, I know it’s Thanksgiving and I’ve got ten kids, at least I’ve got nine of them here. It’s too bad about Fred that’s off in the gutter right now or drinking in some bar that’s turned his back on the Lord. Oh well, nine out of ten is not bad. Is that what that parent thinks? Or do they look at that one empty chair around the table at Thanksgiving and their heart yearns after that one that’s missing? It’s not that they’re not satisfied with what they have. They’re naturally yearning for what’s lost. And a shepherd goes after what’s missing. This is how Jesus feels. Straying sheep.

Something else you’d find consistent with both these stories is that if you’ve got a hundred sheep and one goes astray and Luke goes astray. Isaiah 53, all we, like sheep, have what? We’ve all gone astray. So Jesus is quoting from Isaiah in these parables.

Now sheep don’t wake up in the morning and look to the right and look to the left and say, I’ve got my bags packed, I’m running away from home. They don’t think that deeply. You know how a sheep gets lost? Sheep, you know, everything is about food pretty much for them and they will be eating the grass and they kind of have their heads down. They’re not always alert and they’ll nibble off to the next tuft of grass and then they might push their head underneath the fence and say, oh, that piece of grass looks better than this piece of grass, because the grass, we all know, is always greener on the other side of the fence. So they go off to that tuft of grass and say, oh, there’s another one. They get that tuft of grass and they, just like drawing dot-by-dot, they nibble themselves into lostness. They go astray.

That’s how sin is too. We think to ourselves, no, I’m not going to become an alcoholic, but one little drink, just a nibble, or one drug or one indiscretion. And little-by-little, as it keeps going, we can nibble ourselves into totally being out of sight of the flock and the shepherd.

A lot of people that stop going to church, they don’t wake up one day and say, you know, today’s the day I’m going to stop going. It happens with, you miss a week here and then you go a few more weeks and then you miss two weeks in a row and you think, you know, I’m just kind of getting out of the habit of going and there’s other things happening or there might be some crisis in the life that opens the way and we nibble ourselves into going astray little-by-little. That’s why it’s called backsliding. It doesn’t happen typically like that.

Now, sometimes people have someone who hurts their feelings. They say, that’s it. I’m out of here. I quit. I’m not going anymore, which is really silly when you think about it. But most people go astray. They wander. 1 Peter 2:25, “For you were like sheep going astray, but you’ve now returned to the shepherd and bishop or overseer of your souls.”

There may be some here today who wandered through and you’ve been going astray and the shepherd is looking for a lost sheep. You can return. You don’t necessarily return to the church. You return to the shepherd and, in doing that, you return to the church.

You know, sheep need constant watch care, because over the centuries -- no, over the millennium, sheep have been highly bred. Do you know why they’ve been bred or how they’ve been bred? When you breed animals, you usually try and breed certain characteristics.

So if you’re a shepherd, what characteristics are you going to breed your sheep for? Good wool. Lots of wool. High quality wool. Mutton. Meat. Lamb. Lamb is actually the young. Milk. They did use sheep’s milk back then and so you’d want the highest quality, biggest capacity milk, wool, sheep. But you know, through history, no one has ever bred sheep for intelligence. No one ever said, that ram there, he’s got a higher than average IQ for a goat or a sheep and so does she. I’d like more intelligent sheep. They never think that way.

So you know what the result has been? This is true. I know, I’m making fun of it, but it’s really true. Through the ages, sheep have not been bred for their intelligence, so as a result they are not very smart. And they don’t serve, domestic sheep I’m talking about, don’t last out in the wild very long. They need to be cared for. They are handicapped through breeding and they need to be loved. They need to be watched over. They need to be cared for and the shepherd cares for them tenderly because they tend to go astray.

In the book Christ Object Lessons, I’ve actually got a couple quotes here, page 187, “The sheep that has strayed from the fold is the most helpless of all creatures. It must be sought for by the shepherd. It cannot find its way back, so were the soul that has wandered from God. He is as helpless as a lost sheep and unless divine love has come to his rescue, he can never find his way to God.”

Now, this is encouraging to me. You know why? It means our salvation is based upon the initiative of the shepherd, because if it’s based on me and my strength and my sense of direction, I’m in trouble. But praise the Lord, it’s based on his sense of direction and his relentless pursuit for the lost lamb.

So the shepherd counts his sheep and he finds out that he doesn’t have them all. But he sees a storm is brewing off on the horizon, cold wind is coming up and he thinks, boy, this is not going to be any fun. I’d much rather spend the night in my tent, dry, on my soft bedding. But he doesn’t think about his comfort. All he can think about is that one that’s out there in the dark. There’s wolves. There’s bear. There’s wild dogs. There’s steep ravines. There’s bad weather.

You know, sheep are sort of social animals. You keep them in a flock. They huddle together when they’re cold. They huddle for protection. When out by themselves, they’re very vulnerable. And all this shepherd can think about is that Fluffy is out there, baa, baa.

A mouse has a better sense of direction than a sheep. Dogs and cats have been dropped off hundreds of miles from their home and find their way home. But a sheep, once it gets outside of eyeshot, their sense of smell is not that great either, they can get lost very easy.

So the shepherd, he goes out and he begins to search everywhere he thinks that sheep might be inclined to go; where the best grass is, where the ravines are. You know, they get patterns. There’s trails. And he starts looking for the trails.

Maybe he’s brought them down to the low country to keep them warmer at night, but there’s a lot of good grass in the high county. Might have gone up in the high country, but that’s where the storms and the cliffs are. And he takes off after that sheep. He risks himself to find it, in going off in those ravines.

And then, matter of fact, I’ll read this other passage from the Christ Object Lessons, page 188. Matter of fact, I recommend you read this whole chapter. Our family was reading this for worship and that’s where I was telling Karen, that’s where I got the idea, I’d like to do this story.

“With what relief he hears in the distance its first faint cry. Following the sound, he climbs the steepest heights. He goes to the very edge of the precipice at the risk of his own life. Thus he searches while the cry is growing fainter. It tells him that the sheep is ready to die. At last his effort is rewarded. The lost is found. He does not scold it because it has caused him so much trouble. He does not drive it with a whip.”

A man was doing a tour of Israel with his tour guide and he saw a shepherd driving a flock of sheep and he asked his tour guide, he said, I always heard that the shepherds lead their sheep. He said, that’s not the shepherd. He said, that’s the butcher. Shepherds lead their sheep, a butcher will drive them.

He does not drive it with a whip. He doesn’t put a rope around its neck and drag it home. “In his joy, he takes the trembling creature upon his shoulders. If it is bruised and wounded, he gathers it in his arms, pressing it close to his bosom, that the warmth of his own heart may give it life. With gratitude that his search has not been in vain, he bears it back to the fold.” What a beautiful picture of our shepherd looking for his lost sheep.

Now, you know, there’s a difference between Matthew and Luke. In Luke it says when he finds it. In Matthew it says if he finds it. I think all of us know that we’ve all gone astray like lost sheep and it’s the initiative of the shepherd that finds us, but there is something the sheep must do. If that sheep is out there on a precipice and the shepherd reaches for it, it can jump to its death.

I understand the fasted ram ever recorded was at 38 miles an hour. Yeah, 38.7 miles an hour is the fastest. And I’m sure all sheep don’t run that fast, but I’m pretty sure more healthy sheep run faster than you, which means that if that sheep doesn’t want to be caught, it can run from the shepherd. And some of us may have been running from the shepherd for a long time.

It needs to submit. Sometimes the sheep has to get so weak it can’t struggle. Sometimes we’re not ready for the shepherd to pick us up and take us home until we just can’t even fight back anymore. You just have to get to the point where you surrender. You submit and you let him have his will. James 4:7, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he’ll flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”

You know what I love also about this story? In conclusion, Jesus says in Matthew 18:14, “Even so, it is not the will of your father which is in heaven that even one of these little ones should be lost, should perish. It is not God’s will that one perish.” Now, I want to hammer that home just for a moment.

There is a popular teaching. You know, many of the Christian church are divided over the idea of predestination and what that means and once saved always saved and the idea that some are elected to be saved and some are not. God has chosen some to be saved and some are not chosen. As though, in some way, God is an accomplice to some lost being lost. But according to this verse and others, he is not willing that any one should perish. So if he’s not willing and if some perish, whose will is it? He’s giving you the freedom to choose. It’s his will to pursue you. He can find you. He can go after you. He’ll call you. But we’re free to run and keep running from the shepherd. It’s not his will. He wants all.

Matter of fact, in II Peter 3:9, it bears this out, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise as some men count slackness, but he is long suffering to us where not willing that any should perish.” He wants all to be saved. If we’re not saved it won’t be because the shepherd doesn’t love us. If a sheep is lost and stays lost, it won’t be because the shepherd didn’t look hard enough or long enough. Usually it’s because the sheep just kept on running, kept resisting, refused to submit. If we cooperate with Jesus, he’ll take us up in his arms and he’ll take us home. This is a story that’s got good news in it, friends.

By the way, something else just came to my mind that I read about shepherds. One time a shepherd leading a flock of sheep came down to a fastly moving creek and he went to the other side and he called them and they all stopped. And he called and they wouldn’t come. He went back across the creek. He took up two lambs, one under each arm, and he went back across the creek. Well, the mothers of those lambs felt themselves naturally yearning after their lambs. They jumped into the water and crossed the creek. And as soon as they jumped, everyone else jumped.

The moral of the story is if we keep the lambs in the church, you can usually keep the sheep, too. We’ve got to make sure and care what’s happening to our children and watching out for our children and keeping them in our arms. And in doing that, you’ll usually keep the mothers and keep the fathers if you keep the young.

You know, this is a good story because it has kind of a happy ending. It says when he founds this law, he finds the sheep and then he calls his friends and his neighbors together. I mean, you and I wouldn’t think about that. Oh, I was missing one out of a hundred sheep and I told all my friends and neighbors, hey, I’m going out to look. Pray for me. I’ve got to find this sheep. And then we find and we say, hey, we’re having a party. I found my sheep.

It’s just so hard for us in our culture to understand this, but for them it was wonderful. It was good news. They’d celebrate. They’d rejoice together. And I think the Lord is telling us about how the angels rejoiced. Well, I think he says that right here. “Rejoice with me, I found my sheep that was lost. I say unto you likewise there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repents more than over 99 just people that need no repentance.” There is joy in heaven. You know, that’s why our reaching out for the lost is the most important work we can do.

You know, we make an emphasis here at Central Church about going after the lost and caring for the lost. And sometimes I think we also have to remember that even though we might be in the fold, we’re all prone to wander, as it says in that song, and God looks for us persistently, relentlessly.

You know, last night in preparing for this message, I came across an old story and this first appeared in the book of Chicken Soup for the Soul. It’s true story about Armand, the father who loved his son.

Armand lived in, of all things, Armenia. And back in 1988, they had a devastating earthquake that measured about 8.0 on the Richter scale that just flattened entire regions. And when Armand dropped his son off at school that morning -- he had a very close relationship with his son, loved him deeply. By the way, the son’s name was Armand Junior. He always used to tell his son, son, I’ll be there for you when you need me. You can count on me. He said, I know, Dad. And he just loved his son so much.

Well when the earthquake struck, everybody felt it. They knew it was a great catastrophe. Armand jumped in his car and went as far as the roads were opened. Eventually the roads were closed and he climbed over the rubble. People all over the town are crying and swarming. There’s fires. And he climbed over the rubble and fought his way to where he knew his son’s school would be. He dropped him off at school that day and said, you know I love you, son. If you ever need me, I’ll be there for you.

And he figured out from the rubble roughly where the corner of his classroom would be, and this was a two- or three-story school and everything was just piles of rubble, and he started to dig. They didn’t have the same kind of emergency services there that many first world countries have.

He just started digging. And he dug and he dug with his bare hands, pulling away the bricks, and when he found a big piece he’d get a stick or a rod, a piece of wrought iron and he’d pry it apart. And he’d see people just standing there. He’d say, help me, this is a school. Help me. When are you going to help me? And they saw the condition of the school and people all around him felt like he was a desperate father and they let go for a while but pretty soon they said, look, there’s no hope. And he ignored them. He said, help me, and he kept digging. And he kept digging in the rubble. And sometime, eventually even some of the officials came and they said, look, there’s fires around. It’s not safe. There’s a lot of smoke. And he said, look, I’m going to get my son. I’m not giving up, and he kept digging. True story.

He dug 12 hours, dug all through the night, 24 hours, nonstop with his bare hands. His hands all got torn up and scarred and people were trying to pull him away. They thought it was such a pitiful thing because it looks so hopeless to them and he kept digging. And he’d dig 30 hours, 36 hours nonstop. People watching him felt sorry for him and he’d say, why don’t you help me, but they wouldn’t really help. And he pulled away one stone after 38 hours of digging and he heard a voice and he called and he said, Armand, and the voice called back and said, Papa. He said, are you alive? He said, yes, I’m alive. He said, the wall fell and we’re trapped in a triangle. He said, there were 33 of us but there are 14 of us alive. And he said, I told you, son, I’d get you. He said, I told my friends my father will find us, that he’ll keep digging until he finds us and when he finds me, he’ll find you.

You think our heavenly father loves us less than that? Are you one of those sheep that has wandered? Do you think that God has given up on you?

You know, I told you a story once about the great evangelist named Ira Sankey. Have you heard that name before? He was a singing evangelist for Dwight L. Moody. And they were traveling one time through Edinburg, Scotland and Sankey saw a poem in a paper one day, it was about a lost sheep and he thought, what a beautiful poem, and he tore it out of the paper and he stuck in his top pocket.

Well, it turned out later that week when Moody was preaching to this big crowd, he changed his mind and decided to preach upon the lost sheep. And then at the conclusion of his sermon, Sankey had sung opening song, he’d led the choir and he thought his job was done. And Moody said, I’m going to make an appeal right now and Brother Sankey is going to sing for you. And he had no idea what to sing. He was totally flat-footed and unprepared. And then all of a sudden the Lord reminded him, you’ve got that poem in your top pocket.

So he pulled the words of the poem out of his pocket and he set it up in front of him on the pump organ and without ever having written a hymn before and ever having sung this song before, in front of a live audience, he just started making up music as he sang about the song. And the title of the poem was called the Ninety and Nine.

Matter of fact, if someone wants to play the melody to that. How many of you remember that song or you’ve heard that song? Yeah, I don’t see too many teenagers raising their hands. But I’m going to read -- go ahead and play it a little bit. I want to read some of the words of this song for you of the Ninety and Nine.

It says, “There were ninety and nine that safely lay in the shelter of the fold. But one was out on the hills away, far off from the gates of gold. Away on the mountains wild and bare. Away from the tender Shepherd’s care. Away from the tender Shepherd’s care. Lord, thou hast here thy ninety and nine; are they not enough for thee? But the shepherd made answer, this of mine has wandered away from me. And although the road be rough and steep, I go to the desert to find my sheep. I go to the desert to find my sheep. But none of the ransomed ever knew how deep were the waters crossed, nor how dark was the night the Lord passed through, ere he found his sheep that was lost. Out in the desert he heard its cry, sick and helpless and ready to die. Lord, whence are those blood drops all the way that marked out the mountain’s track? They were shed for one who had gone astray ere the shepherd could bring him back. Lord, whence are thy hands so rent and torn? They are pierced tonight by many a thorn. They are pierced tonight by many a thorn. And all through the mountains, thunder riven and up from the rocky steep, there arose a glad cry to the gate of heaven, ‘Rejoice! I have found my sheep!’ And the angels echoed around the throne, ‘Rejoice, for the Lord brings back his own! Rejoice, for the Lord brings back his own!’

Would you like to try and sing a couple of verses of that before we close? Disregard the regular hymn. I think they may actually have the words on the screen. Let’s stand. You’re only going to see this on the screen. We probably won’t sing it all, but I’d like to sing this with you. Let’s start with the first verse. [Song]

We’re going to sing the next verse, but before we do, I should probably do what Dwight Moody did and ask if there are any lost sheep here. There may be some who have nibbled their way out of shepherd’s sight, nibbled their way from Jesus and out of the church, have become distracted by the world. And you see that the shepherds come for you and you want to submit, you want to respond and return to him.

There may be some here that have never accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf. Christ left the portals of heaven, all the unfallen worlds, to come to this world for this one lost sheep and he would come and do it all just for one, just for you. Will you come to him? This story can have a happy ending. God has made it clear that he’s looking for you. Are you willing to be found? Are you willing to come? As we sing the next verse, come to the front. We’ll pray together, if that’s your desire. [Song]

It always had beautiful words and I’m glad Debbie knew this song when I asked her. How many of you remember it now, now that you’ve heard it a little bit? Beautiful song.

You know, I love this story because it was so simple. Shepherd loses his sheep, even if it’s just one. He loves it so much that he’ll brave all kinds of pain and struggle and suffering to get it back, to find it. And that tells us that the Lord is desperate to save each one of us. He’ll be more relentless than Armand to find his son, to find you because he gave his son to find you.

You know, we’re going to sing one more verse and, again, if there are any who are feeling that struggle in their hearts and you know that you’ve not submitted to the shepherd or you want to return, come to the front, we’ll pray together. I’ll just sing whatever verse comes up next. [Song]

Dear loving Father, Lord, we can’t even comprehend how a shepherd would sacrifice so much for a feeble sheep. And you love us so much. In the scope of the cosmos, this world is just a speck of dust. And yet you came to this world and became a man because you love us; frail, sinful, lost, straying humanity so much. We can’t comprehend it, Lord, but we believe it. You’ve told us it’s true.

We thank you that through your providence, through your spirit you’ve put us where we are now to hear this message of your love, how the good shepherd has come and he’s seeking us. I pray, Lord, that we will submit as he reaches out, that we’ll allow him to take us to his breast or on his shoulders and bring us home rejoicing.

Lord, this story has a happy ending. We pray that our lives might have that same happy ending. I pray that angels are singing today for those who have come home and that we might rejoice together. In a special way we pray for those who’ve responded to the invitation this morning. Be in their lives, fill them with your spirit.

We also pray with Samantha, who was baptized today, and I pray that you’ll bless her with your spirit and protection and help her to know she is adopted in a special way into that heavenly family.

Be with us as we go from this place. I pray that you’ll help us remember there are many lost sheep out there and He’s called us to help us find them together. Thank you, Lord, for your blessings and your presence here today. We pray these things in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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