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The Wandering Sheep

October 20, 2016

Joshua had one hundred sheep and he loved every single one of them. He loved Jehu the big, stubborn ram. He loved Anna the tender ewe who cared for her own lambs and watched out for all the rest. He loved Beniah, the littlest lamb still staring at the new world with bleary eyes. Joshua even loved Javan, the difficult sheep who was always wandering off.

Late one evening Joshua led his small flock into a cave to shelter for the night. As they went through the small opening Joshua counted each one, calling out its name as it passed in front of him. When all were inside the cave Joshua realized one was missing. His heart sank as he counted again. He already knew which one was missing. Sure enough, when Joshua had counted and counted again, wandering Javan was not with the flock.

Joshua looked out into the night and saw the dark clouds building. The cold, late season rains would soon be falling. He moved a couple heavy stones in front of the cave door to keep the rest of the flock safely inside and Joshua headed out into the night to search for troublesome Javan.

Joshua slowly walked back down the trail. He traveled less than half a mile before the clouds opened up. Joshua was soon soaked to the skin. Shivering as he slogged down the muddy trail he called Javan’s name. Several miserable miles later Joshua found a side trail that he knew would attract Javan’s drifting attention. The stony path had turned into a small torrent but Joshua struggled up the rocky stream. Halfway up the slope he heard the terrified bleating of a sheep. Fighting the rising water Joshua found Javan perched on a small boulder just inches above the swelling creek.

Wading through knee deep water, Joshua reached the boulder and hefted the terrified sheep onto his shoulders. He held tightly to the legs of the struggling ram and slowly worked his way down the treacherous path. Joshua eventually reached the comparative safety of the trail below. As he carried his lost sheep through the driving rain Joshua spoke words of comfort to soothe his beloved ram.

Late that night the exhausted Joshua pushed aside the protecting stones and led his lost sheep into the fold. As he laid out wood for a fire Joshua heard growling from the cave entrance. He snatched up his staff and turned to see a lone wolf had crawled past the boulders. The vicious animal stood with teeth bared ready to lunge at the terrified Javan.

How do you think the loving shepherd would respond to a wolf bent on the destruction of the sheep he had labored long to rescue?

Like the loving shepherd, Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. How will He respond to those who lead astray the ones He suffered such sorrow to save?

In Matthew 18 the compassion of Jesus for His children is the basis of stern warnings against causing His children to sin. The flow of Jesus’ teaching is this:

  • Only those with childlike humility will enter the kingdom of God.
  • The greatest in the kingdom of heaven is the one who humbles himself as a little child.
  • The children of God are so precious to Him that receiving the child of God in Jesus’ name is like receiving Jesus Himself.
  • The children of God are so precious it would be far better to be shamefully, painfully executed than to lead one away from God. God’s curse falls heavily on those who cause His children to stumble.
  • Since the consequences of offending God’s child are so dire it is far better for the child of God to cut off any part of himself that would lead him to sin than to suffer Divine wrath.
  • Jesus, like a loving shepherd, came to save the lost.
  • Every child of God is precious to Him. God does not want a single one to perish!

Jesus’ teaching on church discipline flows out of the preciousness of the child of God and the seriousness of offending one of His children.

The fellow Christian who sins against you is the child of God. He is precious to God. He has been sought out and saved by the Shepherd. Far better for that sinning brother to cut off his offending appendange than suffer the wrath of God. If your sibling in the family of God is this precious to God, shouldn’t he be important to you? If his sin is worthy of painful amputation and divine wrath is it not worth a little discomfort on your part? Should you not risk a little unpleasantness to head things off before they get extreme? Seek out your erring brother that he not fall headlong into sin, cause others to sin or prompt others to turn from Jesus.

Seek reconciliation because you love your brother and sister. Seek reconciliation because the consequences of sin are disastrous. Seek reconciliation because Jesus loved that one as much as He loved you. Jesus sought out that one just as He sought you out. Jesus died to save that one just as He died for you. That wandering Christian is precious to God. Seek him out and turn him from the error of his ways. He is God’s child.

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