Ninety-nine Plus One

imageby M.E.West
While hiking in New Zealand I was quite fascinated by all the sheep in the pastures. They literally dotted the hillsides, up steep slopes and in the valleys.
There is the parable of Jesus and the sheep. He would go after the one lamb that wandered off. There were the 99, but he was missing the one. Would he do that every time there was a sheep who had wandered away from the rest? “We all like sheep have gone astray, each one turned to his own way, but God laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6
Isaiah 40:11 “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” What a beautiful picture of tenderness and caring, like the well known painting hanging in many church parlours.
Psalm 23 says “ thy rod and thy staff they comfort me”. In his book, The Lord Is My Shepherd, Healing Wisdom of the Twenty-third Psalm, Rabbi Harold Kushner said the psalmist used the idea of the staff because his audience knows that the staff was used to help straying or fallen sheep climb out of the pits in which they fell. The rod was used to discipline stubborn sheep. “I need to know that our God is a God of forgiveness, a God of second chances. I need to know that God takes my behaviour seriously and holds me accountable for what I do. It gives me comfort, in my relationship, with God, that he is compassionate and also is just like a father who is loving and caring.
The sheep responded to the sheep dog. He led them from behind, guiding them into one pasture, into a corral and there they waited for the shearing team. Isaiah 53:7 “As sheep before the shearers is silent, so He did not open his mouth.”
We hear the Shepherd’s voice in Scripture. We will hear it when we listen in prayer. John 10:4 “When the shepherd has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.” “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father— and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14
Such was the day in New Zealand, rich with images to which people in Biblical times could relate. The images also caused me to give thanks to God for His grace in filling my heart with the knowledge of His Word. How meaningful to know the Saviour, the good Shepherd who redeemed us by His blood.image

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