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“So He spoke this parable to them, saying: ‘What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which 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 neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!” I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:3-7
Jesus says to each of us: “ ‘I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.’” John 10:14-16
Once upon a time there was a shepherd who lived in the mountains and roamed the green pastures grazing his flock of sheep.
But with the good times came hard times, for his beloved wife died, leaving behind their only child, a young daughter. And so, in her mother’s place the young girl becomes the comfort of her father’s life, and through the spring and summer days they graze the flock together.
With the passing of time, Father teaches his daughter the shepherd’s call. Very soon the flock recognizes her voice as she stands high on a vantage point and cupping her hands to her cheeks she cries aloud “Kee-oh!”
Her voice echoes through the still mountain air, stirring up the scattered sheep. Obediently, they clamber to her side, and then follow her up the winding trail to the fold.
Standing beside the door she watches over the flock as one by one they trot into the night pen, making sure all are present and well.
Jesus said, “‘Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
‘And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
‘Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.’” John 10:1-5
Time passes quickly in the mountain retreat and the daughter grows into a lovely young lady. So in his heart of love Father wonders what might be best for her future.
He cannot live forever, and so he decides his daughter should seek a new home and friends in the city.
Father makes arrangements and provides for his dear daughter’s future, and soon the day of reluctant parting arrives. Slowly hand in hand, Father and daughter wander down the mountain trail to a small town in the lowlands and there they exchange their sad farewells.
The daughter promises to write often.
As the bus disappears from sight, Father gathers his courage and makes his way back up the lonely trail to his log cabin.
The days seem unusually long now, and his life frightfully empty.
Mail day is now the highlight of his week, as he treks down to the lowlands to fetch his daughter’s letters. She writes of new things, different times, and he is pleased.
But with new times there comes change, and Father senses this is happening in his daughter’s life. Reading between the lines, he realizes all is not well. Now her letters arrive less frequently - until they finally stop.
As the days drift in sadness Father pines for his lost daughter. Until one winter night he decides to make the great sacrifice of his life. He will give up all and search for his daughter. And so parting with his flock of sheep he gathers his few belongings and with his life’s savings he traces his daughter’s footsteps into the city.
“For thus says the Lord God: ‘Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day.’” Ezekiel 34:11-12
Arriving at the home where he arranged for his daughter to live, the shepherd Father asks of her whereabouts. The people speak kindly of her, but say she has moved on with a friend.
Receiving a forwarding address he continues his search.
Arriving at the next residence, he receives a despairing answer, “Sorry, we had to evict her, because she could not pay her rent.”
And so the shepherd Father goes from place to place searching for his daughter. At each new address his despair deepens “Sorry, she turned to theft; so we cast her out.”
“Sorry, she turned to drink; so we moved her on.”
“Sorry, she became a drug addict and so we shut her out.”
“Sorry, she got in trouble with the law and they took her away.”
“Sorry, she became a prostitute and now she lives on the streets”
But with each distressing answer Father’s unconditional love only flares with greater urgency to find his lost daughter at any cost.
“‘For the Son of Man has come to save that which was 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 the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.’” Matthew 18:11-13
Now the shepherd Father paces up and down the bustling streets, peering into the passing faces hoping to find his lost daughter. But alas as daylight turns to night, his heart sinks in despair.
Everywhere he looks, the dark shadows of city life reveal a vastly different world than the mountain retreat. Crime, violence, immorality are more evident by the hour. People seem almost indifferent to other people’s needs.
Father’s thoughts return to the happy, safe years of the past when he and his daughter shepherded the flock together. How he longs to hear his daughter’s voice again, calling the flock on home. Faintly within his soul he hears her call again, echoing through the mountain pass. Her cry grows stronger and stronger swelling his despairing heart, until above the city noise; his own voice cries the shepherd’s call. “Kee-oh! Kee-oh!”
People stop and wonder at the mysterious sight of the rugged mountain man calling into the night. Some think he is quite courageous; others think he is quite strange. But the shepherd Father cares very little about the proud opinions of man. If there is one thing his daughter truly understands and will never forget, it is the shepherd call of the flock.
The night wears on, and a blanket of moist air descends upon the shepherd’s stooped back. Still he searches down side streets, through alleyways, until in the dead of night he stumbles upon the city slum. And there in this pit of human suffering he sees people bereft of spirit, destitute in life.
Meanwhile lying hidden in this hollow of grief is the shepherd’s daughter, burdened with guilt, ashamed of her fallen condition. “What a relief Father cannot see me now,” she thinks. “Surely he too would cast me away.”
But suddenly her despair is broken as Father’s shepherd call seeks out her hiding place. “Kee-oh! Kee-oh!”
Her mind freezes in disbelief. But soon another call pierces her conscience with the echoes of home. How can this be? Father lives so far away. Has he really come for me?
She glances down at her filthy body, grimaces at her squalid condition and her sad heart sinks within her lost soul.
Yet still, the call of home draws nearer until peering through the shadows of night she glimpses the familiar face of her shepherd Father. Silently she creeps toward him and her heart races with the hope of a found child. Indeed, Father has not changed at all; his kindness still shines from his eyes. His hands are still strong and tender. His voice still resonates with the warmth of fatherly love. Surely I can trust in him as the mountain flock trusted in me?
She moves from her hiding place into the revealing light and throws herself upon her father’s breast. He embraces her and whispers softly, “My daughter I have come to save you and restore you to new life.”
Jesus says, “‘I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.’” John 10:27-28
“The Lord is...longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
“Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand,
And His arm shall rule for Him;
Behold, His reward is with Him,
And His work before Him.
He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young.” Isaiah 40:10-11