by: Pocatello-Chubbuck Observer Columnist Barb Lissow
January 23, 2021
Out of the Shepherd’s Fold
“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, I tell you the truth, 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 one of these little ones should be lost.” Matthew 18:12-14
It’s a new year, cold temperatures are leaving ice on windshields, and my heavy winter coat has come out of the back of the closet for easy access! The warmth of summer is only a faint and hopeful glimmer in my mind of something gratefully coming in a few months—visions of the brown, dry pastures of the Magic Valley of Idaho will one day soon be the vibrant colors of spring. Pastures will be swathed and baled or filled with grass-eating critters looking for the tastiest blade of food. These hungry creatures will roam all the land searching for greener pastures – without study fences, the safety of these animals can be questionable, and ranchers will look high and low to find their wandering stock.
Jesus uses wandering sheep as a parable to describe God’s ever-lasting love for His children in Matthew 18, a parable that can apply to us even today. Have you ever asked yourself the question, “How far out of His safe pasture and sheepfold has the Lord looked for me?” I have asked myself, and honestly, my answer makes me squirm a bit—there have been times when I know He has had to leave the “ninety-nine” to go looking yet again! Oh yes, my heart wants to be safe in the fold; my mind tells me it’s the best pasture there. But the world sometimes grabs my attention and tempts me to “greener pastures” where it seems I can romp and frolic with no one watching. That’s when I realize my words, my actions and my human, sinful nature have caused the Shepherd to look outside His precious fold (His will) for this wandering and disobedient child.
Signs of wandering away from the Lord’s will for our lives can be bitterness, resentment, jealousy, and a hard and unforgiving heart. These attitudes and actions are NOT what please the Lord. If anyone is entitled to own those sentiments for the way we treat Him, it is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But, He willingly accepted the hate, the hurt, the physical torture, the mental anguish, and the condemnation of mankind. He loved us so much that He was willing to sacrifice His life and die for our sins. So, how can we possibly darken our hearts against any of His children with anger, bitterness, or anything but LOVE? We are commanded to forgive and to love one another: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Luke 15:12
When I was wandering and lost, He found me; I was worthless, but He loves me and gives me worth only by His grace; I was alone, but He gave me a Godly husband and sweet God-loving children; He has blessed me with a precious Christian church family and friends, all to encourage and enfold me. There is a beautiful hymn entitled “The King of Love My Shepherd Is,” and the third verse reads: “Perverse and foolish, oft I strayed, but yet in love He sought me. And on His shoulder gently laid, and home rejoicing brought me” (Lutheran Worship #412).
Have you been out of God’s safe shepherd fold lately? Perhaps it is time to listen for His calling, turn and come back. Jesus will rejoice!
Forgiven in Christ, Barb Lissow
Zion Lutheran Church, Burley, Idaho