The One that Has Gone Astray



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  • The One that Has Gone Astray

    “I will seek that which was lost: and that which was driven away, I will bring again: and I will bind up that which was broken, and I will strengthen that which was weak, and that which was fat and strong I will preserve: and I will feed them in judgment”
    (Ezekiel 34:16).

    Ezekiel is one of my personal favorite Latter Prophets from the Tanakh, where from that prophetic book comes timeless counsel and truths that cannot be boxed in as old or new covenant alone. The book centers on the presence of God, purity, Israel as a divine community that can be understood today as a promise to the wild branch grafted in (Gentile Christians), and our individual responsibility to God.

    From this cherished passage, the Lord declares that He expresses mercy towards the scattered flock. Doubtless, this in the first place had reference to the restoration of the Jews. It also represented the good Shepherd’s tender care of the souls of his people. He finds them in their days of darkness and ignorance, and leads them back into the safety of His fold. He comes to their relief in times of persecution and temptation. He leads them in the ways of righteousness, and causes them to rest on his love and faithfulness. The proud, self-sufficient, and pharisaical are enemies of the true gospel and of believers; against such we must guard. God promises rest for disquieted saints and terror for presumptuous sinners.

    Through this stereotype, we can understand the proper role of a Christian. As we are consumed by His love, our expression will manifest the same characteristics of God’s very nature. Our spirits will be moved to reach those who don't know God with the Good News of Jesus. Not as a religious exercise or to been recognized as a faithful steward. The motivations comes from a well much deeper apart from the base nature, as the presence of God himself moves in us through the Holy Spirit.

    We will be motivated to reach out to those driven away from the fold. Such a work alone could be a full time ministry. There are scores of fallen sheep that yearn for someone, anyone to take the time to love them back into the fold. Furthermore, God has called us to do just that. I find this is often my burden, to call unto the wayward, to awaken the slumbering, and to jolt to conscience those who are in a listless spiritual coma.

    “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost?” (Matthew 18:12).

    We often attribute this passage to fallen humanity, that it is a parable about God's heart toward those who don't know him. In truth, it is conveying a message about those who are already his children, who had received his mark of salvation, but have gone astray. God chooses His steadfast children as his instruments, to pray for and call unto the strays. It is the pastor’s duty foremost, along with eldership and all those of the faith, to beckon the wandering back into the fold. This often looks like an arm around a troubled brother or sister, who cannot walk themselves.

    “ others by snatching them from the fire; have mercy on others but with fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh” (Jude 1:23).

    Not only urging and helping them back, but the passage goes on to describe the office of a physician. To bind up what is broken is an expression about a crippling damage. Maimed in the heart or conscience, they are unable to walk. Many have wandered from the fellowship due to excruciating abuse, others because their conscience is seared as with a hot iron due to a cherished sin. No matter the cause or condition, it is those that are hurting that God wants to reach, to "strengthen that which was weak". It is too easy to focus on only those who seem healthy in the faith, those who seem spiritually self-sufficient. To reach out to the damaged and cripple can and will be messy.

    In summation, if we lack the mercy of God, we will have no passion for the lost. If we lack the compassion of God, we will have little concern for the spiritually lame and wandering. If our main motivation is trying to keep our own ways straight, then we are sententiously religious, possibly lacking the true heart of God himself. As Paul encouraged, examine yourself.

    “My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:19–20).
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