Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
Select a tract to read:
by George C. Clark
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray; every one of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord laid upon him the iniquity of us all.”
Night clung stubbornly at the horizon, shrouding the rugged countryside with intense darkness. Only within the rented old building was there light, and soon that disappeared as the minister blew out the lamps and came walking out to join his family, who, with a number of friends and relatives, were waiting for him.
When all left the meeting place that dark night in late October, it was still foggy and misty, with only the outline of trees on either side of the road to guide the little group. Walking along that narrow country road, they soon arrived at a graveyard which every young child dreaded to pass, especially after dark. It was rumored that an old lady, Aunt Jane (“the old witch”, as many called her) was buried there. No one had to tell any child to draw close to his or her parents whenever they had to pass the grave of Aunt Jane.
Suddenly, as every youngster in the neighborhood always feared would happen, there it was, a wailing cry from Aunt Jane! And as one might guess, it was not only children who were frightened by the sound, but their parents as well. No one, young or old, could deny that a disturbing noise was coming from the vicinity of Aunt Jane’s grave, just a short distance from the road. None of the little group dared to enter in among the graves to investigate.
Just then, an old man appeared, coming up the little road. He owned a flock of sheep not far away, and to the surprise of the frightened and puzzled onlookers, the old shepherd, with the tapping of his rod muffled by the soft earth, quietly edged his way past them and walked out fearlessly into the graveyard from which the disturbing sound was still coming. No one could see him after he stepped into the darkness. His steps, however, could be heard, and then they ceased, leaving everyone wide-eyed with anticipation.
Then, all of a sudden, the ghostly noise, from somewhere deep in the darkness, became strong and clear. It was the cry of one of the shepherd’s little lambs! It had strayed from the fold during the day and had fallen into an old, unkept grave, from which this old shepherd had reached down and pulled it out. The owner of that little lost lamb had found that which belonged to him, and had rescued it.
When he returned to the road with his little lamb, a verse from an old, familiar hymn came to the minister, standing there with family and friends:
There were ninety and nine that safely lay in the shelter of the fold,
But one was out on the hills away, far off from the gates of gold;
Away on the mountains wild and bare, away from the tender Shepherd’s care.
And he remembered that earlier that night he had chosen to read this scripture: “As a shepherd seeks his own flock on a day when he is in the midst of his sheep that are scattered, so will I seek out my sheep and rescue them out of all places where they were scattered in a day of clouds and thick darkness” (Ezek. 34:12).
Reader, do you happen to be the counterpart of the little lamb in our story? Have you strayed from the fold of God? Are you crying for help from some dark pit of sin into which you have fallen? Are people passing you by? The people in our story were passing by the bleating of the little lamb that had fallen into the grave. Only the aged shepherd knew its voice. My friend, don’t give up if some people would leave you in a pit of despair. Your Shepherd is, this very minute, listening for your plaintive cry. Never mind the people who are disturbed by your cry for help. No doubt, they have never fallen into a dark pit, and don’t know how it feels. They cannot leave the well-traveled road to pull one of the Lord’s lambs out of a grave of distress.
When trials of this life press one of God’s little lambs to cry out to Him for help, it sometimes frightens people. They think it’s Aunt Jane’s ghost, or some type of nervous disorder. But “our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,” knows the cry of his own, and he will never fail to come to their call, let it be night or day. He is “the good Shepherd”, who gave his life for the sheep. A shepherd who is hired will not do this; on the contrary, he will take pay for his service, but he will flee when the wolf of misfortune and trouble comes to the flock. Jesus stated this in the following words: “The hireling, not really being a shepherd, whose sheep are not his own, sees the wolf coming and abandons the sheep and flees, and the wolf drags them off and scatters the sheep. The hireling flees because he’s a hireling, and it doesn’t matter to him about the sheep” (Jn. 10:12–13).
Peter pointed out to the saints, “You were like sheep being led astray, but now you have been brought back to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1Pet. 2:25). Peter’s hope for all God’s children was that “when the Chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive an unfading crown of glory” (1Pet. 5:4). Let us, then, strive to be found worthy to enter the city “whose Architect and Builder is God” (Heb. 11:10), for in Christ, we are promised “a building from God, a house not made by hand, eternal in the heavens” (2Cor. 5:1). Amen.