We The Sheep
“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, truly I tell you, 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 any of these little ones should perish.” –Matthew 18:12-14 NIV The following excerpt from Francine Rivers’ The Prophet offers a narrative depiction ofGod’s profound love for His children.
Another dam accepted the lamb. Having finished nursing, the lamb cavorted with others. He was old enough to nibble tender shoots of grass. Amos leaned on his staff and watched the lambs play. He laughed at their antics. All seemed well. A bleat of distress drew his attention. One of the rams had cast himself in a low spot. He lay in a hollow, feet in the air. “Easy there, old man.” Twice, the ram kicked Amos. Taking strong hold, Amos heaved him over and lifted him. The ram couldn’t walk. “Hold on.” Amos held him firm between the knees. He massaged the animal until the circulation returned to its legs. “Go ahead.” He gave the ram a push. The ram stumbled once and then walked stiff-legged, head up, ignoring Amos. “Next time find a flat place to rest.” Amos turned from the ram and made a quick count of the flock. His mouth tightened. The lamb was missing again. Amos called to his sheep and led them to the shade of the sycamore trees. They would settle quickly there in the heat of the afternoon. He scanned the area, hoping the lamb would come scampering back. A buzzard made a wide circle overhead. It wouldn’t be long until another joined it. There was no time to waste. Leaving the ninety-nine others, Amos headed west. Staff in hand, he wove his way among the rocks and brambles, searching, hoping he would find the lamb before the predator did. The wolf pack had kept its distance, but there were lions in these hills. Coming to a rise, Amos spotted the lamb standing near some bushes. As he approached, he saw its wool had snagged in a thornbush. One hard tug, and the lamb could have freed itself, but it was not in his nature to do so. Instead, the animal would stand still until rescue came-or predator, eager to make a meal of him. Amos stood grimly, considering what to do. Less than a week ago, he had been forced to kill the lamb’s mother. He had known for months he might have to dispatch her, but held off doing so because she was perfectly proportioned with well-set, alert eyes and was one of the strongest sheep in his flock. Half a dozen times he had rescued her and her offspring. He had hoped to give the lambs more time to be fully weaned and on their own. Now, it seemed he had waited too long, for the lamb had learned his mother’s bad habits. “It’s this or death, little one.” Amos took a stone from his pouch, weighing it in his hand. Too heavy, and it would kill the lamb; too light and it would not serve to discipline him. Amos swung his sling and released the stone, striking the lamb in a front leg, just above the knee. With a startled bleat of pain, the lamb went down. Tears burning, Amos went down to the wounded lamb and knelt. “I am here, little one. I would rather wound you myself than see you come to greater harm.” He knew after a gentle examination that the leg was broken, but not shattered. It would heal. “You belong with the flock, not out here on your own where death will find you.” He worked quickly, binding the leg and tugging the lamb free of brambles. “I know I hurt you, but better you suffer an injury that will heal than become dinner for a prowling lion.” He ran his hand gently over the lamb’s head. “You will learn to stay close to me where you’re safe.” He cupped the lamb’s head and breathed into its face. “No struggling or you will cause yourself more pain.” He gently lifted the lamb onto his shoulder and carried him back to the flock. The goats grazed in the hot sun, but the sheep still rested in the shade, ruminating. Amos sat on a flat rock that gave him a full view of the pasture. Lifting the lamb from his shoulders, he held it close. “You will learn to trust me and not think you can find better forage on your own. I will lead you to green pastures and still waters.” He took a few grains of wheat from the scrip he wore at his waist and shared the food with the lamb. “Sometimes I must wound in order to protect.” He smiled as the lamb ate from his hand. “You will get used to my voice and come when I call.” He rubbed the notch in the lamb’s ear. “You bear my mark, little one. You are mine. Let me take care of you.” Francine, Rivers. The Prophet. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2006. Print. Sons of Encouragement.