Matthew 18:10-14Theme: Shepherding.In this week’s lessons we see God reclaiming the lost. LessonWhy should we focus on angels when it is God who is our Savior? The parable tells us many important things about God. We have already looked at two points: (1) God cares for us individually, and (2) God understands our weaknesses. In today’s lesson we look at the third and fourth points.
3. God seeks us when we stray. Doesn’t God have anything better to do than to hunt for lost sheep? Apparently not! He does other important things, too, of course. He runs the universe. He directs the flow of history. He sets up kings and brings kings down. Nebuchadnezzar learned this the hard way. But there is a sense in which all these other actions are only a backdrop for the drama of salvation, which means that seeking and saving lost sheep is the most important thing God does.
Remember that Jesus is described as “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). This means that God created the world as a stage upon which the drama of salvation would be acted out. Moreover, when Jesus came, he described his mission by saying, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). Indeed, when the drama is over and the curtain has come down on the final act, the angel audience and those who have been saved will praise the author and chief actor, crying,
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strengthand honor and glory and praise!” . . .”To him who sits on the throne and to the Lambbe praise and honor and glory and power,for ever and ever!”(Rev. 5:12-13)
There is one more thing while we are thinking about how God seeks us: God does not wait for us to come back, because we would not. “There is no one…who seeks God” (Rom. 3:11). “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
4. God rejoices when we repent and return to him. The Greeks had the idea that God cannot have emotions because, if he did and if we are the cause of his emotions – whether grief, anger, sorrow, love or dismay – then to that extent we would have power over God and control him. That may be reasonable as philosophy, but it is not the Bible’s teaching. The Bible says that God grieves over sin and rejoices when the sinner is reclaimed. Jesus makes this explicit in the parable, saying of the great shepherd, “He is happier about that one sheep [that is found] than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off” (Matt. 18:13).
In the fifteenth chapter of Luke there are three stories about something that was lost. The first is the parable of the lost sheep, the parallel to the story we are studying (vv. 1-7). The second is a story about a lost coin (vv. 8-10). The last, which is the best known, is the story of the Prodigal Son (vv. 11-32). He too was lost, having squandered his inheritance on wild living. But at last he came to his senses and went back to his father to confess his sin and seek a place as his servant. We think of this as a story chiefly about the son; we even call it the parable of the Prodigal Son. But it is actually about the father, who represents God. What it tells us is that the father was longing for his son, waiting for his return, and that when he saw him coming, he ran to him, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Then he said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (vv. 22-24).
Never think that if you go back to God, you will find him reproachful, angry, distant, or vindictive. Everything God has done is for your salvation, and no one in all the universe will be happier at your repentance than God.
Explain what happens when we stray.
How does God deal with a repentant sinner? Give both Scriptural and personal examples.
ReflectionHas there been a time you strayed from God? Didn’t you find him right there to receive you when you turned back to him?
PrayerPray for any you know who need to return to God. Pray that they will be reclaimed, and thank God for his graciousness.