“Until He Finds It”
“ Until he finds it.”
IT was not just anybody who went after the sheep that was lost–it was the person to whom the lost sheep belonged. Our Savior said, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness and go after that which is lost, until he finds it?” The man was not a hunter, looking after wild game that was not his, in order to make it his by capturing it, but he was a sheep-master–one who owned the sheep, going out to find what was already his own property. This is one of the great secrets that explain the care of the Good Shepherd–in looking for the lost sheep, He is caring for that which is His own. He says of them, in His great intercessory prayer to His Father, “Yours they were, and You gave them to Me.” Long before this world was created, or stars began to shine, even in the eternal ages of the past, God had given to His beloved Son a people who were then and there His by His Father’s gift. In the fullness of time He redeemed them and so they became doubly His. Yet they were His, in plan and purpose, from eternity! They were, therefore, His when they wandered away from Him and His while they strayed further and yet further off from Him–yes, they were always His wherever they went! This Truth of God is well put by the writer of the lines we have so often sung–
‘Lord, You have here Your ninety and nine,
Are they not enough for You?‘
But the Shepherd made answer, 'This of Mine
Has wandered away from Me
And although the road is rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep.’"
That wandering sheep did not belong to anybody else but that particular sheep-master. If any other man had taken it into his fold, he would have had no right to do so. If anyone had caught it and slain and eaten it, he would have been a thief for it was not his sheep. It belonged to the man who owned the other 99 sheep and it was because it belonged to him that he went after it. He would not have gone to seek another man’s sheep–he sought it because it was his own. And, in like manner, Christ has come into the world to seek His own. He Himself said, “The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” And the Apostle Paul wrote, “Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it.” The main object and design which He had in coming to this earth was to seek His own. His great redemptive work has brought some good to all men, but it was more especially intended for the benefit of the household of faith. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “We trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those that believe.” The great purpose of His coming is in order to seek His own, whom His Father has given to Him–that none of them may be lost at the last.
Remembering this great Truth, we shall now consider these four words, “Until he finds it.” “Until” is something like a boundary mark set up to indicate a turning-point. And we shall first consider the dark side of this, “ andthen come over into the bright side of it.
- Looking, first, on THE DARK SIDE OF THIS, “UNTIL,” we will try to answer two questions. First, where is the sheep until the Shepherd finds it? Secondly, where is the Shepherd until He finds it?
First, then, where is the sheep until the Shepherd finds it? e[speaking of Christ] finds it.“ It is the Shepherd who finds the lost sheep. True salvation comes to the sinner by Jesus Christfinding him. You and I, if we are very earnest in seeking the souls of others, may readily find the lost ones, for they are all around us–perhaps in our own families, possibly they nestle even in our bosoms. We know well enough where the lost ones are, for we cannot walk the streets of London, or the lanes of country villages without discovering them. If we ask the city missionary where we can find those that are most evidently lost, he will tell us where they live in whole colonies! He knows where any quantity of them may be found. Now, our finding of them may be a means to an end, but it is only a means. The end must be Christ, if they are really to be saved. Otherwise, it will not be of much use for theschoolmaster to find them. Though it may do them some good and be a temporal advantage to them, it will not be much good for the blessings of civilization to find them, or for them to be lifted up out of poverty. All these processes may be useful in their measure, but, as far as the eternal salvation of the lost is concerned, it all depends upon Christ finding them. He, the unique Man, the all-glorious God, must come into contact with them through His Spirit and claim them as His own–for, until that happens, they will remain in the sad, sad state of which I am now going to speak. I like that idea of the Chinese convert who, when he was applying for Baptism and membership at San Francisco, and was asked, "How did you find Jesus” answered, “I no find Jesus at all–He find me.” It is almost unnecessary to add that he was accepted upon such a testimony!
Where, then, are lost sinners until Christ finds and saves them?
Well, first, they are in a very careless state. They are here compared to sheep, partly because of their stupidity, but also because of their aptness to wander. A sheep thinks nothing of wandering–it is sport to him to have his liberty. Perhaps he enjoys himself all the more in being free from the pen and the fold. The sheep does not think at all about the shepherd seeking him. The shepherd has wide-open eyes for the sheep, but the sheep, while he is wandering, has no eyes for the shepherd. The shepherd is pursuing him, hot foot, over hill and dale, but the sheep is carelessly eating what little grass it is able to find, thinking only of the present and making itself as happy as it can without a thought of the future. This is still the condition of the great mass of our fellow men. Until Christ finds them, they are thoughtless, careless, indifferent about eternal things. Oh, that they could but be led to think, for thoughtfulness is oftentimes evidence that Hehas found them! But they decline to think. “What shall we eat? What shall we drink? How shall we be clothed?”–these are the questions that interest them! Their chief concern is, “to kill time,” though, indeed, they have no time to lose–to hurry away the hours which are already far too fleet–this seems to be their principal occupation. Just as the sheep cannot think and will not think, so neither will the sinner–he will continue in his carelessness, indifference and brutishness until the Savior finds him.
More than this, the sheep, until it is found by its owner, is very apt to wander further and yet further away, just as sinners go on from one sin to another. It is not the nature of sin to remain in a fixed state. Like decaying fruit, it grows more rotten–the corruption is sure to increase and spread. The man who is bad today will, to a certainty, be worse tomorrow. Every week that he lives he adds some new evil habit to all that he had before, until the chain, which at first seemed but a silken cord, becomes, at last, an adamantine fetter in which he is held fast so that he cannot escape. Ah, Brothers and Sisters, it is impossible to say how far men will wander away from God! If restraining Grace is not brought to bear upon them, they will certainly go to unutterable lengths of infamy and guilt. Possibly someone who is here now is wandering further and yet further away. My Friend, let me remind you that you can do, today, what you could not have done seven years ago. You laugh now at things that would have made you shudder then–and language which made your blood run cold when you first left your mother’s knee, has now become habitual with you. Yes, and certain tricks in trade, which you oftentimes condemned at the first, have now become your regular practice. Ah, yes, the wandering sheep keeps on straying further and further away–it will not come back to the fold of its own accord, but will continue to wander until the shepherd finds it.
And, until then, the sheep is in a sad condition all the while. It dreams of happiness by wandering, but it finds none. A sheep is not a proper animal to run wild. It is unable to take care of itself as a great many wild creatures can do. As corn, which is but educated grass, seems to yield a harvest nowhere but where man sows it, so a sheep seems to be entirely dependent on man. If it would do well, it must be under a shepherd’s care. A sheep running wild is out of its element–it is in a condition in which it cannot flourish or be happy. And a man without God, and without Christ, cannot possibly be blessed. You may think you can do as well without God as with Him, but as soon might a lamp burn without oil, or the lungs heave in life without air–as well might you attempt to live without food as for your soul to truly and really live without God! The very best of you, if you are without Christ, are simply great ruins–like some dilapidated castle, or abbey which you sometimes see–there may be enough of the ancient building remaining to let us guess what it once was, and what it might again be if the original builder could come back and restore it to its pristine glory, but as it is, it is an utter ruin and bats and owls make their home there.
So is it with you if you are without Christ. Your heart is nothing but a cage of unclean birds. Your mind is full of doubts and forebodings. You are often unable to sleep because of your dread of the future. And when you come to die, then will your desolation be most evident, for, away from God you are like a fish out of the water, or like a diver, under the water, cut off from the supply of air which is essential to his life. The creature cannot do without the Creator! God can be blessed without us, but we cannot be blessed without Him!
We shall realize that the wandering sheep is in a sad condition if we only think of the loss to itself through its straying–but there is far more than that involved in its wandering. There is, also, the loss to the shepherd. That is the blessed mystery underlying our Savior’s words. The main loss was that of the shepherd–it was that fact that moved him, as the owner of the lost sheep, to seek after it until he found it. And this made him rejoice so much when he did find it, for he could not bear the thought of losing it. To be lost to Christ may, perhaps, seem to some of you who are careless and thoughtless, to be but a trifling matter. If the wandering sheep could have spoken, it might have said, “I do not want to belong to the shepherd. I know that he values me and that he is seeking me because I am his, but I do not care about that.” No, poor sheep, but, if you had been the shepherd, you would have cared and, poor Sinner, if you did but know even a little of what Christ feels, you, also, would begin to care about your own soul! Oh, it is such joy, such bliss as I cannot describe, for anyone to be able to say, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” It brings tears to my eyes even as I repeat those familiar words and meditate upon their meaning.
What a blessing it is to belong to Jesus! I do not know a sweeter song than this, “My Beloved is mine, and I am His.” To belong to Jesus, to be one of the sheep in His flock, to know that He is my Shepherd and that I follow Him because I recognize His voice, oh, this is Heaven upon earth! This is the beginning of the joy of Heaven itself! I wish all of you knew it, but, alas, many of you are like the sheep that was lost to the shepherd. If he counted up the 99 and rejoiced that they were safe, yet he heaved a sigh as he said, “I have lost one sheep out of my hundred,” and he could not bear the thought of losing even one of them. In the same way, some of you are, as yet, lost to Christ and lost to the great Father who is in Heaven–and that is very sad.
There was also another sad thing, namely, that the sheep was in constant danger. It was away from its natural protector. It was subject to weariness, drought, hunger, disease–and it was in continual danger from predators. It might die for need of care. It would, certainly, at last, perish altogether and be torn by the foul creatures that would feast upon its carcass. In like manner, a sinner without a Savior is always in danger–as I have already shown you–in danger of still worse sin, in danger of death, in danger from the devil, in danger of “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.” Oh, the terrible danger of every unregenerate man! If I see a child almost run over in the street, it curdles my blood–does it not have a similar effect upon you? When you see a man knocked down in the road, even though he gets up and walks away, you feel troubled lest he should be hurt. Do you feel like that when you think about the souls of men that are in a far more terrible danger–in jeopardy of the wrath of God which abides upon them even now, and which will abide upon them forever in that dread place of torment, “where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched”? Pity the poor sheep until the shepherd finds it, for its condition is most sad! And, poor unconverted Sinner, we would also pity you until the Savior finds you, for your state is terribly sad, too.
Now I turn to the second question–Where is the Shepherd until He finds the wandering sheep? Ah, Brothers andSisters, you know well enough where He is! He is seeking His sheep which is lost and He will keep on seeking until He finds it. He is very skillful in following the tracks of the wanderer, just as some shepherds seem to be able to train their sheep almost as a bloodhound will follow a trail. It is wonderful how Christ follows the track of some people. I have known them go from place to place, yet the Good Shepherd has never been far away from them. When they were children, He sought them in the hymns they learned, in their teachers' earnest admonitions, in their mother’s entreaties and their father’s prayers. When they became young men and young women and shook off their former instructors, the Good Shepherd still followed them by many a helpful book and many a holy remembrance which they could not shake off. When they went into business–and neglected the Sabbath and forsook the house of God–the Good Shepherd still tracked them by affliction, by Christian neighbors, by the very sound of the church bell, by the death of old companions and in a hundred other ways.
It may be that some went off to America, or Canada in the hope of escaping from the influences of religion, but it was no use. You remember the backwoodsman who had begun to make a log hut and had not finished before up rode a Methodist minister with his saddlebags? With an oath the settler said, “Why, I have moved a dozen times to get away from you fellows, but wherever I move, one of you is sure to come to me.” “Yes,” said the good man, “and wherever you go, you will find us. If you go to Heaven, you will find us there. And if you go to Hell,” he added, “I am afraid that you will find some Methodist preachers even there. You had better give in, for we shall always be after you.” If you are really one of Christ’s sheep, something of this sort will happen to you and, wherever you may wander, you will find Christ is still after you! If you go to the uttermost parts of the earth, He will follow you. If you land at some far distant port where you think you may indulge without restraint in vice, even there the Divine Love of Christ will nurse you. I know one who now preaches the Gospel, who was on board a ship at Shanghai and, that very night, a Prayer Meeting was being held in the College on his behalf, as his brother was one of our students. And while they were praying, the Lord struck him down, turned him from his sins almost without any visible instrument–and he returned home and confessed his faith in Christ! The Lord Jesus is well acquainted with sinners' tracks and He will pursue them until He finds them!
Notice what blessed perseverance the shepherd manifests–“Until he finds it.” There is the wandering sheep, toiling up that steep hill. So up that hill goes the shepherd. Why does he climb like that? Because the sheep has gone that way and he must follow it till he finds it. Now it has gone down the other side and across that green morass where, if a man should slip, he might sink and lose his life. Yes, but the shepherd will go after that wandering one till he finds it. Day after day, from the rising to the setting of the sun and all through the night, nothing can stop the shepherd’s feet until he has his sheep that was lost, safe upon his shoulders! And how blessed is the perseverance of the Savior that He will not take our rejection as a final refusal, but still gives us fresh proclamations and invitations of Grace! Again and again He sends out His servants to bid the sinner come to the Gospel feast–not only on the Sabbath, but on week-days as well, the voice of Wisdom cries aloud, “Turn in here and feast upon the bounteous provision of redeeming love.” There are none so persevering as Christ is–“He shall not fail nor be discouraged,” but shall press on in His earnest search for His lost sheep until He finds it!
A man who is seeking lost sheep must display great wisdom because it is very difficult to find the tracks of the sheep. And the Divine wisdom which was displayed when some of us were brought to God will cause us everlasting wonderment! It is a marvelous thing that sometimes a man’s sin, though it looks as though it must damn him, has been part of the very means by which he has obtained salvation. I knew one who never recollected having told a lie until, upon a certain occasion, he was caught unaware and said what was untrue. And then he was covered with such shame and confusion of face that he saw all his boasted self-righteousness melt away and he went and humbled himself before God and so found peace and pardon! Some have allied themselves to evil companions who seemed likely to lead them further into sin, yet, before long, those very companions have been converted and have been the means of leading them to the Savior! Christ will have His sheep, somehow or other. He will lay hold of them and if they will not be brought in one way, they shall be in another! Some have been found by Him in the darkest dens of infamy. His all-piercing eyes have been able to see them even there. Some have been won by gentleness and kindness–others by terror and distress. But, in one way or another, with wondrous perseverance, Jesus seeks the lost until He finds them! And He will never give up the search until the last of His wandering sheep is brought back to the fold.
Where is the Good Shepherd until He finds His sheep? Why, He is in a state of discontent, with yearning heart and troubled brow. If you say to Him, “Good Shepherd, why did You not go home to Your Father when first the Jews sought to stone You? Why did you not ascend in splendor from amidst the ungodly throng?” He will tell you that He could not give up seeking His sheep till He found them by redemption and that now He must still continue yearning over sinners until He finds them. Do you not sympathize with Him in this feeling? If you are a true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, you cannot be at ease while souls are being lost! I fear that it would not matter in the least to some professors whether a whole nation was lost or saved! They would be just as comfortable, whatever happened. But they who have the spirit of Christ and are in sympathy with Him, have hearts of compassion so that the loss of any one sinner fills them with dismay–and the penitence of any one sinner makes their heart rejoice with exceeding joy! May we always cultivate that spirit!
II. But now I must turn to THE BRIGHT SIDE OF THAT LANDMARK, “UNTIL.” I am going to ask the same questions as before, but will put the second first and the first second.
First, then, where is the Shepherd when He finds His sheep? I can answer this question, for I remember where He waswhen He found me. The first sight I had of Him was a very vivid one. Where was He then? Well, He was just where I was! The sheep and the Shepherd stood together–but Christ was where I ought to have been by reason of my sin. Christ was accursed because I was cursed by my sin. Christ was made sin because I was a sinner, that I might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Oh, what a sight was that–Christ in my place! I have preached about it many years, yet it always makes me wonder just as it did at the first. What an overwhelming thought it seemed, and yet how full of joy! O poor Soul, if you would have a true sight of Christ, see Him suffering, dying, forsaken of His God and full of agony because the chastisement of your peace was upon Him!
The Shepherd was also standing over the lost sheep–not merely near it, but looking down upon it. How pleased, how delighted, He was to have found His sheep which was lost! Well do I remember when I saw my Lord looking down upon me with eyes of unspeakable love. I could hardly believe He could ever have loved me so–it seemed to be almost incredible! What could He see in me to love–a poor sheep with torn fleece, footsore and weary–and not worth the trouble He had taken to find me? When a queen picks up a pin, it is nothing in comparison with Christ taking me up and caring for me! For some great emperor to fall in love with a milkmaid may not be anything amazing, for she may have as sweet a face as ever graced any empress, but as for us sinners, there is no beauty in us that Christ should desire us! By nature, we were full of evil and by practice, too, we became even worse–yet Jesus loved us and, as a shepherd rejoices over the wandering sheep that he finds and brings home, or as a father rejoices over his lost child whom he has found, or as a young man rejoices over his bride, so did the Lord Jesus rejoice over us when He found us–
And all through the mountains
And up from the rocky steep,
There arose a cry to the gate of Heaven
Rejoice! I have found My sheep!'
And the angels echoed around the Throne,
Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!‘"
We also saw Him, at that time, as bearing the marks of the toil and travail which He had endured on our behalf. There are the tokens on the shepherd’s face, and on the shepherd’s hands and on the shepherd’s garments, of the rough way that he has trodden. If the sheep could but know, it might read, in the very look of him, the price that he had to pay for its recovery. And so, dear Friends, was it with us when Jesus saved us. We looked up and saw Him with His face stained with the spit of men, His head encircled by the crown of thorns, His body covered with the bloody sweat and His hands, and feet, and side all pierced! And as we looked, we loved Him because He had first loved us, and loved us so wondrously!
One thing more about the shepherd when he found the lost sheep, he was grasping it, for I guarantee you that there was not a moment between his getting near it and his grasping it. “No, no,” he seemed to say, “you will not get away from me again. I have caught you, and I will hold you fast.” Do we not remember the grip that Christ gave us when He first found us? We were apprehended by Him whom we now have apprehended. We were held fast by Him whom now we hold fast by faith and love. We felt, then, as if a strange power had seized us–not that we resisted it, for we rejoiced in it. We were led, with full consent against our own will–that is, against our old will–but with a new will which we felt put within us by that blessed hand which had laid hold of us and which would not let us go!
But where was the sheep when the shepherd found it? Why there was but an instant and the sheep was on the shoulders of the shepherd! And what does that indicate but that when Christ finds me, then He bears me and all that is upon me, upon His shoulders–all my diseases, all my sin, and all my sorrows are laid upon Him! We rightly sing–
I lay my sins on Jesus,“but I think we ought also to sing–All that I am, and all that I have, all is there! Of Benjamin, Moses said, "The Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between His shoulders.” That is where we are, between the shoulders of the Divine Shepherd of souls! Christ underneath us bearing all our weight–the weight of sin, the weight of sorrow, doubt, fear, and care and whatever else there may be upon us.
What about the sheep now? Well, it is resting–not as it will rest, by-and-by, when it will lie in the Shepherd’s bosom in yet sweeter fellowship, but, even now it is resting. It has not to carry itself back to the fold. It is a long way, but neither the Shepherd nor the sheep will get weary. It is a toilsome way, full of dangers, but those boils and dangers are for the Shepherd rather than for the sheep. We are right in singing–
‘Safe in the arms of Jesus"for now that He has found us, we are under His protection. No wolf can come near us now, or, if he did, he would be quite unable to hurt us. The sheep that is found is perfectly secure in the Good Shepherd’s grip. It could not stray away even if it could. If it struggled to get free, He would grip it all the more firmly. So, Beloved, was it with us–when Christ took us on His shoulders, He held us fast and He will not let us go.
On whose shoulders was the sheep? It was on the shoulders of the rejoicing one who had found it and you and I belong to the Christ who is glad to find us! I wonder which was the happier of the two, in the feast, when the younger son came home–the son or the father? I think the father was and, certainly, of the shepherd and the sheep, the shepherd was the happier–and yet the sheep, in being found, must have participated in the shepherd’s joy. Do you not remember how, when you were saved, you nestled down under the wings of the Eternal? I love to see the little chicks beneath the feathers of the hen, peeping out with such sweet contentment and a sense of perfect security expressed in their twinkling eyes. Had they been away from their mother’s wings, they would have been afraid, but, under their mother’s protection, they did not seem at all alarmed. So have I cowered down beneath the wings of God, trusting to that blessed promise, “He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings shall you trust.” O Beloved, it is a blessed thing to know that we are held in the grip of a strong Christ, with great joy in His heart which is the proof of the value that He sets upon us, and the love which He bears towards us!
So you see that there is a great deal in these four words, “until he finds it.” Where are you now, my Friend? Are you still lost? What a joy it is to think that the Good Shepherd is still seeking lost sheep! But, if you have seen Christ near you, oh, that you may, by His Grace, this very hour, be caught up by His pierced hands and laid upon His everlasting shoulders and so be carried to the heavenly fold! The Lord grant it! This is what you need and what you must have if you are really to be saved. You must be “saved in the Lord.” Christ Jesus must save you–it must be by His blessed hands and His almighty power that you must be rescued from danger and saved from going down to the Pit. May He soon find all of you who are lost and carry you on His shoulders all the way to the eternal fold above, for His dear names sake! Amen.