And he spoke this parable to them, saying,…
I. NOTICE THE PICTURE THESE PARABLES PRESENT OF THE ORIGINAL PLAN AND ESTATE OF THE UNIVERSE. There was once a time when God was pleased with all that He had made, and when all His creatures were happy m Him. The universe was once one blessed flock, with the Lord as their Shepherd, all blessed in those sequestered realms which knew no blight or tumult of sinful disorder, and where everything was pervaded with innocence, tranquillity, and peace. A wilderness is not necessarily a desolate and empty place. Any wide, grassy plain, hidden away from the common world, and undisturbed in its quiet, would satisfy the Scriptural use of the word. Such were the favourite pasture-grounds of the Orientals, and such was the universe of holy beings ere sin had made its disturbing inroads upon it. The starry plains were peopled only with unfallen creatures, secure, tranquil, and joyous in the smiles of their Maker. All rational beings were but one flock, and their shepherd was God. And the condition of man answered to this picture. He was as a new piece of silver, bright, precious, and bearing upon him the image and superscription of the Almighty. There was no darkness in his understanding, no perverseness in his heart, no fears, no regrets, no sighs, no pains, no dimness.
II. BUT THIS BEAUTIFUL SCENE WAS SOON SUCCEEDED BY ANOTHER. A cloud arose upon the sweet morning of our world. One of the happy flock disappeared from its fellowship with its comrades. It was lost; wide-wandering from the Lord, in a world that smoked with curses and wretchedness.
III. NOTICE, THEN, THE MOVEMENTS OF DIVINE COMPASSION FOR THE RECOVERY OF THE LOST. There was but one of a hundred gone. Ninety-and-nine remained. But precious in the eye of God is even one soul. It is a jewel capable of adding to the glory and grandeur of heaven. It is a radiant and living offshoot of Deity, capacitated to live and shine though stars should languish and expire. Though abused, prostituted, starved, and ruined by sin, it may still be made a part of the immortal intellect, heart and life of the universe. And its calamities are not of such a sort but that infinite Wisdom and Goodness has resources by which God can be just, and yet receive it again into His favour, the more interesting for ever because of this disaster. A plan of operation for its recovery has accordingly been instituted. And wonderful are the steps of the heavenly expedient. The Shepherd Himself goes after the lost sheep. He does not merely send servants to find it. He comes Himself. In this going forth is involved the incarnation and earthly life of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His whole providence in the Church, and through His word and sacraments. Or, to use the other figure, He lighteth a candle and personally searches every dark corner that He may come upon the lost piece which cannot help itself. This candle is the illuminating Word, which He causeth to shine around and upon us; and the sweeping which He does is the stir of His providence and Spirit, moving to touch the hearts of the unfortunate lost. In paradise already this candle was lit, when God gave promise of a coming Saviour; and all through and in His Church, in every age, this sweeping has been going on, and always for the finding of souls, and the bringing of them to light and salvation. With a thousand influences He plies men. He sends them the Word of His gospel. He stirs about their dark resting-places. He disturbs their guilty repose. He deprives them of their impure attachments. He makes them realize the evil and bitterness of departing from God. He takes hold upon them by the powers of His grace. He taketh up every willing one, to strengthen him with His help, and to beautify him with the sanctification of His Spirit.
IV. NOTICE ALSO THE RESULT. The lost sheep is restored. The piece of silver is recovered. Or, exchanging the imagery of the parables for literal terms, the sinner is completely changed — returned from his alienated and lost condition — made a true penitent. This is the direct object of all the arrangements and ministrations of grace.
V. AND WHEREVER THIS OCCURS THERE IS JOY. It is the end of gracious interference achieved. It is the fruit of the travail of the Saviour's soul realized. It is the aim of God's most wonderful works accomplished. And everything is full of gladness. "There is joy in heaven"; and the implication is that it is joy throughout heaven, from centre to circumference — joy on the throne, and joy in those who serve under it — joy in the heart of God, and among all the hosts of God — joy for Christ's sake, for the penitent's sake, for heaven's sake — joy that a broken link has been repaired in the holy creation of God — joy that another precious jewel has been added to the crown of redeeming love — joy that there is born another tenant for the mansions of glory — joy that another symptom has transpired of the ultimate recovery of all the downtrodden fields of creation which sin has overrun.
(J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he spake this parable unto them, saying,