New Understanding of the Parable of the Lost Sheep
“How think you? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, does he not leave the ninety and nine, and goes into the mountains, and seeks that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, truly I say to you, he rejoices more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:12–14). The brothers and sisters were reading this passage of scripture in chorus.
Then a knocking sound on the door interrupted their reading. Liu Qing opened the door and saw it was Sister Wen Fang who came to visit her from another place. She welcomed her into the house, and then they continued to study the Bible together.
Liu Qing held the Bible in her hands, saying, “Brothers and sisters, I believe that we are all very familiar with the parable of the lost sheep, through which the Lord Jesus conveyed God’s love for us vividly and we can feel His true heart of saving man. When we encounter frustrations and lose our faith in God, we always use this parable to encourage ourselves: Regardless of whatever God does, He loves us, and we should be firm and unwavering in following the Lord Jesus.”
“Amen!” everybody said in unison.
Liu Qing then said, “Whoever has any enlightenment and illumination about these verses can have a fellowship.” Seeing none speak, Liu Qing turned around to look at Wen Fang and asked, “Sister Wen, do you have any understanding about these verses?”
Wen Fang sincerely said, “I agree with what you communed just now. This metaphor indeed has been inspiring each of us believers in the Lord all along. The Lord compared us to the sheep that He wanted to find, and we often feel lucky and joyful for this. However, besides the love of God for man, what other profound meanings can we understand from this metaphor?”
“Other profound meanings?” asked Liu Qing confusedly. “Wen Fang, do you have any new understanding? Please communicate it with us!”
“Yeah,” other brothers and sisters said simultaneously. “Sister Wen, please share your understanding with us.”
Wen Fang nodded and said, “Several days ago, a sister gave me a book, in which I saw the fellowship about this verse of scripture, which was something I had never appreciated before. After reading these words, I benefited a lot and had a new knowledge of God’s will. It just so happens that I have brought that book with me today. Let’s have a look at what it says.”
Everybody agreed to it happily.
Wen Fang read carefully, “The way this metaphor is expressed utilizes a figure of speech in human language; it’s something within the scope of human knowledge. If God had said something similar in the Age of Law, people would have felt that it wasn’t really consistent with who God was, but when the Son of man delivered this passage in the Age of Grace, it felt comforting, warm, and intimate to people. When God became flesh, when He appeared in the form of a man, He used a very appropriate metaphor to express the voice of His heart in humanity. This voice represented God’s own voice and the work He wanted to do in that age. It also represented an attitude that God had toward people in the Age of Grace. Looking from the perspective of God’s attitude toward people, He compared each person to a sheep. If a sheep is lost, He will do whatever it takes to find it. This represents a principle of God’s work among mankind this time in the flesh. God used this parable to describe His resolve and attitude in that work. This was the advantage of God becoming flesh: He could take advantage of mankind’s knowledge and use human language to speak to people, to express His will. He explained or ‘translated’ to man His profound, divine language that people struggled to understand in human language, in a human way. This helped people understand His will and know what He wanted to do. He could also have conversations with people from the human perspective, using human language, and communicate with people in a way they understood. He could even speak and work using human language and knowledge so that people could feel God’s kindness and closeness, so that they could see His heart” (God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself III).
After finishing reading, Wen Fang fellowshiped with a pleased expression on her face, “When I read this passage, I felt very excited. I realized that through this parable we not only could know the unselfishness of God’s love and salvation for us but also could see the advantage of God working in the flesh. Only when God incarnate comes to the earth as the Son of man, and draws analogies that we often see, feel and easily comprehend in our life, can we better understand God’s love and requirements for us mankind as well as what He has and is and His disposition, and thus no longer believe in the vague God. Furthermore, this brings us closer to God and allows us to truly feel the kindness and closeness of God. All these effects are what the work of the Spirit cannot achieve. Take the parable of the lost sheep as an example; through it, God expressed His will of saving mankind, so that we can comprehend God’s heart of loving mankind and see His resolve and attitude in saving mankind as well as His disposition of love and compassion. In order to seek the lost sheep, God will do whatever it takes, and He will never cease His work until it is completed. If God had not become flesh to tell us these personally, we would have never understood this point.”
Liu Qing said joyfully, “Your fellowship today is really full of light, which indeed makes us better understand the necessity of the work of God incarnate. God works and speaks among people in person, using the language we can comprehend to lead us to understand His intentions. God’s incarnation is really of the utmost importance for us.”
Sister Chen gladly said, “Thank the Lord! I’ve really gained a lot in the meeting today. Before, when I read this passage of scripture, I never viewed it from the perspective of the significance of God working in the flesh.”
“Yeah,” said Brother Wang. “We lack too much in the aspect of knowing God. We only know how to enjoy God’s grace and blessings, but have never pondered what God’s will is behind every word He speaks and everything He does, much less do we know why God became flesh. In the past, I only knew that God’s incarnation was to redeem mankind on the cross, but never thought that it was also for the sake of speaking to us in human language and helping us understand His intentions better. God is really considerate toward us!”
“I agree with you, Brother Wang,” said Sister Zheng. “In the past, we only knew that God is the God who loves man, but our understanding of the real expressions of God’s loving man was too one-sided. Sister Wen’s communing it in this manner today really helps us have a deeper understanding of God’s love. Only God can reveal such kind of love. Thank God! The fellowship today is really enlightening.”
Liu Qing read the scripture carefully and then looked up at Wen Fang, asking, “The Lord Jesus said, ‘Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish’ (Matthew 18:14). So what then is the Lord’s will in speaking these words?”
Wen Fang opened the book, replying, “This is also a crucial question concerning knowing God and there is a clear fellowship about this verse in the book as well.”
“Let me read it,” Liu Qing said eagerly.
Wen Fang passed the book to Liu Qing happily, and then she read, “Let’s take another look at the last sentence in this passage: ‘Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.’ Was this the Lord Jesus’ own words, or the words of His Father in heaven? On the surface, it looks like it’s the Lord Jesus who is speaking, but His will represents the will of God Himself, which is why He said: ‘Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.’ People at that time only acknowledged the Father in heaven as God, and this person that they saw in front of their eyes was merely sent by Him, and He could not represent the Father in heaven. That’s why the Lord Jesus had to say that as well, so that they could really feel God’s will for mankind, and feel the authenticity and the accuracy of what He said. Even though this was a simple thing to say, it was very caring and it revealed the Lord Jesus’ humility and hiddenness. No matter whether God became flesh or He worked in the spiritual realm, He knew the human heart best, and best understood what people needed, knew what people worried about, and what confused them, so He added this one line. This line highlighted a problem hidden in mankind: People were skeptical of what the Son of man said, which is to say, when the Lord Jesus was speaking He had to add: ‘Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.’ Only on this premise could His words bear fruit, to make people believe their accuracy and improve their credibility. This shows that when God became a regular Son of man, God and mankind had a very awkward relationship, and that the Son of man’s situation was very embarrassing. It also shows how insignificant the Lord Jesus’ status among humans was at that time. When He said this, it was actually to tell people: You can rest assured — this doesn’t represent what’s in My own heart, but it is the will of the God who is in your hearts. For mankind, wasn’t this an ironic thing? Even though God working in the flesh had many advantages that He did not have in His person, He had to withstand their doubts and rejection as well as their numbness and dullness. It could be said that the process of the work of the Son of man was the process of experiencing mankind’s rejection, and the process of experiencing mankind competing against Him. More than that, it was the process of working to continuously win mankind’s trust and conquer mankind through what He has and is, through His own essence. It was not so much that God incarnate was waging an on-the-ground war against Satan; it was more that God became an ordinary man and began a struggle with those who follow Him, and in this struggle the Son of man completed His work with His humility, with what He has and is, with His love and wisdom. He obtained the people He wanted, won the identity and status He deserved, and returned to His throne” (God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself III).
After reading this passage, Wen Fang fellowshiped, “These words directly pointed out our true situation, and I was greatly touched. We only believe in God in heaven, the vague God in our imagination, but don’t at all have real knowledge or faith toward God in the flesh. We’re just like Philip, who followed the Lord Jesus but didn’t completely acknowledge that He was God Himself; he once said to the Lord Jesus, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it suffices us’ (John 14:8). God knew that we didn’t know Christ and didn’t acknowledge that Christ was God Himself, so He added: ‘Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven’ after saying the metaphor. This was to make people at that time believe that these words were from the Father in heaven, so that they could accept what the Lord Jesus said more easily. God is always considerate of our weakness no matter how foolish and ignorant we are. He considers us in all aspects and speaks to us in the way we can accept, in order that we can believe in and follow Him. It can be seen that God is too humble and hidden and that His desire to save man is so sincere.”
Liu Qing continued, “Your communication reminds me of what is recorded in the Bible: When the Lord Jesus performed His work, He spoke so many words and did so many signs and wonders. The Jewish people at that time had seen the authority and power in the words and work of the Lord Jesus, but they didn’t acknowledge or accept Him as God Himself; rather, they used ‘the son of a carpenter’ and ‘a Nazarene’ to define His identity. The Lord Jesus is the supreme God Himself. He walked among people, working and speaking to guide them, yet had to withstand their misunderstandings, ridicule and slander. However, the Lord Jesus endured all these silently, and in the end, He accomplished the work of crucifixion to redeem all mankind. After listening to the passage of words we read just then and your fellowship, I come to understand that the incarnate Son of man and the Father in heaven are one, so we can’t doubt the identity and status of God incarnate for His humility.”
Brother Wang said significantly, “It turns out that while God was working in the flesh, He also withstood mankind’s suspicions and guards against Him. However, God did not condemn man because of this, but still worked to save man. Who but God can be so tolerant and merciful toward human beings who are full of disobedience to Him?”
Sister Zheng said, “I gain a deeper knowledge of God through the fellowship today, and meanwhile I feel ashamed of my little faith.”
Liu Qing echoed, “It’s true. Especially when I saw the words ‘Even though God working in the flesh had many advantages that He did not have in His person, He had to withstand their doubts and rejection as well as their numbness and dullness. It could be said that the process of the work of the Son of man was the process of experiencing mankind’s rejection, and the process of experiencing mankind competing against Him. More than that, it was the process of working to continuously win mankind’s trust and conquer mankind through what He has and is, through His own essence,’ I felt God’s love for us is so great. At the same time as saving us humans, He also bears our rejection. Nonetheless, God still forgives and pardons our transgressions with His loving and compassionate disposition, waiting for us to turn back. We such corrupt mankind are really unworthy of God expending such efforts and price to do the work and save us. Only by pursuing the truth and pursuing to know God can we clear up our misunderstandings about and guarding against God.”
Wen Fang said agreeably, “What you said is right. If we know God, then we can resolve the problem of resisting against God. The earliest Pharisees didn’t know God and thus condemned the Lord Jesus merely by several verses of scripture. If we want to avoid walking the old way of the Pharisees, we must put effort into knowing God and have a cautious and prudent heart in everything; especially in the matter of how to treat God, we must not act based upon our conceptions and imaginations.”
Liu Qing nodded. She looked at the book in her hands and could hardly tear herself away from it. Suddenly she seemed to have thought of something and said to Wen Fang, “Could you leave this book to me? I feel it tells us how to know God, which is just what we lack. If we have knowledge of God, we will not oppose Him relying on our conceptions and imaginations.”
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