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I Have Gone Astray Like a Lost Sheep

My wife and I recently read through Psalm 119. I love this Psalm. It exalts God's word greatly. It has been called "a string of pearls" and the greatest of all of the psalms. It is wonderful.

The following are just a few of the verses that thrill my soul:


Vs. 20: My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times.


Vs. 33: Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.


Vs. 99: I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.


Vs. 101: I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word.


It appears to me that it would be impossible for a child of God to read Psalm 119 and not recognize that this psalmist had a burning desire in his heart for God's word, and that he lived this out. This was no shallow man. He sought out God's will with his whole heart and was determined to follow it. But while reading the psalm this time my attention was drawn to other things about this man - a common thread runs through this psalm that I hadn't recognized before: a profound awareness of personal weakness and need. The very last verse really made me pause and think deeply:


Vs. 176: I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.


How is it that the man who said that he had refrained his feet from every evil way ended this psalm with the statement that he had gone astray like a lost sheep? (It is instructive to realize that the final statement in a psalm has a place of prominence.) For those who have the same earnest desire to follow God that this man did, the answer is simple. The closer that a child of God walks with God the more he is aware of his own dependence upon God and is sensitive to the fact that it is so very easy to go astray. And then I wondered why the psalmist, after admitting that he had gone astray, asked God to seek him, rather than simply declaring that he was on his way back. A sheep that goes astray may lose all sense of direction, may become entangled in brambles, may become injured or sick, or encounter other difficulties. In these conditions the sheep might do best to simply start bleating so that the shepard will be able to find him. How grateful those of us who are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb ought to be that God answers the kind of prayer that was prayed in verse 176 above.


I heard of a missionary who returned to the United States after God had used him in a foreign land. When he rose in a church to speak of God's work, he was given a standing ovation. It became obvious that he was embarrassed and pained by this as he said "I am only a little servant of a great God."


Joseph had this same attitude when Pharaoh sought his help:

"And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it. And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace."

(Genesis 41: 15-16)


The Apostle Paul was a man cut out of the same cloth as the one who wrote Psalm 119, for he said the following as recorded in Romans 7: 21-25:

"I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."


As Paul points out this is a war that will continue as long as we live in this body. But we can thank God that this war will one day be won by him. Not only that, but when we recognize our condition daily and ask God to seek us and bring us back as we go astray, these daily battles can be won and we can become better servants through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Someone once said "When we are transparent others can see God through us". We can put a stumbling block in the path of our brethren when we claim to be someone other than who we really are, as God has revealed in his word. I thank God that he has revealed that his servants in times past fought the same battles that we fight today and went astray in times past just as we can go astray today.


May we be like the faithful psalmist who recognized his need.

May we be willing to admit that our nature is to go astray.

May we cry out to God to seek us when we do go astray.

May we ever be thankful that the Shepherd hears and answers our cry.

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