Reaching out to the Lost
A distinctive feature of Yeshua`’s ministry was his willingness to seek out the outcasts of society, the ones that were forgotten and neglected by traditional religion – the lost sheep of Israel. Modern religion has tended to abuse this by using people’s vulnerability to attract followers, but Yeshua` met the lost at their point of need. He didn’t go to the poor and destitute and say, ‘Believe in me or I cannot save you’. He gave without any want of return.
The ‘lost sheep’ in the writings of the Hebrew Prophets
The prophet Jeremiah spoke of Israel as YHVH’s lost sheep when they erred from His ways:
My people have become lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place. Whoever found them devoured them; their enemies said, ‘We are not guilty, for they strayed from YHVH, their true pasture; YHVH, the hope of their ancestors.’ (50:6-7)
In this we see that the leaders of the people, God’s appointed shepherds, are blamed for leading His people astray.
The prophet Ezekiel speaks of YHVH looking for his lost sheep (Ezek 34:1-5, 11-16):
O mortal man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what Sovereign YHVH says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals.
This is what Sovereign YHVH says:
I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.
I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and make them lie down, declares Sovereign YHVH. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, and the sleek and the strong I will guard. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
YHVH, time and time again, is pictured as the shepherd of His flock. His directs His righteous anger against those who have led Israel astray, and proclaims that He Himself will look for the lost sheep of Israel. A good shepherd will not abandon even one lamb; wherever His children are, YHVH will go looking for them.
Yeshua`’s mission to look for the lost sheep of Israel
As a prophet of YHVH, Yeshua` was sent to look for the lost sheep of Israel. He told his appointed emissaries to ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, nor enter any town of the Samaritans, rather hurry to the lost sheep of Israel.’ (S.Yesh 63:5).
Yeshua`’s personal mission, and those of his followers during his lifetime, was specifically to Israel. However, after his death, the calling of his followers led them to reach out to Gentiles.
So who were the lost sheep? They were those who had become disillusioned by religion either because of the actions of unjust, selfish leaders, or because their poverty and suffering had caused them to lose hope; they were those who saw no way back to YHVH; and they were those who felt their sins were so great, that God would never forgive them and give them a second chance.
The mission of modern Talmidis to go to lost sheep of humanity
There are people today, both Jewish and Gentile, who have become disillusioned with religion. They have abandoned God, because so-called religious people have abused religion and misrepresented God.
Among Jews in Israel for example, the majority of the population are secular. When the country is undergoing trial, for example because of outside attacks, people are tempted to think, ‘Why should I be religious? Why should I believe in a God who lets this happen?’ We need to reach such people, not to convert them to Talmidaism, but to remind them of what God has promised us, to protect us, to help us against our enemies, and finally to triumph over them.
Among non-Jews, modern religion has abused human spirituality so that their Heavenly Father is viewed as a tyrant and a despot, instead of someone who cares deeply for them. These people have been given a false, warped image of the religion of Israel, and of the God of Israel – who is also God of all the nations. These people we need to reach so that they find spiritual peace, and reconciliation with their own spirituality.
There is a cautionary note here. When YHVH goes looking for His sheep, he does not place any conditions on finding them. He does not say, ‘Come out, come out wherever you are, I will rescue you if you believe in me!” He goes out instead without precondition, and that is how we should be. There are people today who erroneously think that the meaning of ‘lost sheep’ is ‘non-believer’, and that the meaning of ‘finding lost sheep’ is to convert such people to their religion; and when the ‘lost one’ converts, they rejoice that ‘the lost has been been found’. Rather, they should rejoice when the lost have their hope renewed, and are reconciled with their heavenly Father.
We should reach out to people in spiritual need, and minister to them, without the precondition of expecting them to become Talmidis. Other Jews need to have their hope renewed in their place in the world, and in our people’s mission to humanity, and non-Jews need to have their hope renewed in their personal missions within God’s kingdom.