The Shepherd’s Lambs
“He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom.”—Isaiah 40:11.
THE PEOPLE OF GOD are most fitly compared to sheep. The excellencies of their moral and spiritual character furnish one side of the picture, for like sheep they are gentle in their lives, and are well accepted, whether living or dying, as a sacrifice unto God; their frailties and weaknesses complete the likeness, for they are prone to wander—full of wants, powerless in self-defence, and ill able to escape from their enemies by rapid flight.
No creature has less power to take care of itself than the sheep; even the tiny ant with its foresight can provide for the evil day, but the poor sheep must be tended by man or else perish. Such are the people of God—timid, weak, defenceless, unable to provide for themselves, and compelled to depend for everything upon him whose name is, “That great Shepherd of the sheep.”
A title found in Hebrews 13:20
As the people of God individually are comparable to sheep, so the Church as a whole finds a very fitting likeness to a flock. A flock is many. Varieties of character, of state, of age, of condition, are always to be found in any flock. Yet, while many, it is but one. One in association: they journey or lie down together, in the same pasture they rest, beside the same drinking waters they are led. They are one in nature: they are equally sheep, and, however much they may differ, their diversity is not half so great as their agreement. Any two believers may greatly differ; but only let me be sure that they are both sheep of the Lord’s pasture and I will find ten points of likeness to any one of difference. They are one, moreover, in property—they are the property of one owner, being bought with one price in one great transaction, with their one great Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep. John 10:11
In all flocks, unless they be cursed by barrenness, there will be lambs, and these will make up a very important part of the community. In all healthy Churches, those believers who are comparable to lambs, make up the major part; It is, therefore, with great delight we find our gracious Lord executing the office of Shepherd in an especially tender manner towards the lambs. We read “He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom.” Today then, Firstly
let me describe the lambs; secondly, let me express my fears about them; thirdly, let us rejoice in the care of the great Shepherd over them;
First, LET ME ENDEAVOR TO DESCRIBE THE LAMBS. Our first word concerning them is, that they are truly sheep. They are not sheep in maturity, but they are sheep to a certainty. Leave them to their good Shepherd’s care, let them continue to lie down in the green pastures and feed beside the still waters, and they will become as fully developed as any ewes of the flock. It is true that not a bone in them is of full size, nor a muscle of its full strength; still, who would dare to exclude them from the fold?
Just so, the new-born convert is possessed of the true nature and life of faith, even as the life of a baby is the same life as that which is found in perfection in the full-grown man. Every member is there, but it is in miniature; the vital processes are the same, although on a smaller scale; indeed, the whole man is in the child, and so the whole life of God is in the feeblest believer.
If you will notice the ways of a sheep, you shall see them more or less distinctly in every one of the lambs. If I see any man injuring his mates, tearing, rending, fighting, quarrelling—if I see him bullying and proud—I discern at once that he is no sheep of Gods flock; for this is the mark of the Lord’s people, that when reviled, they revile not again. The sheep goes further than the non-inflicting of evil, it bears evil without complaint; they are led to the slaughter and they are silent; they are thrown down by the Shearer but they are dumb. The extraordinary patience of the sheep is seen in God’s people when they joyfully endure the weight of some affliction, and pass through the valley of death with composure. Whether it be to the knife of death or to the shears of the persecutors, the faithful is just as patient, and the lambs of the flock are the same.
Sheep, again, are clean creatures—clean in their feeding—clean in their habits. The Sow may revel in her wallowing in the mire, but the sheep loves the green pastures, and if it soil itself it is not long till it has cleaned itself as best it may. So God’s people are holy, and if not they long for holiness.
They pant to be perfect in their obedience to God, and sigh and cry when they find by daily experience that the flesh lusts to evil, and that the tendency of their heart is to go astray. Furthermore, the sheep is bitter-less. You see the Lion creeping through the bushes full of cunning; but sheep have none. “Poor, simple sheep,” we say; and God’s people are a simple people. Those who are crafty and cunning, possess very little of the spirit of Jesus. The lambs bear this character as well as the sheep; they, too know no bitterness. Again, the sheep are obedient and trusting. When a man tames a Lion so that he may sport with it, he gets the name of lion-tamer; nobody is famous for taming a sheep, for it has a tactile and trusting disposition, and so all the elect of God, when they have been saved by divine grace, have an obedient and yielding spirit. They are willing to follow their great Protector at his will. “Not my will, but thine be done,” is the constant bleat of every sheep and every lamb of the flock,
when it is in a right state of heart. The lambs, then, are truly sheep in all these essential points.
Do not forget, that the lambs are truly CHRIST’S sheep. They are as dearly bought with his blood; they are as surely objects of his care; they are as manifestly illustrations of his power; they shall be certainly proofs of his faithfulness, as the strongest of the flock. When you look upon a child of God who has only known his Lord for only a few days, you must not despise him, for he is as dear to the Saviour’s heart as the most advanced believer is! He was as much loved in the past eternity as you were, and will be as much loved in the eternity to come as you can be.
Some may ask: “but if they be truly sheep, and truly Christ’s sheep, why are they lambs, and in what are they distinguished?” Some of them are lambs for age, though not all; for there are some young Christians who are full grown, and there are others very old, who remain as lambs still. Growth in grace does not coincide with progress in natural maturity. The distinguishing mark lies rather in spiritual deficiencies—they are but children in knowledge.
Many in the Church do not as yet understand the loftier doctrines of revelation. They know Christ; they know themselves, but they cannot “comprehend with all saints what are the lengths and breadths.” As yet they have not taken finals in Christ’s School. They sit at his feet with Mary, but they have not come to lean their heads upon his bosom with John. Some doctrines greatly puzzle them. They are the subjects of many doubts and fears, under such they wouldn’t suffer if they knew more. They are easily put out by those who oppose them against the Word of God because they are not established in what they know. The arguments which prove a doctrine they have not yet handled. They believe, but scarcely know why they believe, and in this respect they are but lambs of the flock.
They are immature also in experience. They know that they have an evil heart, but they have not yet felt all its evil —Their heavy trials are yet to come. They have not yet felt the foot of Satan upon their necks in the valley of humiliation, nor have they walked the dark places of the Valley of Deaths shadow. They have not tried and proved this wicked world, they are consequently too trustful of men. They are shallow in the inner life, their experience is only up to their ankles; they have not yet learned to swim in the stream. Their little boats keep near the shore, they have not sailed the great and deep seas; they are raw recruits in the army, and have not yet seen the garments rolled in blood.
So are they lambs in tenderness of feeling. They can hardly pray in public. If they were asked to say a few words even to five or six children in a Sunday-school class, they would quake for fear. It will be some time before they can be compared to lions for boldness; they have need of more grace. They are poor timid lambs still.
Everything is there; but it is feeble. Their faith is yet a sapling and not a tree; their love is a spark, not a fire; their hope is a fledgling and not a full-grown bird. We look upon these as lambs, needing as they do so much of the gathering arm, and the nourishing bosom of the great Bishop and Shepherd of souls.
And I reckon that in all of our Christian Churches they, the lambs, make up the largest proportion of any congregation?
Let us come then, in the second place, to EXPRESS OUR FEARS CONCERNING THESE LAMBS OF THE FLOCK.
We are afraid for them, because of the howling wolves that are about. Some of us can bear to be laughed at. For most of us Clergy, we have grown so used to it now, that it has become the atmosphere which we breathe, but we do pity these new beginners. We know what cruel mocking is, it may not break the bones, yet it often breaks the heart, and we are afraid for them if they should turn back, if they should say, “I can’t stand this” and forsake their Lord and Master.
Then, we are afraid of other orders of wolves—the wolves in sheep’s clothing—those hypocrites, who by their bad living cause the young lambs to stumble, and make them think that religion must be a deception and a lie. Then there are those other wolves—doctrinal wolves—full of all manner of error and heresy, we have them always prowling around our Churches. There is the wolf too glad to get hold of any young lamb he can seduce with his fawning pretences to love a free-grace gospel, and the free-will wolf, which drags some away from the truth, and wolves of all sorts, that are continually trying to deceive,
if it were possible, the very elect.
We are afraid for these young ones, knowing how easily they are carried about by every wind of doctrine. We are equally alarmed, too, because of their association with the goats. For there is another flock in the world—the devil’s flock. It is not easy for a Christian youth to associate with the world without feeling the influences of it. We are afraid for some of the young ones, when they have to mingle in their work, and in their family associations with baser sorts. The worst form of ill association in my opinion, is ungodly and unbiblical marriage. I do not know anything that gives me more satisfaction than to see our young Christians find happiness together, and united in marriage—the husband and the wife, both fearing and loving God. But a very common source of ruin to Church members is that of a believer choosing an ungodly partner in life. They can never expect God’s blessing upon it. They tell you sometimes they hope to be the means of their friends’ conversion. They have no right to hope for such a thing; it seldom occurs. The much more likely thing is, that the ungodly one will drag the other down to their level. Just because people get married in Church, is no guarantee that God is for the union. “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it“.
Then we are jealous over the lambs, because of the old lion, the Devil himself. We have, some of us, had to meet him face to face, and I do assure you I had sooner suffer any temptation that the world or the flesh can bring, than to be tempted of the devil, A man needs to be the master of every heavenly weapon to get the victory there. Would God it were possible to travel life’s road without contending with him! We are afraid for you, young lambs, when we think of the lion, and how he can entrap in deception. Many, of us still carry the scars of “fights and battles with the Devil.”
Then we are even more concerned when we think of the bear. Like it, the flattering world hugs tightly. The lion tears, and rends, and rages, but the world when it takes to loving, speaks, oh so gently, and puts the thing so nicely!—it loves the Christian—so it says. In some circles, it is fashionable to be religious; it is a creditable thing to be a believer, and then the world says, “Come to my arms; I love you. Come and be one with me, and be a Christian too! But be not so Puritanical as to turn me away.” Yet I reckon that we ought to be more afraid of the hugs of the bear (the world) than of the teeth of the lion (the Devil)?
When we put all these dangers together, and add to them the fact that the lambs are subject to the same diseases which are common to all sheep. They, too, get the foot-rot of weariness in the ways of God. They begin to be careless and sluggish in the cause of God. They, too, suffer from coldness of heart, have a tendency to wander, and catch the stiff neck of pride. Let us pray earnestly for the dear young people of the flock, that God will protect and keep them in these darkening and difficult times.
In the third place, let us REJOICE IN THE GOOD SHEPHERD. We read: “He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom. Who is this “HE” of whom such gracious words are spoken? Who is he that cares so tenderly for lambs? Listen! These are the words of Isaiah—”Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd.” Isa. 40:11. So, then, it is the Lord Jesus who comes forth to bless his people in this fashion. What condescension is here! The Lord God, the Eternal and Infinite, acts the part of a Shepherd. But when we read on, the words which follow the text may well astound you? When you see how our great God stoops from his loftiness to carry lambs in his bosom. “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or been his counsellor, who hath taught him? . . … Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he takes up the isles as a very little thing.” Isa. 40:12-15 And yet this same God, who doeth all these things, gathered lambs in his arms, and carries them in his bosom.
I am sure we are not sufficiently aware of the infinite love of God in stooping to consider us. Why, that God should provide for such creatures as we are, is some condescension; that he should think of any of us, with a Father’s heart is marvellous. “What is man that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that thou visitest him?” But that he should carry that man, even the weakest of such men, the lambs among this flock—that he should carry them in his arms! But why?
Why does he carry lambs in his bosom? First, because
he hath a tender heart – and any weakness at once melts him. If he sees a lamb he stops as you would do if you are gentle of spirit. If he hears your sighs, your groans, or marks your ignorance or your feebleness, the very tenderness of his mind, (even if there were nothing else) would move him to look on you. But more, it is his office to consider the weak. Consider too, that he was a lamb himself once. What a mysterious fact! If a man could have been a lamb and known a lamb’s weakness, how would he sympathize with it? Our Jesus was and is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. John 1:29. He knoweth what strong temptations mean, for he has felt the same. Do you need any more reasons why he carries them in his bosom? He purchased them with blood. He sees the mark of his passion upon every one of them, and therefore he prizes them and will not suffer them to perish. They are his property. He is their protector.
Another man’s lamb he might not so carefully carry; but his own lambs, the gift of his Father, the purchase of his blood, the heritage of his reward—he must and will care for them.
Moreover, remember, he is responsible for that lamb. He is the guarantee of the covenant, and he is bound by covenant promises to bring many sons home to glory, and not to suffer even one whom his Father has given him to perish by the way.
He will not fail in his mission, He will be true to his pledge, and say at the last, “Here am I and the flock committed to my care.”
And, … they are all a part of his glory. This flock will be as the jewels of his crown. If he lost one of them he would lose a part of his fullness, a part of his reward of his soul’s travail, therefore will he never turn away his eye from them, or his hand from doing them good, but he will preserve them to the end.
But what does he say he will do? He says, “He will carry them.”
Now this final Word
How does he carry them? He carries them in his bosom—not on his back—that is how he carries stray sheep—he flings them over his shoulders rejoicing, but “He carries the lambs in his bosom. near his heart” Here is obviously, boundless affection. Could he put them in his bosom if he did not love them so much? Where does the Father place the Son? He is in the bosom of the Father. Where did Abraham carry Lazarus? In his bosom. Where did Naomi bear her young grandson Obed? He was in her bosom. Christ is boundless in his affection. Sometimes when I think of this glorious blessing, I pray as I did when I was but a child..
“Jesus tender Shepherd hear me,
Bless thy little Lamb tonight”
And I see myself just his lamb again! But wen I remember that even though I am no longer a lamb, I am loved as much today as I ever was when I was a young lamb, and will be loved just as much when I am an old sheep. Because you see Gods love is not measured by the passing of time, – it is eternal, unending and unchanging. One day as a boy of seven, when I received him as my Saviour, I laid my head on His gentle breast, and was “Safe in the arms of Jesus”- I’m happy to tell you that I am still there, still safe, still in his arms, still in his love. I hope you are too.
Where are you lying down today, – Are you safe in His care, if not, why not?
God Bless You – Amen.