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Words: William Augustine Ogden (b. Oct. 10, 1841; d. Oct. 14, 1897)
Music: William Augustine Ogden
Note: There is a biographical note about Mr. Ogden on the Wordwise Hymns link. The present gospel song was published in 1886. Beginning a few years later, a slightly different final stanza can be found in a number of hymn books. Whether the revision came from Ogden or some unnamed editor, I’m not sure. I do remember singing this later version in a men’s choir, in the 1960’s. It says:
3) Thus would I go, for Jesus hath called me,
Him would I follow, day unto day;
Care for the dying, raise up the fallen,
Pointing the lost to Jesus, the way.
In Luke chapter 15 we are given three parables with some things in common: lostness, seeking, finding and rejoicing. We also see the importance of the individual person to the Lord. It is only one sheep that is lost, out of a hundred (vs. 4), only one coin that is lost, out of ten (vs. 8), and only one son of two (vs. 11).
But at that point there is a change, because it soon become clear in the last story that there are two lost sons, not just one. Though remaining at home, the elder brother is lost to his father’s love. He doesn’t love his brother either, calling him contemptuously, “this son of yours” (vs. 30)–just as the Jewish leaders shrank from declaring kinship with sinners.
The chapter begins with a criticism of the Lord Jesus, leveled at Him by the Pharisees and scribes. In their view, Christ showed a lack of righteous discernment, in associating with “sinners.” They gave themselves an implied pat on the back for refusing to contaminate themselves in this way.
“All the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, ‘This Man receives sinners and eats with them’” (vs. 1-2).
The three stories follow. The coin (vs. 8-10) was an insensate object. It was lost and didn’t know it–as many of the Pharisees and scribes were, in their arrogant religiosity. In the long parable of the lost son, it is the critical older brother, following all the rules, that pictures the Jewish leaders. He has no personal relationship with his loving parent. (Notice that the younger son uses the words “father” and “my father” several times, but the older son never does.)
Ogden’s song focuses on the parable of the lost sheep (as does Elizabeth Clephane’s song The Ninety and Nine). Though 99% of the shepherd’s sheep are accounted for, he goes off into the wilderness seeking the one that has strayed (vs. 4).
CH-1) Seeking the lost, yes, kindly entreating
Wanderers on the mountain astray;
“Come unto Me,” His message repeating,
Words of the Master speaking today.
Going afar upon the mountain
Bringing the wanderer back again,
Into the fold of my Redeemer
Jesus the Lamb for sinners slain.
When the shepherd finds the lost sheep, he returns with it, rejoicing (vs. 5). He is so elated that he wants to celebrate. He calls in friends and neighbours to rejoice with him (vs. 6).
Then comes the pointed application of the parable: “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (vs. 7).
Joy in heaven, “joy in the presence of the angels,” over the one who is rescued. Amazing! What we do on earth is known in heaven. And I believe we are to see the last part of vs. 7 as ironic. The Lord is referring to the scribes and Pharisees who think they have no need of repentance, but who really do. Their hypocritical rule-keeping causes no joy in heaven!
When we share the gospel, or support the sharing of the gospel by others, we are doing a great work that has eternal implications (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 1:16).
CH-3) Thus would I go on missions of mercy,
Following Christ from day unto day,
Cheering the faint and raising the fallen,
Pointing the lost to Jesus, the Way.
1) Is there some lost sheep you know of whom you can help to rescue?
2) When was the last time you celebrated a sinner coming to the Saviour?