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If we look at Isaiah’s description of the nation of Israel in their rebellion against God we see, in micro, what God means when he calls the whole human race ‘lost’.  This result of the sin we looked at previously is a picture of terrible desolation.

What does it mean to be ‘lost’? What is it about the human race that moved the Good Shepherd with such compassion that he came to seek us out and to save ‘the lost’?

To be lost is to not know where we belong or to whom we belong [1:3].
To be lost is to have no real understanding of God [1:3].
To be lost is to carry a heavy burden of guilt [1:4].
To be lost is to be left untended in pain and agony [1:5,6].
To be lost is to be utterly desolate and alone [1:7,8].
To be lost is to be deceived by external religion [1:11-14].
To be lost is to be unable to approach God in prayer [1:15].
To be lost is to have abandoned one’s true identity [1:21,22].
To be lost is to be covered with shame [1:29].
To be lost is to be like a garden without water [1:30].
To be lost is to be under God’s judgement [1:31; 2:12-18].

To be ‘lost’ is to be in a desperate condition and an inescapable position. There is no possibility here of our finding ourselves. There is no possibility here of our finding a way of escape. We are blind [2Corinthians 4:3,4]. We are powerless [Romans 5:6]. Indeed, we do not want to be found [John 3:19]. We do not want to hear the word of God [Isaiah 30:10,11]. So deep and so overpowering is our lostness that we have come to derive our significance and our identity from it. We think that this is who we are. We think that this is all there is. So familiar is our lostness that we feel secure in it. And that is how we will stay.

Unless …

Unless the Sovereign Lord intervenes. Unless God brings grace in the midst of judgement.

In sovereign grace God allowed Adam and Eve to continue to exist, clothed with a covering that he provided [Genesis 3].

In sovereign grace God saved Noah and his family when all else perished [Genesis 6].

In sovereign grace God allowed a remnant to survive his judgement [Isaiah 1:9].

The God of grace, the Good Shepherd, reaches down, comes down. He carries the weak. He saves the lost. He justifies the wicked.

‘He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young’ [Isaiah 40:11].

‘A bruised read he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out’ [42:3].

He comes ‘…to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison, and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness’ [42:7].

He says ‘I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak …’ [Ezekiel 34:16].

To be ‘lost’ is such a terrible thing that the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine who are safe and goes out to rescue the one who is lost [Luke 15:4-7]. To be ‘lost’ is such a terrible thing that the restoration of the ‘lost’ is the cause of exultant joy and celebration [Luke 15:7,10, 22-32].

God knows, and the angels of God know, that ‘lost’ is not what we were created for, that ‘lost’ is not what we are meant to be. God knows that to be lost is so horrendous that he sent his only Son to ‘seek and to save the lost’ [Luke 19:10]. The Son knows that to be lost is so dreadful a state that he laid down his life to rescue us [John 10:11].

The whole incarnation event and the crucifixion – these bear witness to the utter desolation, destitution and degradation of being ‘lost’. We do not realise it, but God does. This incarnation, this crucifixion – these are the extent to which God has gone to rescue us. For this joy of rescuing the lost and bringing us home Jesus, the Son of God, endured the shame and the suffering of both the incarnation the crucifixion [Hebrews 2:10; 12:2]. It is such a terrible thing to be lost that in order to rescue and restore us –

‘… it pleased the LORD to bruise him …’ [Isaiah 53:10, KJV].

This divine action of amazing grace, this incredible purpose of God accomplished through the sin-bearing death of his Son, leaves us with no excuse for doubting either the depth, disempowerment and despair of our lostness, or the willingness and readiness of God to save us.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2014, 2023