THE NINETY AND NINE
Elizabeth C. Clephane, 1830–1869
There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:7)
The Bible teaches that man does not seek after God, but that God initiates the search for lost man. “The Ninety and Nine,” based on the parable in Luke 15:3–7, presents a vivid picture of this scriptural truth.
Written for children by an invalid woman named Elizabeth Clephane in Melrose, Scotland, the text appeared in a newspaper and caught the attention of Ira Sankey, the well-known music associate of evangelist D. L. Moody. Since he was on the way to their next evangelistic meetings in Edinburgh, Scotland, Mr. Sankey simply tucked the poem in his vest pocket and thought no more of it. During the service that afternoon, Mr. Moody concluded his stirring message on the Good Shepherd and abruptly asked Ira to close with an appropriate solo. Startled, Sankey suddenly remembered the poem in his pocket. He related that he breathed a quick prayer for divine help, struck the chord of A flat on his little pump organ, and began to sing, composing the melody as he went. When Sankey reached the end of the song, both he and Mr. Moody were in tears. During the invitation, many “lost sheep” responded to the call of Christ.
During their series of evangelistic meetings in Great Britain, Moody and Sankey held a service in Melrose, Scotland. The two sisters of Elizabeth Clephane were in the audience. To their surprise and delight, they heard their departed sister’s poem set to a melody and delivered by the noted Ira Sankey with great spiritual impact.
There were ninety and nine that safely lay in the shelter of the fold, but one was out on the hills away, far off from the gates of gold—Away on the mountains wild and bare, away from the tender Shepherd’s care, away from the tender Shepherd’s care.
“Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine; are thy not enough for Thee?” but the Shepherd made answer: “This of Mine has wandered away from Me. And altho’ the road be rough and steep, I go to the desert to find my sheep; I go to the desert to find My sheep.”
But all thro’ the mountains, thunder-riv’n, and up from the rocky steep, there arose a glad cry to the gate of heav’n, “Rejoice! I have found My sheep!” And the angels echoed around the throne, “Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own! Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own.”
For Today: Isaiah 55:7; Mark 2:17; Luke 15:3–7; 2 Peter 3:9
Lift your heart and voice in praise to God for sending His son to seek and find you when you were lost and indifferent to Him. Sing this portion of the hymn as you go—
Osbeck, K. W.
- Let the wicked forsake his ways, and the unrighteous his own imaginations, and return unto the Lord, and we will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he is very ready to forgive. Isaiah 55:7
- Now when Jesus heard it, he said unto them, The whole have no need of the Physician, but the sick. I came not to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance. Mark 2:17
- Then spake he this parable to them, saying, What man of you having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders with joy. And when the cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me: for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven for one sinner that converteth, more than for ninety and nine just men, which need none amendment of life. Luke 15:3–7
- The Lord of that promise is not slack (as some men count slackness) but is patient toward us, and would have no man to perish, but would all men to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9