The Ninety and Nine
May we ever have an interest in the individual and do all that we can to bring him to Christ.
The American evangelist D L Moody enlisted the help of Ira Sankey as song leader and soloist at his campaigns. They became a renowned duo and travelled around preaching and singing the Gospel. Once, on a train en route to Edinburgh, Mr Sankey picked up a newspaper hoping to find some news from home.
As he searched its pages he came across a poem written by a lady called Elizabeth Clephane describing the Lord’s interest in one lost sheep, even though ninety and nine were safely gathered in. He read the poem to Mr Moody but it seemed that Moody hadn’t heard a word as he was too engrossed in reading a letter. Undeterred, Sankey cut out the poem and placed it into his manuscript book.
At a meeting on their second day in Edinburgh, Moody preached on ‘The Good Shepherd’. As he finished, he turned to his colleague and asked, “Have you an appropriate solo with which to close?” Sankey couldn’t think of anything other than the 23rd Psalm, but it had already been sung in the meeting.
At that same moment, the words of the poem that he had read on the train came to him. It was as if he was being told, ‘sing the hymn you found on the train’, but there was no music. Yet Mr Sankey took the newspaper cutting out of his manuscript book, placed it on the music stand on the organ, and after lifting his heart to the Lord in prayer, put his hands on the organ and struck the key of ‘A flat’ and began to sing. Note by note the tune came, and the tune remains the same even to this day.
The entire congregation was greatly moved and Mr Moody especially was greatly challenged by it. He said to Mr Sankey, “Where did you get that? I never heard the like of it before.” Mr Sankey told him that it was the poem that he had read out to him on the train but that he was too engrossed in his correspondence to take note of it. The meeting was then closed and “The Ninety and Nine” became a staple in many future Gospel campaigns.
The hymn speaks to us of the Lord’s interest in the lost sheep because He went out searching for it in the wilderness. The Lord commissioned His disciples in Matthew 10:6, “Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” May we ever have an interest in the individual and do all that we can to bring him to Christ! Charles Spurgeon said, “It were worthwhile to preach every Sabbath for a million years, if but one soul were brought in at last.”
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.
“Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine;
Are they not enough for Thee?”
But the Shepherd made answer: “This of Mine
Has wandered away from Me.
And although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep.
Rev. Garth Wilson.