Now a certain man found him, and there he was, wandering in the field. And the man asked him, saying, “What are you seeking?” So he said, “I am seeking my brothers. Please tell me where they are feeding their flocks.” (Genesis 37:15-16)
The Bible records that Israel sent Joseph out from “the valley of Hebron.” The Hebrew word translated as “valley” is emek and literally means “depth.” And while that is to suggest the depth of a natural valley it can also allude to “depth” in the sense of something that is quite profound; something that is hidden which must be probed in order to find. In other words, the Bible is hinting that there is much more than meets the eye to the journey that Joseph is being sent on. It bears noting that Abraham was buried in Hebron and tradition has it that Jacob took Joseph to the tomb of Abraham before sending him on his way. If that is accurate, then one has to wonder “Why?”
At some point in his travel, an unidentified man found him as he wandered in the field and asked, “What do you seek?” This question is pregnant with prophecy because it implies that he was “lost” in the field as he went seeking his brothers and the flocks of his father. You see, Joseph becomes the emblem of those who are separated from the rest of the family, living among the nations. That he is “lost” suggests he represents the “lost sheep.” It is these lost sheep that God Himself seeks out in the last days.
“For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.” (Ezekiel 34:11-12)
The prophecy goes on to say that God will bring His people — His lost and scattered sheep — back into the land and plant them on the mountains of Israel. As a matter of fact, the mountains of Israel are in the region that the world calls the West Bank, which just happens to be the territory that is deeded, primarily, to the sons of Joseph. This is the area where Joseph was when he was asked, “What do you seek?”
So what does all of this mean to us as believes in Messiah? As the Good Shepherd, He is the one who will go to great measures to gather those who are lost. As He said in Luke 15:
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents [returns] than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7)
It is comforting to know that our Good Shepherd will not abandon even one of His flock. He will search high and low for those that belong to Him and will, as prophecy declares, gather all of His people unto Himself. Long ago, He made a promise to Abraham that his descendants would be more than anyone could count and that, in the pre-determined time, He would gather them into the land of Israel — none would be lost. Understanding this, as a father, it is comforting to know that I can, not only trust Him to care for all His people but, also trust Him to watch over my little flock as well. I have the assurance that He will seek for and gather any of mine who may wander just as surely as He will gather that one lost lamb. You have that assurance as well; may we all rest in that truth.
Blessings and Shalom,