This Month's Theme: Our Good Shepherd


Bessie's Poem

Six years after her homegoing, Elizabeth Clephane’s poem “The Lost Sheep” caught the eye of well-known evangelistic meeting song leader and music composer Ira Sankey. He noticed it in a newspaper he was reading on a train. The poem was simply signed, “Bessie.”

Turning to his companion, evangelist Dwight L. Moody himself, Sankey began to read the poem with all the expression he could muster. Both were exhausted from three months of meetings and were headed to Glasgow for more meetings.

After reading, Sankey asked Moody what he thought of the poem, only to find Moody completely distracted with reading something else. Sankey tore the poem out of the paper and tucked it into his pocket to save for another time. He thought it would make a perfect hymn set to music.

During the meetings in Glasgow, another influential pastor, Horatious Bonar, had spoken a short message on “The Good Shepherd.” Moody turned to Sankey and asked if he could sing an appropriate solo to close the service.

Caught off guard, Sankey stepped to the organ and, feeling impressed by the Holy Spirit to do so, placed the newspaper slip in front of him and began to play, compose and sing the poem as a hymn for the first time. We know it as "The Ninety and Nine."

Sankey described the moment like this:

“Note by note the tune was given, which has not been changed from that day to this. As the singing ceased a great sigh seemed to go up from the meeting, and I knew that the song had reached the hearts of my Scotch audience.”

God was not done working, however. Elizabeth Clephane’s sister just happened to be in the audience and wrote Ira Sankey to tell him more about the hymn’s writer. When Sankey published the hymn, he was sure to attribute the text to Elizabeth C. Clephane.

Hymn Study Outline

Christ Is Our Tender Shepherd

He knows who is lost. (Stanza 1 & 2) He hears the cry of the lost. (Stanza 3)

Christ Is Our Saving Shepherd

He suffered to save us. (Stanza 3) He died to save us. (alluded to in Stanza 4)

Christ Is Our Rejoicing Shepherd

He rejoices immediately when a sinner repents. (Stanza 5) He rejoices openly when a sinner repents. (Stanza 5)

Read & Relate


The Ninety and Nine

by Elizabeth C. Clephane, 1830-1869

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.

Luke 15:1-10; Matthew 15:24; Ezekiel 34:6; Mark 6:34; John 10:14-16

"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.
I go to the desert to find my sheep."

Psalm 23:1-3; John 10:3; John 6:39; Luke 19:10; Ezekiel 34:11

But none of the ransomed ever knew
how deep were the waters crossed;
nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed thro'
ere he found his sheep that was lost.
Out in the desert he heard its cry —
sick and helpless, and ready to die,
sick and helpless, and ready to die.

John 19:1-3; Mark 15:34; 1 John 5:14; Ephesians 2:1-2; Romans 5:6

"Lord, whence are those blood-drops all the way
that mark out the mountain's track?"
"They were shed for one who had gone astray
ere the Shepherd could bring him back."
"Lord, whence are thy hands so rent and torn?"
"They're pierced tonight by many a thorn.
They're pierced tonight by many a thorn."

1 Peter 2:24; Hebrews 9:11-12; Isaiah 53:6; Isaiah 40:11; John 20:20; John 27:29

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!"

Luke 15:7; Luke 10:21-22; Luke 5:32; 1 Kings 22:19; 1 Peter 2:25

Go Deeper

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Download the Sheet Music

Reflect & Respond

In the Parable of the Lost Sheep, who do the ninety-nine sheep represent? The answer may surprise you. Read Luke 15:3-10 for context.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for relentlessly pursuing me to save me. Help me as I care for your lost sheep, too. Amen.

Related Hymns for Life Member Resources

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The Study Guide

Hymns for Life member only, our latest Hymn Study Guide will help you reflect through each stanza of our hymn and connect it more firmly in biblical truth.

Reflection Word Search Puzzle
Word Search Puzzle Answer Key
Adult Coloring Page - Rejoice
Adult Coloring Page - Mountain


Keep a framed reminder of our saving Saving Shepherd. Ideal for those praying for children away from the Lord or those who want to continually rejoice in their own and others' salvation.

Print and post this print on your fridge or bulletin board, clip in a photo holder or place in a 5 x 7 photo frame. 


Printable and Shareable Greetings

Rejoice! (Postcard)

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Seeking Shepherd (Greeting Card)

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Illustrated Sheep (Postcard)

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Soon you'll enjoy a growing library of weekly hymn texts with quick view access to related Scripture texts per stanza. (Ideal for personal study, small group study, worship preparation and homeschool lesson planning.)