The parable that this hymn is based on is very dear to our hearts as it describes the love Jesus has for his sheep… all of them. He loves the ninety and nine in the fold and he loves the ones who have wandered just as much. Those of us with children who have wandered from affiliation with the Church understand this sentiment quite well.
In Luke 15: 4-7 we read, “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the 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 rejoicing…”
“Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd” invites us to participate in this parable. In verse three, Jesus asks “Will you not seek for my lost ones, off from my shelter astray?” In verse four we answer, “Yes, blessed Master, we will!” We ask to become his “true undershepherds,” working with our Savior to reclaim those who have wandered.
Listen to our arrangement of this beautiful hymn with an oboe countermelody in this sample:
Listen to our arrangement with a vocal countermelody in this sample: