“When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” –John 10:4
Something hit me today as I was listening to another minister’s sermon. It wasn’t the sermon that got my attention. It was just a single phrase that was said: “Hearing the voice of God…” That phrase for whatever reason reminded me of the teaching of Jesus over in John 10 as he gave the illustration about him being the Good Shepherd and the Shepherd of the Sheep. The context of the passage has to do with Jesus talking to the Pharisees—those who were supposed to be the shepherds of Israel, under their one Shepherd, God.
But instead of shepherding the sheep as God shepherded them, they shepherded the sheep of Israel by their own fleshly, human-centered, human reasoning, and legalistic standards. They shepherded the sheep only so far as it fit their own identity and mold of what they thought shepherding meant.
Jesus however used the illustration of himself being the Good Shepherd, and he said this: 10:1
“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. 7 Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Comparing the differences between the two types of shepherds (Jesus and the Pharisees), it is easy to see why the sheep would want to follow the one shepherd over the other. The Good Shepherd (looking at verse 1 and verse 10) is one who offers the sheep abundant spiritual life, not take it away.
The Good Shepherd is also not just some casual manager of the sheep, he knows them each by name! He is intimate with them. He knows them and knows how to take care of them individually (v. 3). He is so intimate with them that they know his voice and avoid any voices that are not his (v. 5). He also leads, not in word, but by his own life in well. He leads out in front of them (v. 4). And always, no matter where he leads them in life, the goal is always the same; abundant life (verses 9-10).
Jesus is still our Good Shepherd today, and he still calls us to listen to his voice today. Through an intimate daily relationship, we can learn to follow his Spirit’s leading by looking for the ways he enters our daily walk to lead us closer to him and closer to his divine purposes for us and the rest of humanity. The Holy Spirit who is in us is also the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9).
As Christ lives in us, and as we are intimate with him, he continues to lead is (his sheep) to find good pasture: abundant life!
Have you spend time with the Shepherd today? Have you listened for His voice?