John 10:4, “When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”
When I was young I knew the voice of my mom or dad, even in the midst of a crowd. I knew their voice and followed their advice because they were my guardians. They taught me, disciplined me, and loved me…and I knew it. I trusted and obeyed them. I knew they would only give me advice that would keep me from harm.
Jesus referred to Himself as the “Shepherd” of His sheep. Someone that took care of His flock and would risk life and limb to save just one that had gotten lost. But why did He refer to Himself as a “Shepherd” and His followers as “sheep”?
Most of the people in that day had sheep and could relate to how Shepherds took care of their sheep and knew how the sheep would respond to the Shepherd.
An article, sent to me by our pastor, tells the story of a professor that wanted to understand more about why Jesus made such references to Shepherds and sheep. This professor visited a sheep farm and “farmer Bob” told him that most professors that wrote books on this subject acted like they had never actually seen a sheep, let alone tried to take care of them. He promised the professor that he would teach him something that he wouldn’t learn in a book or classroom.
Bob wasn’t interested in showing him the machines or the barns. He wanted him to see the sheep so that he could understand God’s word better.
He learned that sheep are not particularly smart. Bob remarked that God calling us sheep was true, but not particularly flattering. They are herd animals and natural followers. He told him of a time when one sheep tripped over its own feet and the whole rest of the flock spent the day jumping over the same spot where he had tripped because they believed there was something there they might fall over; even though there was nothing on the ground to trip over.
The professor also learned that sheep never know when they’ve had enough. They’ll eat and eat, not just until they’re full, but until there is nothing left. If left to their own devices, they will turn grassy fields into nothing but dusty earth and then starve. It is up to the Shepherd to help the sheep always have enough, but never to give them too much.
Then he learned that sheep are led by voice. In order to lead a flock, the shepherd walks in front of the sheep and uses his voice to guide them. The Shepherd has specific calls to his sheep to stop, turn, or to move forward. Over time, the sheep learn to recognize the voice of the shepherd and learn to trust him. They will not listen, or obey, commands from others. They listen to the one voice they can trust.
There are many people telling us what we should and should not do in this world. But who do we listen to and who do we believe?
We are sheep, whether we want to admit it or not. Shouldn’t we listen to a Shepherd that we can trust and count on when we get lost? Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
We only need to listen to one voice. Make sure it’s the right one.
(This week our church will be praying for people along 1st Street, Center Street, Main Street, and Wigstrom Road in Gray. We ask that you remember them this week in your daily prayers. If you have any requests for prayer please send them to me at the email below.)
(Nancy Stoppe of Jenners is affiliated with Jenner Township Baptist Church, Boswell. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)