Our ears are abuzz with news and information, as we are daily inundated with noise from every direction. In the midst of this input overload, how can we hear the voice of God speaking to us? How can we recognize Jesus when he is calling to us? When we are filled with contradicting information, what are we to believe? Whom are we to believe?
One of the most beautiful portraits of God in the scriptures is that of the Lord as our Shepherd. The image of a flock of sheep grazing in the green grass, with a shepherd caring for and protecting them is tranquil and peaceful. As darkness approaches, a group of shepherds would lead their various flocks to a shared fenced-in area, where the sheep could be protected from predators. The shepherds would sleep at the entrance of the sheep pen, to make sure the sheep stayed inside and the predators stayed outside. Or one would guard the gate while the others slept.
At the start of a new day, the shepherds would call their own sheep, sometimes by name, sometimes as a group. The sheep would leave the pen following their own shepherd. The sheep recognized the voice of their shepherd, and would not follow another.
In John 10:3-4 (CSB), we hear Jesus discussing this relationship between us and him, using the illustration of the shepherd and his sheep. He says: “The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they know his voice.”
In John 10:14 (CSB), Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me.” Sheep are said to not be able to find food or water without the assistance of a shepherd, and they can easily get lost, so the shepherd-sheep relationship is vital to the sheep.
In John 10, Jesus is speaking about those who hear his voice and follow him as “my sheep,” and those who do not respond to him and his voice as “not my sheep.” People who believe in God, and entrust their lives to him, are in the Bible often referred to as God’s sheep, or God’s flock, with God being referred to as our Shepherd (cf. Ps. 23; Ps. 100:3, Isaiah 53:6; John 10:11-14; 21:16; Hebrews 13:20-21; 1 Peter 2:25; Revelation 7:17). Jesus, as our Shepherd, provides us with leadership, companionship, daily provisions, wholeness, protection and serenity in life. There is a serenity in knowing that we do not face anything alone; our Shepherd is always with us. We can lie down in green pastures, experiencing peace and wholeness. Life is the best possible when we are God’s sheep, and he is our Shepherd.
In John 10:3-4 and verse 14, we find several descriptors about our relationship with God. In verse 14, Jesus says that he is the good shepherd. He is not just any shepherd, but the ultimate good shepherd. If you are his sheep, he knows you personally, and intimately. He knows your needs, thoughts, aspirations, capabilities and potential. We can know Jesus personally and experience his loving heart, his protection, his concern, his power and wisdom.
In John 10:3-4, Jesus says that his sheep hear his voice and recognize it. Do you recognize Jesus’ voice? In this maximum-input world, can you hear his voice speaking to you, cutting through all the noise? He says that His sheep not only recognize his voice, but they come toward his voice, toward him. And we follow him out of the sheep pen, into the big, wide world. Jesus leads us to another day of adventure, sharing the abundance of walking through life with him. He leads the way. This is the difference between a shepherd and a cattleman. Cattle are generally driven from behind, but our Good Shepherd blazes the trail, leads the way, and we follow Him.
The world is a noisy place, yet Jesus is calling out to us, trying to get us to gather around him, and then follow him as he leads us out into an exciting world. Can you hear him calling you today? Go to him, and follow him onto the paths he leads you onto. Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice, and follow me.”
Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church in Gwynn, Virginia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.