Over the last couple of weeks we have looked at the Lord as our Shepherd. We know that our Shepherd has a purposeful vision for his flock and supplies abundant grace to us to fulfil his dreams. Psalm 23 so richly describes the relation between the Shepherd and his flock and how he provides, protects and guides. We know from Isa 40:11 that “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” The Shepherd of our souls is so kind and gracious.
In my early Christian walk I was introduced to “hearing the voice of God” through various speakers in Youth With A Mission. Loren Cunningham”s book, Is That Really You God? profoundly impacted my Christian faith. One of the takeaways for me was this - God wants to speak to his children. This mornings sermon highlights the topic of God speaking to his flock as seen in the Parable of the Good Shepherd in John 10.
The Apostle John aims to show that Jesus is the Messiah long promised by the prophets. In John 10:1–5, John describes Jesus as the Good Shepherd while confronting the religious leaders of his day. The Pharisees were confronted with Jesus healing a man who was blind from birth; this took place on the Sabbath which was taboo to the religious (John 9). The Pharisees believe that Jesus is saying they are blind and take offence. The religious leaders assumed they were the true spiritual leaders and the shepherds of God’s people. However, Jesus recognizes that the Pharisees are like those “shepherds” found in Ezekiel 34, who were more interested in eating the sheep rather than feeding them. So he carries on this conversation by sharing the parable about the Good Shepherd.
“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. John 10:1–6.
After this simple parable the Pharisees still did not understand the implications.
- There are thieves and robbers who are after the sheep… This clarifies the context of John 10:10 - “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy…” referring to the religious leaders not to Satan… The thieves would climb over the wall and not enter the sheep fold through the gate. There is protocol when caring for God’s flock. Something to think about…
- The true Shepherd enters by the gate; Jesus goes onto to say in John 10:7, 9 - “I am the gate”. Oftentimes the shepherd would position himself in the gate, or “as the gate” in the sheep pen. Jesus states this plainly in John 14:6, saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
- As well, sometimes several flocks would bed down at night in the same fold. In the morning the shepherds would come to the gate and call to their flock. The sheep would hear the voice of their shepherd and follow him.
- There are good shepherds and strange shepherds; John 10:11, 14 - “I am the good shepherd”. One of the true descriptions of the Good Shepherd is repeated 5 times in John 10 - he lays his life down for his sheep…
There is something beautiful in hearing one speak. I remember when Kimberly and Tiffany were in Becky’s tummy and I would talk to them. I know that our girls were blessed when Becky would put them to bed each night by singing to them. The voice becomes an identifying feature in distinguishing one person from another. The Voice is an American reality television singing competition broadcast on NBC. The concept of the series is to find new singing talent…
I am reading a fantastic book entitled, How Now Shall We Live, by Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey. In essence the book describes a Christian World View and how we should live. They describe the “competing voices” that confuse and confute a Christian perspective in life. They describe the Age of Enlightenment; in his essay “What Is Enlightenment?” (1784), the German philosopher Immanuel Kant summed up the era's motto in the following terms: “Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason!” Unfortunately, this “daring to know and discover your own reason” was the beginning of relativism as we know it today; the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute. Then we had Darwinism and the theory of evolution, all the other ism’s that distort the historical and biblical truths of God. In every aspect of society today, there are voices that deny three basic Christian truths - Creation, The Fall and Redemption. In order to hear God’s voice clearly these three foundations must be accepted. We live in a day where many are wanting to “hear” what they want to hear and avoid at all costs the voice of the Good Shepherd.
In the context of John 10, the “Shepherd’s Voice” becomes very important. In Jesus’ day, many shepherds shared the same pasture and even drove their flocks together into a sheepfold at night. In the morning, each shepherd would stand at the open gate and call for his sheep. The flock would recognize his voice and follow him out. In fact the Greek word for voice is used five times in the first five verses of John 10, helping us to recognize the main point of this parable. Jesus is helping the people to understand there are good voices and bad voices that compete for our attention; one voice is that of the Good Shepherd and the other is the voice of strangers, Jesus subtly pointing the finger and the Pharisees.
The Shepherd’s Voice:
Hearing the Voice of the Shepherd is foundational to being a sheep in his flock - “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). As mentioned early there are other voices confuse and even confute the voice of God; the voice of self-reason is one, the voices of secular society is another (the wisdom of this world) and the voice of Satan. The voice of the Good Shepherd rings distinct and true for those who have ears to hear what is being spoken. What makes the voice of the Shepherd so distinct and appealing? What characteristics describe Jesus’ voice?
Here are several aspects of the Shepherd’s voice I believe need to be mentioned in this day.
- The Shepherd’s voice provides for salvation - (John 10:9). In Jesus interaction with the religious leaders, they heard his audible voice but did not choose to hear the rhema voice of God providing salvation. We know from the Greek language there are two words translated as “word” in the Bible; “logos” and “rhema”. Logos refers to an expression or articulation of thought; it is more than the simple name of an object but it is the embodiment of a concept, idea or thought. On the other hand, rhema refers to the personal, living or life-giving Word of God. This is the Shepherd’s voice of salvation. John 12:48 highlights to these two words - “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words (rhema); that very word (logos) which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.” In other words, we must not reject the spoken rhema word of Jesus which is salvation to us. The logos or now written words of Jesus confirm salvation and or will condemn in the last day of judgment. “But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:8-9). Many want to hear a sound, the audible voice of God, but God wants you to hear his voice. The rhema - a personal word to you!
- The Shepherd’s voice provides for an abundant life - John 10:10. The voice of the shepherd is never stingy or self-serving. It is the desire of the shepherd for his flock to live up to a quality so abundant that it is beyond the norm. This reminds me of the verse that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20). The voice of the Shepherd gives special advantage to his flock, it speaks of the exceptional becoming the norm. This is in stark contrast to the religious leaders who got rich and gained a reputation off of God’s people. Oftentimes the voice of the Pharisees was to preserve their religious rules maintaining a firm grip around the necks of the sheep. Jesus’ abundant life was to impart a rich and exhilarating life. This abundant life was to affect the fullest experience our Christian faith. This morning can we hear the voice of the Shepherd speaking abundance over us.
- The Shepherd’s voice is miraculous - John 10:25. Over and over in the Scriptures we hear the voice of the Lord speaking and then acting miraculously. “Let there be light…” (Gen 1:1) ”I am willing,” he said, “Be clean!” (Matt 8:3) “Quiet! Be still!” (Mark 4:39). In the context of John’s gospel, Jesus spoke to the man born blind and gave him a rhema word for healing. The blind man acted in faith and obedience and received his healing. There are times in my life I have personally encountered the rhema word of the Jesus leading to a miraculous experience. I am learning to let my faith be miraculously fed by the spoken rhema of God and not be the logos. My prayer is that the logos will become the rhema for me and you. Listening to the rhema word of the Lord can lead to significant miracles as we obey; this is experiencing the gifts of the Spirit. The Shepherd’s voice is meant to lead his flock on an adventure that is full of the miraculous, big and little miracles revealing God’s love.
We know that we serve a Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14). He is a shepherd who provides and protects and guides his flock. He does so with great love and care. One of the main experiences between the sheep and shepherd is that of “knowing” the voice. Sheep will follow the voice of their shepherd, but the voice of strangers they avoid. It is so important that we take time to listen to God’s voice to know him better.
We live in a world that is full of competing voices seeking our attention. The voices will seek to discredit the salvation that is found in Jesus Christ. Some will say there are many ways to get to heaven, others say that we don’t need salvation because we are essentially good.
Other voices distort Jesus’ abundant life message and simply pursue materialism. They seek riches for the sake of selfishness. That was never Jesus message. Abundant life was about coming into personal destiny and being able to fully life for God while having our needs wonderfully met.
The miraculous faith experience of following the Shepherd’s voice is often shut down by religious people. They seek to control the sheep and hold them back from reaching their full potential. The strange voices will try to shout out their message of reason and sound wisdom thereby drowning out God’s voice. Sometimes my lack of miracle-life is due to my own religiousness and trying to please God. I or we must truly rely on the leading of the Shepherd’s voice bringing passion and surrender back to our lives.
It is my hope that we are inspired to pursue the Shepherd’s Voice and let him lead us on a wonderful adventure full of salvation, abundance and miracles.
I don’t want to sound repetitive but here are the simply truths to put into practice.
Learning to hear the Shepherd’s voice takes time in prayer with God’s sheep.
Learning to hear the Shepherd’s voice takes time in His Presence.
Learning to hear the Shepherd’s voice takes time in His Word.