The Shepherd’s Voice


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.  


John 10:1-6

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.                       


In Conclusion:

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.  


In Application:

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.  

The Shepherd's Grace


We are starting a Shepherd Series in the context of the preaching this fall.  As we move forward into another season in Courts of Praise, I believe the Lord led me to consider the life of a shepherd.  Last week we looked at Psalm 23 and without a doubt it is the most quoted of all the Psalms. Many Christians know it by heart and it is often heard at funerals and whispered to people in their hospital beds.  King David wrote it from his own personal experience as a shepherd boy who he was put in charge of tending his father’s flocks.  David knew sheep, their needs and their weaknesses.  And now as the head of a mighty army, King David was reminding himself of those good-ole days.  Although we don’t know the context behind David penning this psalm, some believe he was lonely fugitive dodging the spear of King Saul.  Or more likely he was running to stay alive when Absalom overthrew David’s kingdom.  He drew great comfort in knowing that the Lord was his shepherd and that He would provide, protect and guide him throughout his life.  The shepherd’s gaze was always on his flock.  They were his vision and livelihood.  The Shepherd would do everything to bless and keep his flock safe.  


The same is true for us here at Courts of Praise.  The Shepherd of our souls is looking out for us.  Hallelujah.  He is walking with us as we “become a grace-full, loving, accepting and forgiving community of believers from all nations who celebrate each other.”  This is our flock here and God has great plans and purposes for us to anticipate, especially in light of our 50th Anniversary this coming Oct 30th.  As well, another family of sheep are joining us here at Courts of Praise this December, Pastors Norman and Fanny Doromal.  God is good all the time and all the time God is good…



This morning I will be speaking out of the Book of Isaiah and stay true to the theme of the Shepherd.  The Book of Isaiah is one of my favourite Old Testament writings.  It contains accurate historical events about the nation of Israel.  It is also a significant passage of “prophetic Scripture”.  Isaiah speaks of the depths of Israel’s sin and the heights of God’s glory and His coming kingdom.  The first 39 chapters of Isaiah deal the punishment of God on Israel and its pagan neighbours because their sins we like scarlet (Isa 1:18).  There is a dramatic shift that takes place in Isa 40.  Oftentimes when we think of grace we think New Testament and the coming of Jesus Christ.  However, Isaiah is one of those Old Testament books that highlights the grace and restoration of God on behalf of his people.  This is a great encouragement to us. 


There are many key verses, here are a few of my favourite.  

  • Isa 7:14 - Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
  • Isa 9:6 - For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
  • Isa 26:3 - You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.
  • Isa 40:31 - but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
  • Isa 53:4-5 - Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.  5But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 
  • Isa 61:1 - The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…


Isa 40…

We are not alone as we journey through life, whether in good times or in the hardships and fears that Isaiah addressed in the first 39 chapters.  Have you ever felt like your “circumstances” are a burden?  Have you ever struggled with sin habitually?  Have you ever felt like you have failed God?  That was the experience of the people of God in Isaiah’s day. 


Isaiah 40 rings loud and clear with God’s message of restoration and God’s comfort for his people.  This chapter begins with:

  • Pardon - “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isa 40:1-2).  
  • Guidance - “A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God”’ (Isa 40:3).
  • Promise - “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isa 40:8). 


The Shepherd of Grace

Each of these encouragements lead us to the key text this morning in keeping with the shepherd’s theme.  It is all about a Shepherd of Grace.  We have a great shepherd who knows us and who has committed himself to us.  Let’s continue to look at the Scripture; turn with me to Isa 40:11 - 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.   This verse is such a wonderful picture of grace and intimacy; the shepherd takes special care of his flock.  In the NKJV it speaks of the shepherd “feeding his flock” and “carrying them in his bosom”.  


The preceding verses speak of “good tidings” or good news.  God was coming to set the nation of Israel free from Babylon and the captives were coming home.  The Good News today is the defeat of sin and Satan by Jesus Christ and the salvation of all who will trust in Him; Isaiah preaches this in chapter 61:1–3.  How does this “good news” take place in our lives today?  It is in the loving arms of a Shepherd who carries his lambs home…


Here are a few of my thoughts regarding this verse:

1.    There are times in our lives when we are in need of spiritual nourishment; the Shepherd tends and feeds his flock…  We must learn to feed daily.  We don’t want fast food any more; listening to snippets of the latest and greatest internet preachers.  Paul warns Timothy of this, minus the internet; 2 Tim 4:3 - For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 

What does true nourishment look like?  It is allowing the Shepherd to feed you.  It is learning to be directed by the Holy Spirit with regards to our spiritual growth.  There is no greater feeding of our spiritual life that when we spend time in the presence of the Shepherd.  This takes time on our part; devotions are foundational to a healthy spiritual diet.  The reward of time spent with the Shepherd is grace.  True nourishment fills our lives with God’s grace:

  • When we are weak, grace strengthens.
  • When we are tempted, grace overcomes.
  • When we are attacked by Satan, grace defeats.
  • When we are sick, grace heals.
  • When we are in “need”, grace supplies.  
  • When we have sinned, grace forgives.
  • When we are anxious, grace calms.


2.    A famous poem describes God’s grace in a profound way - Footprints in the Sand.  

One night I dreamed a dream.

As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.

Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.

For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,

One belonging to me and one to my Lord.


After the last scene of my life flashed before me,

I looked back at the footprints in the sand.

I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,

especially at the very lowest and saddest times,

there was only one set of footprints.


This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.

"Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,

You'd walk with me all the way.

But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,

there was only one set of footprints.

I don't understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me."


He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you

Never, ever, during your trials and testings.

When you saw only one set of footprints,

It was then that I carried you.”


This poem accurately reflects the Shepherd of Grace who “gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart”.    Grace sustains us when we are not able to walk ourselves.  There are times in my own life when I have doubted my own salvation, struggled with fears, been betrayed, given into sin, been gossiped about, felt depressed and so on.  In those times I have felt undone, at times troubled to the point that I feel like I am falling from grace.  Then… my Shepherd… shows up…  His grace carries me.  Not like a sack of grain on his hip or a sack of potatoes slung over his shoulder.  His grace carries me close to his heart.  His grace restores faith in my heart, releases new courage, gives me hope for the future.  Our Shepherd of grace cares for his flock.  This reminds me of Matt 11:28-30 - Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (The Message).  


3.    The Shepherd of grace understands our circumstances and our responsibilities.  Staying in context with the shepherd - “he gently leads those that have young” - this speaks to me of another aspect of grace - gentleness.  We all have responsibilities especially as parents or pastors; in other words, we care for our “little flock.”  There are times when the burden of parenting or pastoring can become heavy, and in those times the Shepherd of grace is gentle.  This is also a word of encouragement to us to be gracious and gentle in our interaction with one another.  One of the thoughts that comes to mind in light of the shepherd and gentleness is his voice.  I can not picture a shepherd shouting or yelling at his flock.  This would scare them and cause them to feel unsafe.  The voice of the Shepherd is gentle and gracious.


In Conclusion:

Isa 40 begins with the prophet speaking “comfort” to the Israelites.  The good news was being proclaimed - “God is here” and the time for restoration has come.  God will come to his people with majestic strength and goodness.  He will care for his people like a shepherd, paying special attention to the weak. 


There is tremendous encouragement in knowing the Shepherd of grace.  The word picture of the shepherd carrying the sheep close to his heart is inspiring and comforting.  I hope that we all find the grace of God as spend time daily and devotionally with our Good Shepherd.  There are times when the struggles of life can overwhelm us, it is in those moments that the Shepherd of grace carries us along. 


This morning “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).


Let’s pray…