The Shepherd’s Voice (29-01-22)
Bible Reading: John 10:2-4, 27-28
The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
How many times do you answer the phone and the caller says ‘Hello, it’s me’? In one way it is stating the obvious as it will always be ‘me’ on the other end of a phone call. In another way it conveys the assurance that, even without ‘caller display’, the person making the call knows that you will recognise their voice and know who you are talking to.
Such a conversation can only happen where a good relationship has built up over time and maybe where there have been a few initial conversations that have needed a clearer introduction as you learn to recognise the voice of the caller.
I think the same would be true of the sheep in the analogy Jesus gives here in John’s gospel. I imagine the older sheep would have learnt to recognise and to trust the voice of the shepherd over time, and would know to follow him. I guess too that the younger sheep would initially just follow their mothers, but over time they too would learn to recognise and trust the voice of the shepherd and eventually would follow him themselves.
Our Good Shepherd is always calling to us to follow him as he leads us, according to Psalm 23, to green pastures, still waters and places to rest.
It may be that at the beginning of our Christian journey we need to be guided by the more established members of his flock, as we learn to recognise his voice, but over time we will hear his voice for ourselves and follow where he leads.
Learning to follow Jesus must start with the belief that he is calling to you, that you are important enough to Jesus for him to choose you, firstly to follow him, and then to a specific task or role within his flock or in the wider world. As the parable of the lost sheep tells us, every one of the sheep in the flock is important enough to the shepherd for him to make sure none of them is lost and that none of them is plucked from his hand.
As part of Jesus flock, we may recognise his voice in different ways, maybe through a particular scripture, maybe through an inner prompting of his Holy Spirit, maybe through a ‘lightbulb moment’ in our thinking or maybe through the words of someone else. However he speaks, it will always agree with biblical principles and keep us within the security of the wider flock.
Loving Shepherd, ever near, Teach Thy lamb Thy voice to hear; Suffer not my steps to stray From the straight and narrow way.
Loving Shepherd of thy sheep