His Sheep Know His Voice

“But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers” (John 10:2-5).
The docility of domestic animals in South Asia is a constant source of wonder to me. I am used to animals that run in pastures, and thus are far more independent, less used to being handled and much less tame than the normal livestock of this part of the world. Here sheep, goats, and cattle are often kept at night in the family’s house, hand fed, and led back and forth to be staked out on grass each day. The relationship between the animals and their owners is very similar to that known in the days of Jesus, and I have come to appreciate that the sheep literally do know and trust the shepherd.
Jesus describes his own relationship with his followers as being like that of a shepherd and his sheep. It is based on knowledge and trust. The sheep know his voice. Christians know Christ. The sheep trust their shepherd to lead them safely and well. Christians trust Jesus to know what is best for them and to always direct them in the right way. This is the ideal. Jesus is worthy of this trust, having proved his love and commitment to his “sheep” by the great sacrifice he has already made for them. He has “[laid] down his life for the sheep” (John 10:15). No one can love more or do more for others than Jesus has done for those who believe in him.
Tragically, some find it difficult to follow even the true shepherd. There are those who profess faith in him who do not trust him to always direct them to the best and most secure places. They continually question his will. They often follow their own judgment, obey their own desires. They claim him as shepherd, but treat him as a stranger, not following his voice.
Sometimes this is because they do not truly know Jesus. They have heard about him. They have a shallow acquaintance. But they have not spent enough time in his presence. They have not stayed within the sound of his voice. They have not learned to depend upon his guidance. There is no other way than these to come to trust in him. We must learn who he is and that he is our only source of nurture and safety.
Sometimes also we do not trust Jesus because we have not given up the desire to have our own way. Some sheep are just independent. They do not remain with the flock but continually wander off. These are the ones most vulnerable to becoming lost and also to being prey to the wild beasts. They are constantly in danger. Thankfully, even these can learn the advantages of security and adequate food. They can learn that things are simply better when they remain with the shepherd. And so it is with us. The closer we stay to Jesus, the better life becomes. No one loves us more. No one knows how to guide us and tend to our needs as well as he. He is the good shepherd. We are blessed to be able to become his sheep.

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