While working in India over the past decade or so, I have had opportunity to witness firsthand how small animals, even in large herds, respond to the call of the herdsman. The small village roads in India are ideal for driving goats from one grazing field to another. Even the National Highway (India’s equivalent to our Interstate Highway system) is used to get rather large herds to some other destination. When travelling the small back roads to some isolated village, we obviously have to travel much slower than on the super highway. When we encounter a herd of goats on the road they are usually spread across the road, blocking our passage, and we have to stop, and slowly make our way past the flock of goats and those attending to their safety. I have never asked Nehemiah to translate what a particular herdsman is saying, but I can hear the voice calling out to the goats. Occasionally it takes a little nudge with the herdsman’s rod, but usually the goats respond to the sound of the voice of the one leading and caring for those goats.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28). Was Jesus speaking about literal sheep? Was He a herdsman keeping watch over a flock of sheep? I think not, and I think you know better. We are the sheep of His pasture, the “flock of God” over whom shepherds keep watch, with Jesus as the chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-4). Here are some wonderful lessons we can draw from our Lord’s words in John 10:27-28.
First, we belong to Christ. “My sheep!” There is great comfort and consolation that comes with knowing we belong to God, and that He cares for us. Willing to leave the ninety and nine, He sought us out, paid the price for redemption, and gathered us into His flock. The compassion and love our Lord has for each one of us is summed up in those two words: “My sheep!” It was late one evening and Nehemiah Gootam and I were on our way home from a preaching appointment. We passed a herd of goats, now being led home in order to be bedded down for the night. One young man led the flock, and an older gentleman was following at the rear with staff in hand. Over his shoulder he cradled a small goat that had evidently grown weary with the journey. Although the goat was fast asleep, it lifted its head only briefly as we passed by. I thought to myself, “How much like our Lord who will carry us, protect us, feed us, and care for us,” all because we are His sheep! Beloved, don’t ever lose sight of the fact that we belong to Christ, that we “were bought with a price,” and that we are to “glorify God therefore in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20).
Second, we are God’s “sheep.” The metaphor is so fitting. Sheep are completely defenseless against the wolves that would seek to devour. Without the protection of our Lord, we are vulnerable to those things that would destroy us. If you doubt that for a moment, take a look at the multitudes of lost souls that have refused to draw near to God, whose lives have been ravaged by the wolves that are out there, “separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). Drugs, alcohol, materialism, pride, lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, the vainglory of life, hedonism, and humanism. Though the words are spelled differently, the bottom line is that each one represents the dangers that lurk in the shadows of the dark places of a world without God. Unfortunately, sheep are ignorant and gullible. Not recognizing the dangers that exist, a sheep will keep his head to the ground, grazing on the grass, while ignoring the dangers about him. Humans are like that. We get so consumed with our daily activities, the cares of this life, the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, that we keep our heads to the grindstone, unaware of what dangers threaten, or exactly where it is we are headed; unaware, that is, until we suddenly lift up our head and notice our world is crashing in upon us.
Third, as God’s sheep, we “hear” the voice of our Lord; not “have heard,” and since ceased to listen; not “might hear” if we get the opportunity to squeeze in a few moments late at night to read a small portion of our Bible. We are identified as Christ’s sheep because we heard the gospel, responded to it, and keep on hearing His voice. It does not come as some small, still voice in the night. Neither does it come as a bolt of lightning out of the sky. We hear Christ’s voice in His words; words revealed to the apostles and prophets, recorded for our reading and examination by divine inspiration, and laid up in the heart by practical application and holy living.
Fourth, as sheep, we “follow” the Lord. We follow in full expectation of receiving eternal life, “whom not having seen ye love; on whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8). We follow Him submissively, obeying “from the heart that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered” (Rom. 6:17). We follow Him exclusively, realizing that He is “the way, and the truth, and the life,” and that “no man cometh unto the Father” but through Him (John 14:6). We following Him in “fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience: and having our body washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22).
Finally, as His sheep, we “know” Him. I am not denying that He knows us! He does; in fact He knows us better than we know ourselves. But we cannot be known by Christ without our knowing Him in return. Paul put it this way: “For I know him whom I have believed” (2 Tim. 1:12b). Knowledge of Christ goes much deeper than a superficial awareness of the facts surrounding the life, death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord. “Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death; if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:8-11).
Tom Moore shared the following story with his readers, and with which I will close this article:
I read of an American tourist who was traveling in the Middle East. He came upon several shepherds whose flocks had intermingled while drinking water from a brook. After an exchange of greetings, one of the shepherds turned toward the sheep and called out, “Manah. Manah. Manah.” (Manah means, “follow me” in Arabic). Immediately his sheep separated themselves from the rest and followed him. Then one of the two remaining shepherds called out, “Manah. Manah,” and his sheep left the common flock to follow him. The traveler then said to the third shepherd, “I would like to try that. Let me put on your cloak and turban and see if I can get the rest of the sheep to follow me.” The shepherd smiled knowingly as the traveler wrapped himself in the cloak, put the turban on his head and called out, “Manah. Manah.” The sheep did not respond to the stranger’s voice. Not one of them moved toward him. “Will the sheep ever follow someone other than you?” The traveler asked. “Oh yes,” the shepherd replied, “sometimes a sheep gets sick, and then it will follow anyone.”
The Lord is speaking. His voice is loud and clear. Are you listening?
–by Tom Wacaster