Hearing Our Great Shepherd

What a thought! My sheep hear my voice. There are no sweeter words in the whole world. Such a rich voice with words of comfort, love, and rebuke. Jesus himself tells us that he is our Shepherd and that we hear his voice. Let us study this voice of Christ, our great Shepherd. In doing so, let us seek to understand the voice of Christ, see to whom this voice is directed, and the words that are spoken.

John 10:27—“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me…” What is this voice? Scripture provides us with many passages that speak of this voice. In Genesis 3:8, Adam and Eve hear the voice of the Lord as he walks through the garden. They hide themselves because of the sin that they had just committed. Ezekiel 43:2 describes that the voice of the God of Israel “was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory.” These are but two passages among many others in Scripture that start to scratch the surface on this subject.

These passages speak of the love and power found in the voice. In our text, the voice is compared to one of a shepherd who calls his sheep. It is an irresistible voice, a sweet voice that reaches into the inner depths of cold, dark hearts. It is the voice of Christ, and therefore it is one of truth.

This voice stands in stark opposition to the false voices of our age, and in all of history. Think of all the false voices you have studied in history: the storming voice of Adolph Hitler in the dark of night, promising his followers a Germany free of oppression; Sigmund Freud and his vain studies of the mind; Mohammed and his foolish dreams; Confucius and his philosophies. That only scrapes the surface of man’s depravity throughout history.

Furthermore, who can avoid the voice of relativism today? It cries out on college campuses, permeates the churches of America and threatens the neighborhoods. It cries, “do whatever you want!” It tolerates the most heinous sins and leaves the most corrupt ideas in its wake, all the while despising the absolute truth found in the Word of God. I am convinced that Satan is working extremely hard to erode the Church in the United States through relativism. Satan rubs his hands in glee when those who commit even the grossest of sins are simply seen as being “cultured.” We do not experience persecution in this country, at least not physical torture or imprisonment for speaking what we believe. Yet, Satan is working hard to make us tolerant thinkers, a bunch of chickens that don’t dare to speak TRUTH! He wants us to blend in with the lukewarm, wish washy culture that surrounds us, one that does not believe in absolute truth. Satan speaks to our flesh through the society we live in, and that voice is appealing to the flesh. Our world stands broken and very much confused from these deceptive and wicked voices.

We could even talk politics for a bit. Who has not heard the voice of politics? This article will be published after elections take place, but it would still do us well to cast a cautious eye on politicians. Watch the commercials and read the promises—John McCain is your man! Put your trust in him, for he can deliver you from economic woe, he can secure our borders, and he can protect you from domestic and foreign terrorism. Vote for Barack Obama! He can alleviate your medical needs, and he can get you out of this economic crisis. The voice of the politician is clear—trust in me because I can give you what you need. So powerful is the allure of earthly shepherds.

Put those voices aside now, for there is a sweet melodious voice in our hearts. God be praised. We hear the voice of Christ! Sheep hear the voice of Christ. What does it mean that sheep hear the voice of Christ? We are the sheep described in John 10. I cannot think of one person who would glow with pride after having been compared to a sheep. I am not a farmer, but you know as I do that sheep are not flattering animals with which to be compared. Sheep are dumb animals. They wander and are nearly devoured by predators that surround their grazing grounds.

It is these animals that we are compared to. Even as sheep hear their shepherd, so we also hear Christ’s voice. Such a voice we cannot hear ourselves. We cannot and do not participate in eternal election. John 10:26 clearly sets before us unconditional salvation: “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.” Notice the words there. Christ is telling the unbelieving Jews that, because they are not of his sheep, (because they were not elected before eternity to be his own) they do not believe. Believing is never a pre-requisite for salvation. Can you imagine the terror of a conditional salvation? Would you ever entrust something valuable to a sheep, much less certain elements of salvation?

It is also important to notice that Christ calls only the elect and not all men. In Matthew 25:33 we read that “he [Christ] shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.” This verse clearly displays God’s gracious mercy toward his elect sheep and his just judgment toward the unrighteous goats. It is foolish to think that Christ calls many, but some reject his voice. Then Jesus is no longer our sovereign Lord. If he calls all men, and some do not come unto him, he is but a powerless man. No, God in Christ chooses his sheep before eternity without the will and work of men.

Jesus then calls a particular people with an irresistible voice. That voice is a saving voice! What is the result of hearing this saving voice of Christ? John 10:27b, 28a-“and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life!” Such great love is unthinkable. Such love that the mighty and powerful Christ would subject himself to such lowliness, that he should become desperately poor for stubborn, dumb, totally depraved sheep! Such love that came to a focal point at the cross of Calvary, where he descended into hell, endured hate among men, and suffered the heavy wrath of the Father, so that we might go to glory! Salvation is accomplished by the One who was made sin so that we would be made righteous!

We hear that sweet voice. It speaks to us on Sunday as we sit under faithful preaching. It speaks to us every day in the Word of God during devotions. It speaks to the children and young people in the catechism room and through Christian school teachers. It speaks to the older members of the Church in Bible societies. The voice speaks through the singing in church. Jesus speaks powerfully through his Spirit to the soul of the dying saint, penetrating deeply into even the mind and heart of one who is ravaged with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. Yes, his sheep certainly hear him!

The voice speaks to us words of rebuke. Christ spoke a word of rebuke to the Pharisees in John 10:26 – “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.” Let us not separate ourselves from the Pharisees here. Yes, it is true that this group of Pharisees was unrighteous, but we must remember that even those who are saved have only a small beginning of obedience in this life. Sheep wander and make foolish decisions. How true is this for us, too! Our faith becomes weak. We stumble and fall. Maybe it is the case that we are not faithful with personal devotions. It could very well be that we do not always have an excitement to hear the preaching. We struggle with sin. Sometimes we may even be tempted to lend an ear to other, more “appealing” voices in this world. Certainly Christ comes to us in rebuke at times in our lives.

In the voice of Christ we also hear unspeakable comfort. Read verse 29 of John 10: “My Father, which gave them [the sheep] me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” Preservation of the saints—doctrine is lively and personal! God preserves me in Jesus Christ from beginning to finish! He holds my hand as I stumble, and leads me out of the valley of sin, trial, and despair to the everlasting light! Do not look to other cultures for your answer. They will tell you to “trust yourself; do it on your own.” Do not look to the Roman Catholic Church or those in the Reformed community who support the Federal Vision, for there your preservation is based on your own works, stripping all comfort from your salvation, and denying the reality that you are a sheep. By grace, hear the Great Shepherd of the Sheep!

God be glorified. That is the end of all things. Let us then end with a fitting benediction in Hebrews 13:20, 21: “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”