In nomadic cultures, it’s common for flocks of sheep to intermingle. When it comes time for the herds to separate, a shepherd need only call his flock and his sheep immediately follow. For all the benefits of modernization, we’ve lost a window to some of the beautiful metaphors and parables of the Bible. In the tenth chapter of the Book of John, Jesus uses one such metaphor as He speaks of a shepherd and his sheep.
“After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.” (John 10:4-5 NLT).
Throughout the Bible, a relationship with God is compared to that of a sheep following a shepherd. As a boy, David led his flock to quiet waters; he brought them to green pastures. He fiercely defended them and watched diligently that none of the flock should wander. Psalm 95 draws on this image as it describes our walk with God.
“For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, …” (Psalm 95:7-8 NASB).
As Christians, we abide in the care of the Great Shepherd. Today, there are so many other demands for our attention. There are temptations at every turn. So many voices try to call us away from the leading of the Master. God might speak in any number of ways; but how do we know the Shepherd’s voice?
Sheep Know the Shepherd’s Voice
How Do We Know the Shepherd’s Voice?
1. Know that you have the mind of Christ
“For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (I Corinthians 2:16 NASB).
In John 16:12-13, Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit in us will guide us into all truth. If we have confessed Jesus as our Lord, we have an assurance that His Spirit lives in us. That inner presence of Christ speaks to our hearts, and we sense a confirmation when we hear the Shepherd’s voice.
2. The Shepherd’s voice is consistent with Scripture
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” (II Timothy 3:16 NASB).
Paul wrote to Timothy that all Scripture is profitable for training. This admonition isn’t just about the leather, paper, and ink we call the Bible. A single phrase or verse can be misunderstood or taken out of context. Nonetheless, there is a consistency in the message and the Spirit that makes God’s Word come alive to us. We can know the Shepherd’s voice through the Scriptures.
3. Godly counsel confirms the Shepherd’s voice
“Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.” (Proverbs 11:14 NASB).
Harmony among His flock is very important to the Shepherd. Paul and Barnabas returned to a council of elders in Jerusalem to receive confirmation of the gospel Paul preached to the Gentiles, (Acts 15; Galatians 2:1-2). The word that we hear from the Shepherd should ring true with brethren we trust in the Lord.
4. Those who speak on behalf of the Shepherd bear good fruit
“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.” (Matthew 7:16-17 NASB).
Jesus makes it clear that God’s messengers can be evaluated by the spiritual results of their lives. Good trees bear good fruit; bad trees bear bad fruit. If someone attempts to lead as a shepherd but bears bad fruit, that’s a very dangerous sign.
5. The Shepherd’s voice always confesses Jesus and glorifies God
“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;” (I John 4:2 NASB).
Philippians 2:5-11 says Jesus existed in the form of God but humbled Himself to become a man. He suffered and died, but God raised Him from the dead and exalted Him in glory. One who speaks with the Shepherd’s voice always confesses that Jesus, the Christ, humbled Himself to come in the flesh on our behalf.
6. The voice of the Shepherd is uncompetitive and humble
“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” (James 3:14-16 NASB).
The Shepherd’s voice is humble. Matthew 11:29, Jesus said that as we submit to His leading, He is “gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” I’ve heard it said that the Holy Spirit is the perfect gentleman; He will offer direction but will never force His own way. You can know the voice of the Shepherd by its quiet humility.
7. Peace follows the Shepherd’s voice, even in the midst of trouble
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NASB).
God hasn’t promised that our lives will be easy; but Jesus said we’re blessed even when we’re persecuted, (Matthew 5:10-12). The greatest blessing we receive is that we can know the Shepherd’s voice by its peace.
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:17-18 NASB).
The featured image is © Angel Simon / shutterstock.com