We began in our previous program by reading Psalm 100 and how God describes His people as being the sheep of His pasture. For most of us, being described as a farm animal isn’t so fantastic at first hearing, but when you begin to see what the relationship is between the Good Shepherd and His sheep, it actually makes you long to be one of them. The relationship between the Good Shepherd and His sheep is very close and very personal.
Psalm 23, A Psalm of David. ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’
There’s something really special in that psalm. This wonderful Shepherd doesn’t keep His sheep in a pen or a fenced paddock and then leave them to their own devices. This wonderful Shepherd remains with His sheep all the time. He’s with the sheep when they sleep, He leads them in quiet peaceful places, He’s with them walking through dangerous and dark places, He ensures they have all their basic needs met be it food, water, rest or shelter. When they’re unwell or hurt He anoints them with oil and soothes their bodies with healing and when they’re surrounded by their enemies, this Shepherd prepares a table to sustain them through the threats the sheep are living under. This Shepherd discipline’s His sheep with His rod and staff and this brings His sheep great comfort. Under the protection and provision of this Shepherd, these sheep know His goodness and lovingkindness…in all these diverse circumstances and settings. What is the end result for the sheep of this Shepherd…dwelling with the Lord forever!
These sheep know the voice of this Shepherd and no matter where He leads them, they follow…completely trusting Him, and emulating Him and both the world and their enemies see it all. There is no question as to whom these sheep belong or whom they love…they love their Shepherd. He is no hireling, this Shepherd has given His entire life for the benefit and care of His sheep.
John 10:9-15, Jesus said, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he’ll be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the Good Shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”
Parallel this passage with Psalm 23 and you see the same Good Shepherd who leads His sheep in and out to find pasture; out where there are false shepherds (hired hands), wolves and predators, the Good Shepherd protects them from these enemies. He not only cares for the needs of the sheep but He even lays down His own life to protect and save them.
That’s our Good Shepherd and we’re supposed be obedient sheep and follow only Him.
As disciples of Jesus, it’s not enough to be counted among His flock and spend our life milling about munching on grass within the safety of the pen, we have to follow our Shepherd, listen to His voice and learn from Him, trust Him and emulate Him. The closer we follow Him the more our discipleship grows and living our lives transparently before the world as a witness.
What if the people we live among aren’t interested in Jesus or are even openly hostile to Him and those who love Him? Well, nowhere does Scripture say that we should only follow our Shepherd when it’s safe and pleasant to do so…on the contrary, we’re to follow our Shepherd and emulate Him in all circumstances and that the world will in fact hate us because we follow and emulate our Shepherd, but follow and emulate Him we must.
The world may hate our Shepherd and because of our connection to Him, hate us as well…but maybe…just maybe…if they see our transparent lives and our growing lifestyle of living like Him, they may also desire to join the flock and follow Him alongside us. That’s when they become a disciple that we can help them grow in their faith and mentor them with the doctrine and teaching that has been so important and instrumental in our own development and maturity.
As disciples of our Rabbi…we are not only required to share about Him with others and open the gate to let them in, but we’re also required to help other believers become more effective disciples and this continues our own discipleship in Jesus. The key in all this is living a transparent life before Jesus and our communities as we daily follow our Shepherd and Rabbi.
It’s also important to have loyalty first and foremost to the Word of God, that’s how we learn to follow our Shepherd and emulate Him. That’s the source of truth and sound doctrine. There’s nothing wrong with reading a good book by a reputable teacher or listening to solid teaching, but the Word of God should be our primary source. All too often, we read the latest books or the top 10 best selling authors and barely give God’s Word the time of day. It should be the other way around.
The more we read and study the Word of God, the better our discernment becomes and we’re better able to recognise hirelings, false teachers and false prophets and avoid them. We learn to know and hear the voice of our Shepherd and only Him, we follow Him and are safe.
If we want to really understand what it means to hear the voice of our Shepherd, you have to listen to what He’s saying and He’s speaks to us through His Word.