Let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good. Job 34:4
We're in chapter 14 of Meeting God in Quiet Places: The Cotswold Parables by F. LaGard Smith. This chapter has a beautiful analogy that shows how Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has the same relationship with us, His sheep, as the lambs do with their mothers and their shepherd.
From an early period after they are born, lambs can pick out the bleating of their mother's "baaahs" from among all the other mothers' bleating, because of what the shepherds call "mothering up" time. This is time spent getting the baby to love its mother and vice versa. If there's a problem, the mother will be clamped in a yoke while the baby suckles. This way, the mother's instincts have time to rally, and she can be released. Then maternal bonding continues to increase over the course of about a week. When the lambs are released into a field--where perhaps a hundred ewes are waiting--they run straight for their mother, recognizing the sound of their own mother's voice.
Little lambs also know the voice of their shepherd, probably because of a "mothering up" process when the shepherd feeds them and provides them with a sense of security. This amazing ability of lambs to know the voices of their mothers and their shepherd gives us a spiritual parallel in Jesus, who said, "The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice."
And we know that Jesus is the perfect, the quintessential Shepherd. Jesus said Himself, "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me--just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for my sheep." And how do the sheep know the Shepherd? By His voice! And how do we hear His voice? As followers of Christ we are permitted to know his inner being. We hear His voice because we know what He thinks. We know what He believes. We know what He stands for.
But to be safe, we must also be aware when the voice is not the voice of the Good Shepherd. Lambs don't follow the voice of a stranger, and we shouldn't either. Are we listening to the voice of a stranger because it's more exciting and more sophisticated? Are we acting as if there are no enemies about--that we don't need to stay close to Him who gives us protection? And will we be lost eternally because of listening to voices that lure us away?
More on this tomorrow! Hearing the Shepherd's voice is serious business, and we should all give it some serious thought!