Listening for That Voice
You probably were young once as I was. When shopping at a crowded mall or visiting a busy playground, little people often get separated from their mothers and fathers. Sometimes, it’s just a few feet but it can seem like the Grand Canyon separates you because you don’t know where they are. You are lost. Somewhere between frightened and terrified you exist and search frantically for your parent. And then you hear your name called. Loud and clear. The sweet sound of your mother or father. You are now safe. Peace washes over you in an instant. They have called your name and you are brought back into the fold.
We are Sheep
The Bible uses a name for us Christians again and again: sheep. The man after God’s own heart was a shepherd. Our own Lord is referred to, time and again, as the good Shepherd. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Why sheep and shepherds and not lion tamer and lions or farmer and horses? Because we most resemble sheep of all the animals.
Sheep are a thoroughly domesticated animal and easy prey. They do not have the teeth or claws to fight off an attacker or the speed and agility to elude predators. They are also followers to a fault, if one goes off a cliff, the others will follow. They desperately need a shepherd to watch over them and protect them: “Your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
Sheep Need a Shepherd
The relationship between sheep and shepherd speaks to great need from the sheep’s perspective and duty and love from the shepherd’s. If the sheep had no value to the shepherd, he wouldn’t waste his time. But they are very valuable and thus worth the investment of time and energy. So he sits and watches for predators and speaks to them to bring them to water and fresh grazing and to the safety of the pen at night. It doesn’t take long for those sheep to realize that the voice of this man is the only one they need to listen to. He provides food, water, and shelter, and nothing bad happens as long as he is around.
In the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus keeps repeating the phrase: “You have heard it said . . . but I say. . . .” Yes, we have all heard much from the culture around us, and from the church even that differs from what God is saying in Scripture. And yet we keep listening to other voices. When we walk around without a true shepherd, when we listen to other voices, bad things happen: “So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered” (Ezekiel 34:5).
I admit that in the past my thinking has been informed by an unholy blend of worldly thought, Scripture, current church thinking, and my own. I imagine that I’m not alone in having to admit this.
Listening to the Wrong Voices
The voices in our head are many and varied and loud and unrelenting. Our nightly news, best friend, neighbor, mother, colleagues, trade journals, entertainment channels, all pour opinions into the two openings in our head and it’s up to us to sort it all out. It is up to us to balance all these voices and come up with the correct or best solution for ourselves for how we navigate life. It can be confusing, right?
But we know that God is not the author of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33) and that He doesn’t want us to be anxious but wants peace for us.
Can we as sheep really figure all this stuff out for ourselves?
Can we, on our own, find good food and water, defend ourselves from lions, stop walking off cliffs? If so then we don’t need a shepherd.
But we have one, because we need one. The problem is that while grazing in the fields we are listening to lots and lots of other voices. The other sheep, the lions even. And we cannot hear the one voice that will guide and protect us. We need to tune out the other voices. With all that noise in our ear we cannot, we CANNOT, hear the Shepherd’s voice.
Be Quiet & Listen
Turn off the radio, television, chat shows, entertainment, sports, and sit quietly on your commute. When you are in bed, at lunchtime, at the park, read your Shepherd’s words and listen to His voice. Tune out the rubbish and fill your head with the good and profitable words of Scripture through the voice of your Shepherd. Listen in prayer as He guides your words and speaks quietly back to you .
The voice that found you when you were lost; that steered you toward bread and wine, that saved you from certain death and gave you eternal life. That’s the voice, the only voice a sheep needs.