We were listening to Christmas Carols this morning, as I do almost continually from Thanksgiving through the end of the year. It’s a Christmas Season tradition for our family. I absolutely LOVE Christmas and all the silly, sentimental and beautiful music that has been made throughout all the years. There’s just no more fitting tribute to the symbol of the real meaning of Christmas really to me than all that music that’s been composed over the last 2,000 years.
As I was listening this morning – I was struck by the fact that I don’t even need to look up to name most of the artists that are played – for most of the “Traditional” songs that you hear played. Frank Sinatra’s voice is so unmistakable, as are the voices of Elvis Presley, and Nat King Cole, and Gene Autry, just to name a few. I’m not trying to be Chauvinist, I just can’t think of any Women that I would recognize right off the top of my head! But you get my point: You hear just a few words from some of these people and you know right away who it is, and your heart warms.
Jesus said something like that in the Bible: “The gatekeeper 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.” (John 10: 3-4, emphasis mine). While the exact meaning is lost to most folks these days, the explanation is really quite simple. A Shepherd was a life-long position in Israel back in Jesus’ time. You didn’t “Graduate” from being a Shepherd to being something else in other words (at least in most cases, King David being the obvious exception).
If you were a Shepherd, you were with your flock – always – and they knew you, and you knew them. They “Knew your voice” because you talked to them, they were your companions. The Shepherd in fact, probably sang to them and kept them quiet and comforted at night when predators roamed. The shepherd also protected his flock from those same predators, so the sheep knew to run to the Shepherd if they sensed danger. The sheep learned their master’s voice, and would only follow that Shepherd. They would not follow any other Shepherd, since they didn’t recognize that voice.
The “Shepherd’s voice” then is quite an important metaphor for us to learn as Christians. What it means when Jesus says “My sheep know my voice” is that even though we have not actually ever physically heard his voice before, still it is unmistakable to us, we know it as our “Master’s voice” just as if we’d been with him for our entire lives. For us, it means those very same things that it meant to real sheep with their Shepherd: Safety, familiarity, love, caring protection and guidance to finding food and water. In other words, the Shepherd not only guides us and cares for the sheep, but He meets all their physical needs on a daily basis! This is what Jesus does for us too. The fact that we recognize His voice is a mystery of the Kingdom of God, likely having to do with our “Election” as believers from before time began.
The main point is that we do recognize Jesus’ voice as our God and Creator, calling to us, urging us to follow Him. He is the good Shepherd, he leads us and cares for us.
If you hear His voice calling you today, won’t you turn and follow Him too?