What do you get when you put four celebrity judges together with hopeful musicians seeking their own celebrity status?

No…not American Idol.

It is the “other” singing show.

The Voice is NBC’s successful, but fierce singing contest, that searches for that one, unique sounding voice.  A voice that stands out above all others.

In the life of every believer, there is also a daily competition for that one, unique voice.

I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber!  But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  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 10:1-5

In biblical times, each town had a common sheepfold or pen.  Every night, after spending the day grazing their sheep in nearby fields, shepherds would bring their flocks into the fold.  This enclosure had four solid walls with only ONE entrance through which the sheep and shepherds would enter or exit.  An appointed “doorkeeper” (the various shepherds of the flocks most likely took turns) kept watch over this amalgamated herd, regulating which shepherd brought and took which sheep.  The sheepfold offered protection to the shepherd’s flock while he rested.

Early in the morning, each shepherd would come to retrieve his flock.  However, the shepherds would not be able to readily identify their own sheep from the other shepherds’ sheep.  If you have seen sheep grazing in the field, you know they all look the same!

There was only one way for the shepherd to separate his sheep from the others… his voice.

Standing by the fold door, he would call each sheep by name.

The sheep, recognizing their shepherd’s unique voice over all the other bleating sheep and voices of other shepherds, would separate from the chaotic mass and make their way toward that familiar voice.

Once the shepherd had his flock gathered around him, he would lead them (not drive them) out to graze for the day.

Sheep are not the smartest in the animal kingdom, but they are experts at discerning their shepherd’s voice and following him.  They have a natural inclination to form flocks and follow a leader, enabling a lone shepherd to manage a flock of hundreds!

Sheep are also creatures of habit.  If left to themselves, they follow the same paths until they become ruts.  They will graze the same field until it is parched and barren, polluting it with their droppings.  This leaves them hungry and full of disease.

It is their shepherd that leads them to fresh water, green pasture, new paths and safety.  Their very survival rests on their ability to know their shepherd’s voice.

What was the point of this story?

Jesus spoke often about sheep and shepherds when trying to teach vital lessons to His followers.

Believers are like sheep and they have only one Shepherd – the true Shepherd.  Yet, there are other sheep flocks and shepherds in the “fold of life” with us.  We are entangled with the other flocks.  We look like and act like them.  There is no clear way to identify which sheep belong to which shepherd.

We hear the other shepherds calling and often choose to follow them.  Sometimes, it is an intentional following, but most times, it is simply because we have not become experts at discerning our own Shepherd’s voice over all the false shepherds (John 10:7-10).

How do we recognize the true Shepherd over the false shepherds?

The true Shepherd protects and promotes life; the false shepherd takes away life.

The true Shepherd puts His sheep and their care above His.  In biblical times, if a shepherd had to take his sheep grazing far from town, thus having to make-do without the nightly protection of the common sheepfold, he would take great measures to ensure the sheep’s safety.  In the field, a cave or a stone-enclosed area without a roof might be used to serve as the nightly fold.  The shepherd would choose a safe place with only one entrance, and he would serve as the gatekeeper.  He would actually lay his body down across the entrance, keeping the sheep in and the wolves, thieves and robbers out.  He was literally the “door!”

The true Shepherd willingly lays down His life for the sheep, fighting off those who may threaten to kill them.  He will risk all for even one of them.  No sheep is left behind.  If a sheep is injured, He will carry it.  If a sheep falls into a crevice because it was not watching, the true Shepherd will lovingly rescue him/her.

Past, present, and future – all false shepherds are alike in that their flocks exist for their own selfish interests.  They sound enticing and engaging; promising wonderful things.  Nevertheless, in the end, following a false shepherd will lead a sheep to its death.  When dangers come, the false shepherd will flee, leaving the sheep vulnerable to wolves, thieves, and robbers.

The false shepherd does not take the time to get to know his sheep individually.  However, the true Shepherd knows each sheep by name.  He knows every cut or bump a sheep may have and gently tends to each one.  He knows each sheep’s weakness and each sheep’s strengths.

Today, there are many competing voices yelling over the din – opinions of others, values of our culture, as well as our own desires.  If we sheep are to make it safely through, we need to train our ear to that one unique voice….The voice of Jesus. (John 10:3-5)

How do we recognize THE VOICE?

The sheep learned to distinguish their shepherd’s voice from all the others by spending time alone with him.  It is no different for us sheep today.

Only through spending time with Him… reading His Word and talking to Him, can we begin to recognize His voice.  More importantly, we must learn to listen so we can hear Him speak to us!

Turn the radio off in your car.  Talk to your Shepherd… then listen!

Get up early and spend time reading His Word, praying and listening!

Fast from time to time.  Fasting can be as simple as one meal, or giving up a TV show or sugar for a few days.  However, prayer must accompany fasting.  Otherwise, it is just a diet!

 It may feel like you have accomplished nothing, but, eventually, when the time comes (and it will) that there are many competing voices; you will follow the right one.

If you are not learning your Shepherd’s voice (and it will never lead contrary to the written Word), you will not learn to discern the many false shepherds’ voices and avoid them!  The enemy will decipher which false voice is appealing to you, and will use it to rob and kill you.

Have you tuned your ear to THE VOICE?

If not, begin today.  Your very survival depends on it.

Filed Under: Monday Morning Musings

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