185. THE SHEEP AND THE SHEPHERD

(The Information & Edification Series – Batch 4)

In John 10:1-5, Jesus said:

  • “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.”

These words about the sheep and his shepherd, highlight perfectly the relationship that exists between the Lord Jesus Christ himself and those who are his. This is discussed below:

First of all, the relationship is not secret

To get to the sheep, the shepherd enters in by the door and not some other clandestine, hidden way. The scripture states, “…He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

This tells me that there is no such thing as hidden Christianity. The shepherd is not bothered if he is seen as he makes his way to the sheep and the sheep are perfectly fine with him passing through the door, which is the main entrance, in the clear view of others.

Similarly, those who are in genuine relationship with the Lord therefore, have an open, transparent relationship with him, which other people in the world know about. That is, they do not hide the fact that they are Christians, nor does the Lord hide that they are his. The relationship is not secret. It is public knowledge that they belong to Jesus and he is their Lord. They are not ashamed of this relationship and so, have no problem letting other people know that they belong to him.

Secondly, those who are in relationship with the Lord, know when he is speaking

When the shepherd speaks, the sheep, through intimacy and experience with him are accustomed to his voice. They know what it sounds like, distinct from the voice of an imposter. When the shepherd speaks to them, they can tell. The scripture states, “…and the sheep hear his voice…for they know his voice.”

Similarly, for Christians, there may be many voices in the world as 1 Corinthians 14:10 states but when the Lord speaks to his children, they know it is him speaking. They have learned to drop whatever it is they are doing, to sit up and be alert, whenever the Lord is speaking to them. They take note and they listen, whether this be directly from his Word or indirectly through for example, a Preacher or Teacher of his Word or circumstances that he has allowed to come their way.

Through God-given discernment and because they are in relationship with their Lord, they can tell as well when a voice is not that of their Lord but is that of the deceiver.

Thirdly, the Lord knows all his children and calls out to each one of them as individuals, by name

When the shepherd calls the sheep, he does not send out one general call and say: “Sheep, come.” No. The Bible states that “…he calleth his own sheep by name.”

This tells me that the shepherd has a personal, one-on-one, intimate relationship with each of his sheep and to him, each is significant.

This is true also of those who know the Lord Jesus as personal indwelling Saviour. They have a personal relationship and walk with him, where they enjoy sweet fellowship with him at the individual level and not just collectively. When he calls out to them and speaks to them, he does so individually, even where it leads to a collective result. He is acquainted with each child and what he or she is going through and who he or she is and takes the time to reach out to each and every one, as an individual.

Fourthly, the Lord only directs, guides, leads and instructs those that are his

That the shepherd calls his own sheep, tells me that these sheep may be among other sheep which do not belong to the shepherd. For the purpose of direction, navigation and instruction therefore, he calls out to his own and not to all the sheep that are there. The scripture states, “…he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.”

Similarly, while Jesus calls on all human beings to be saved so that they can come into relationship with him, when it comes to giving further directions, instructions and guidance in life, it is only those who have heeded that initial call, that are in relationship with him and belong to him and are therefore his children, that benefit from his wisdom.

Hence the reason why in Proverbs 5:23, the Bible says of the person that has no relationship with God and that does not belong to him, that “He shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.”

Contrastingly, in Psalm 32, David, one of God’s children, in writing of his relationship with God, cited Him as stating, even after he (David) had sinned, walked away from God in disobedience and suffered for it but repented, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.”

God truly guides and directs his children, once they remain submitted to him. He directs them away from danger and into safety and guides them on all matters in life, including that which pertains to what job to take, what career path to pursue and who to court and marry.

As the Omniscient, all-knowing God, so wise is his counsel, that, even when his children do not understand, whatever path he directs them to take or turns them away from going, always works out for their best and His glory. Hence the reason the Bible states: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

Fifthly, only those who belong to the Lord respond to his voice when he calls

Given that all of the sheep do not belong to the shepherd, those that do not know him personally and do not belong to him, will not hear him when he speaks, nor obey his instruction. They will remain unmoved by his voice, unfazed and continue on as they were doing before. It is only the sheep that belong to the shepherd that will respond.

This is also true of Jesus and his relationship with his children. His children are among unbelievers (the ungodly) in the world and when he speaks, they hear and respond in obedience to him. Those that are in the world though and remain outside of relationship with him, do not.

This is why Jesus later told some of the Jews who did not believe that he was the Christ and therefore refused to follow him, “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep…My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me.” (vs. 26-27).

Sixthly, this is a relationship where actual communication takes place

The shepherd “…calleth his own sheep by name…” and they “…hear his voice.”

This reminds me that in the relationship that Jesus has with his children, there is communication that takes place. It is not some dead religion that Christians follow, where they engage in routine and then consider themselves to be good little Christians because they have followed some ritual or done some great charitable work. No. They serve a risen Saviour, one that is alive for evermore and there is active communication that takes place on an ongoing basis, between him and them.

He speaks to them and they hear his voice whenever he does. Like sheep are sure to bleat in delight when in the presence of the shepherd (because that is how sheep ‘speak’), they also speak to him through prayer. This relationship is therefore alive and there is two-way communication, between the Lord and his children.

Seventhly, in this relationship, the Lord walks ahead of his children

When the shepherd calls out to his sheep, he leads them out and when he putteth them forth, “…he goeth before them…”

It is noteworthy that he does not allow them to go before him and he stand behind, nor does he stand at the side of them. He goes in front of them.

This speaks of leadership and protection. The good shepherd leads the sheep by example and similarly, Jesus Christ is the Christian’s perfect example. He knows where to take them and so he guides them, by leading the way. In leading them by going before them, he also accepts and takes responsibility for them. They are his and are therefore under his charge. He therefore goes before them, so as to protect them from harm and danger. For, there are wolves that are about, which desire to derail the sheep, lead them astray and devour them.

The Lord therefore stands guard over those who are his, by going before them, similar to what God did when the children of Israel (his people), had left Egypt. The Bible states in Exodus 13:20-22:

  • “And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness. And the Lord went BEFORE them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to LEAD them in the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of the fire by night, from before the people.”

Eighthly, those in relationship with the Lord, follow him because they trust him

When the shepherd calls out to his own sheep by their individual names and as he leads them out and goes before them, “…the sheep follow him.”

This speaks of trust, which has grown stronger with experience. The sheep trust the shepherd, that he has their welfare in mind and so will lead them to a good place. They know that they can rely on him. They can place all of their confidence in him and as time progresses, he demonstrates a proven track record to do just that.

For, although one or two sheep may be new to the fold, for the others, he has called to them before, he has led them out before and he has taken charge of them before, leading them to a good place where there is abundant pasture.

They therefore know from experience, that the shepherd is consistently for their good. He will not have led them forth before with such care, devotion and protection and now, lead them into a place of danger. No. He always seeks their welfare, even where they don’t know exactly where he will lead them on a particular day, when he calls and even when the journey seems longs and sometimes treacherous.

Ninthly, the Lord never leaves or forsakes his children

In verses 11-13, Jesus continued:

The fact that the shepherd goes before the sheep to lead the way and never leaves them to their own pursuits while on the journey, speaks of commitment, faithfulness, safety and security.

Similarly, in the relationship that Christians have with Jesus, there is safety and security in him. He has faithfully promised to never leave them or forsake them, no matter what, he is committed, as the author and finisher of their faith, to see them through this life’s journey and nothing can harm them, when he leads the way (Hebrews 13:5; 12:2).

In John 10:11-13, in comparing the faithfulness and selflessness of the shepherd to his own sheep with the carelessness and selfishness of someone hired to look after the sheep that were not his own, Jesus continued:

  • “…the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scatterth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.”

This brings me to my tenth and final point.

Tenthly, the love of the shepherd for the sheep is genuine, to the point of being sacrificial

The shepherd genuinely cares about the welfare of the sheep, to the point where he is prepared to sacrifice his own life for their good.

This is what Jesus Christ did. He voluntarily sacrificed his own life while here on earth and allowed himself to be captured, tortured and killed, so that his blood could be shed as an atonement for our sins.

John 15:13 states of him and what he did, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Ephesians 5:25 testifies that “…Christ loved the church and gave himself for it.”

In him giving up his life, those that believe on Him and submit to his Lordship, receive forgiveness for their sins, get washed in his perfect blood are given power to become children of God are adopted into his royal family, reconciled with God and destined to partake of an eternal inheritance in heaven.

The one who does not genuinely care for the sheep because the sheep are not his own, will never be willing to sacrifice his own life for them and will not even stick around to fight for them, when danger comes or difficulty arises. Verses 11 and 12 state that:

  • “the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.”

Similar to the shepherd, in addition to the fact that Jesus laid down his life for those who are his, as their risen Saviour, he has undertaken to keep them throughout this life’s journey and has assured them that nothing can separate them from his love.

When difficulties and hardships arise therefore and even where they have messed up and he metes out chastening and rebuke in love, he is ever with them. He never abandons them. People may do that, even those that once claimed to ‘love’ or to ‘care for’ them. Like the hireling, they selfishly flee but Jesus never does. He demonstrates genuine concern for those that are his by sticking with them through thick and thin, when up on the loftiest of mountains or deep down in the most dreadful of valleys.

On another note, whereas John 10 talks about the shepherd and how he relates to his sheep, Psalm 23 gives us beautiful insight into how the sheep feels about the shepherd.

One of the shepherd’s sheep (a child of God) stated joyfully and contentedly in Psalm 23 of the shepherd’s leading:

  • “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

This paints the perfect picture of how a child of God feels about the Lord Jesus, his good shepherd. He trusts him, he leads him in the right path, he provides bountifully for him and he gives beautiful protection, safety and security. The child of God knows that he is cared for by the Lord Jesus, that no matter what, that he will be with him in this life’s journey forever and will not abandon him when trials, difficulties, hardships and dangers arise. The child of God is therefore content to dwell in his presence, knowing that there is no better place to be than in the presence of the Lord.

(Written on 15th June, 2021)

ADDENDUM

As I was literally typing the last paragraph above (I had reached the word ‘beautiful’), the house phone rang and nobody being at home at the moment but me, although I don’t ever usually answer because my calls come on my cellular phone, I decided to pick up the receiver.

It was the voice of a hireling, hoping that I would listen and be led astray. A woman from the false Jehovah Witness denomination was on the other end, asking me how I was and without identifying herself, telling me that she wanted to share a scripture of encouragement with me.

I immediately asked what church she belonged to and it was only then that she told me what I had suspected. She belonged to Jehovah Witness cult.

I tell you, the devil never lets up. He is a wolf, always looking for opportunities to see who he can devour. He interrupted my writing my Article about the Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, to try to fill my ears with lies.

This was not the voice of the Good Shepherd and so, I did not listen. I stopped the lady in her tracks and told her, that I knew what the Jehovah Witnesses believe, having spoken at length with one such lady at the airport some years ago (You can read what happened there in Article 90 entitled, “BEYOND A DOUBT, JESUS IS LORD”).

I told her that she should not call ever again as the people in my household did not believe what she believed. I told her that we believe that what she believes is false and that we are called by God not to entertain such teachings. I told her though, that I hoped that she would believe the truth that Jesus is Lord, that he is God the Son and Emmanuel (which means God with us).

After seeking clarity again as to whether I was saying not to ever call again, I firmly but respectfully told her yes.

She and her crew had apparently been calling over the past several months and another member of the family would simply tell her that she did not have time to listen. This therefore made them keep calling back, thinking that at some point, the person who usually answered would have time to listen.

I set the record straight in that moment and I did not mince words. I told her that I would not be rude to her as she was a human being and that she should have a good day but to not ever call again, as the issue wasn’t in finding time to listen. The issue was that we believed that what she believed was false and so would not listen.

This reminds me of John 10:5 and 8, where the Lord Jesus stated of the shepherd’s sheep, “And a stranger will they NOT follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers…All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did NOT hear them.”

(Addendum written on 15th June, 2021)

FURTHER ADDENDUM

It additionally dawned on me, shortly after I’d written the above Article and Addendum, that a sheep that does not belong to the shepherd, may have occasionally (in hanging around the other sheep owned by the shepherd), had a taste or inkling of some measure of the shepherd’s goodness and care.

Yet, the shepherd not being his own, a sheep that has never had personal relationship with that shepherd and therefore never knew or experienced the depth and faithfulness of such love of the shepherd, would have no issue walking away from the fold where the shepherd is and never returning…but not so with the sheep of the shepherd.

Even if a sheep that belongs to the shepherd becomes wayward and walks away, thinking that he can find his own pastures or in playing loose with the shepherd’s instructions, he becomes separated from the fold, once he survives long enough, he is bound to return. He will be looking to find his way back to the shepherd. For, having experienced the shepherd’s love and his beautiful provision, he learns in time, that being under the shepherd’s care and following the shepherd wherever he directs him to go is the best place to be on earth and for his own welfare.

This is why the prodigal son returned to his Father. He had experienced his love once and even took it for granted but when he left his Father’s presence and went out on his own, he experienced hardship, difficulty, abandonment by friends and a life of sterility. He then remembered how much better it had been when under his Father’s care. He fed bountifully and was well taken care of. He therefore humbled himself, repented of his wrong and returned to his Father.

In addition to the wayward sheep looking to find the shepherd because he longs to return, the shepherd also goes in search of that sheep with the intention of restoring him to the fold. Hence the reason why the Psalmist in Psalm 23 stated of the shepherd, “He restoreth my soul.”

This is clear in Matthew 18: 12-13, where Jesus said:

  • “How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.”

Hence the reason why the Father of the prodigal son who was looking out intently for his return, met him on the way as he was coming back and warmly embraced him. He did not use that opportunity to berate him, insult him, put him down angrily or accuse him. Whereas he did not condone his sin, he was overjoyed with the fact that he had returned. Exuberant that his son had had a change of heart and was on the path back to him, the Father in compassion, ran to him, assured him that he was accepted in the beloved and rejoicing, held a celebration for his return.

Luke 15:20-24 states of the prodigal son and his father:

  • “And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.”

(Further addendum written on 15th June, 2021)

Dear Reader, if you found the above Article and Addendums to be interesting, informative, edifying or beneficial, you may also be interested in reading the following under the ‘SINGLE Daughters’ Page:

  • Note 90 – ‘Beyond A Doubt Jesus Is Lord’
  • Note 137 – ‘Who To Marry?’
  • Note 239 – ‘Jesus – Who Is He?’
  • Note 247 – ‘How Does God Speak To His Children?’
  • Note 274 – ‘I Being In The Way, The Lord Led Me – A Match Made In Heaven’

Additionally, under the ‘BROKEN Daughters of God’ Page:

  • Note 2 – ‘Would God Want Me Back Now?’
  • Note 25 – ‘The Bummer Lamb’

Under the ‘BIBLE-BELIEVING Daughters of God’ Page:

  • Note 42 – ‘Ten (10) Red Flags That That Speaker Or Teacher Is A Wolf Disguised In Sheep’s Clothing Or Operating Under The Devil’s Deception’
  • Note 182 – ‘How It Feels To Be On The Wanted List’

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