Thursday, April 5, 2012

John 10:1-6

Much like the 23rd Psalm, this chapter of 10 is one of the most encouraging, comforting passages that reveals the heart of God toward His sheep. In this passage Jesus contrasts the character of the true shepherd, who cares for the sheep, with the counterfeit - the man who is a thief and a robber, only out to destroy the sheep.

“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 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. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. (John 10:1-6)

In Jesus’ day, the shepherds of a village would bring their sheep into a common sheepfold at night. It was a pen with stone walls about six feet high. The shepherds would take turns being the watchman, who would sleep in the entry of the sheepfold to protect the sheep from thieves. In the morning, the shepherds would come and they would gather their own flock from the herd. They were able to identify their own because each shepherd had a distinctive call and his sheep would respond to that.

In the same way, Jesus, our Shepherd brings us out from the crowd with His distinctive call. Those who belong to Him know His voice. They have learned, through the study of His Word, to distinguish His voice from the others calling to them. The more you know Him, the more you will recognize the voice of a thief, and you will learn to run away from any other voice.

In verse 3 we are told that The Shepherd knows His own sheep by name (verse 3)! Now I find that so remarkable and encouraging. Being the youngest of four girls, I was NEVER called by my right name on the first try! Mom would call me “Jodi-Susie-Jackie-Sally” like it was one long name! As a teacher I need to learn about 130 names every school year: those of my own class and the names of all the other fifth graders who come to me for math and science throughout the year. I know how important it is for students to feel like they matter, and knowing their names is an important part of that. So, if I get a name wrong (which happens at least three times a day), I pay that student a Great Job Ticket for that mistake. That way, they don’t feel offended - in fact, they love it!

I cannot even imagine all of the names that Jesus knows and loves to call! He can pick me out of a crowd easily - and He gets my name right every time! I matter to Him!

Verse 4 tells us, “When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” The shepherds of that day did not drive their sheep ahead of them. Jon Courson points out that driving themselves and others is an American thing to do. No kidding! Instead, the shepherds of the Middle East went out ahead of their sheep. Even in Psalm 23 we are told that He leads us beside still waters and through the valley of the shadow of death. Every trial we go through, every place where we are tempted, Jesus has already gone on ahead of us. He is preparing the way. He never DRIVES us into anything, but He LEADS us, because He has a plan. He knows where He is taking us. We do not need to be afraid of where He is leading us!

It is so easy to become overwhelmed with fear when we are in a bad place: when the bills are piling on top of us and we see no way out of debt; when the doctor’s report shocks us because the cancer has spread; when you get the call from the police station to come pick up your kid; when your husband walks out the door into the arms of another woman. These are terrifying places to be! But there is a reason the Bible says “Fear not,” so many times. Jesus knows where you are! Listen for His voice. Seek Him out in His Word. Let Him lead you through this scary place. He is the Good Shepherd and He will protect you.


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