Have you ever been in a room full of people talking when you recognize one voice in the crowd?
Perhaps it's the laugh of a significant other, the cry of a child, or the voice of a friend. Maybe you hear them call your name, and you know immediately who is trying to get your attention. Even among all the other noise and conversations in the room, like radar, you are tuned into this voice.
I'm sure we've all been there. I know I have. Many times, I can be in a room full of people when I hear my sister yell, "Jamie." Because I'm so familiar with her voice (after all, I hear it every day), I instantly know who is calling me. I'm so familiar with her voice that I can tell from her tone if she's in pain, needs me to help her with something, or wants me to join the conversation or listen to her joke. It doesn't matter how many other people are in the room because her voice is so familiar to me. It always rises above the crowd. As soon as I hear it, she has my attention.
Whenever I read Jesus teaching about His sheep hearing His voice in John 10, this picture comes to mind.
Because I don't know about you, but I'm not as up on my sheep/shepherd metaphors as the people in the New Testament. Still, after a bit of research, I learned some interesting facts.
For instance, did you know that in New Testament times, they would keep several flocks in the same sheep pen? Every morning, the shepherd would call out his sheep to follow him to the spot where they would go and graze for the day.
How did the sheep know which shepherd to follow?
Each shepherd had a peculiar call with which he led his sheep. Even though sheep have a reputation for being notoriously dense, the one thing they recognize is their shepherd's call.
When they hear it, they follow.
Here's the part that intrigued me: The sheep cannot be fooled. They are so in tune with their individual shepherd's voice that they refuse to follow a stranger because his voice is unfamiliar. In fact, if a stranger should use the shepherd's call and imitate his tone, the flock would instantly detect the difference and scatter in panic. Yet, when they hear their shepherd's voice—-they immediately obey. Talk about familiarity!
Of course, the lesson in this parable is that as followers of God seeking to live a life worthy of our calling, we are to be as familiar with the voice of God as a sheep is to its shepherd's voice. His voice is supposed to be so familiar to us that we recognize it and respond to it just like we recognize and respond to the voice of those closest to us.
The answer is familiarity.
Just like we are familiar with the voices of those with whom we spend the most time, we need to be familiar with the voice of God. His voice needs to be so familiar to us that it rises above the voice of the crowds, society, people around us, and even our thoughts. Like the sheep who know the voice of their shepherd, we need to be that familiar with the voice of the Holy Spirit.
And yet, this level of familiarity doesn't magically happen. Instead, it only happens as we choose to spend time with God so that we can become familiar with the sound of His voice and learn to recognize it.
How do we do this in our busy world?
We need to accept some radical challenges:
-We need to recognize the importance of consistently spending time alone with God.
-We need to schedule a time to be with God.
-Tell the people in your life when you've scheduled a time to pray.
-Find a comfortable, private place to pray.
-Keep your appointment!
-Start a Bible reading plan and stick to it.
These are the keys to recognizing and obeying God's voice.
The most important part is that we do it!!!
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10:1-5, ESV)