Sheep Tracks Archives
Posted February, 2004
Written Spring 1992

My Sheep Know My Voice

I called my sheep and got just the response I expected. There were only about thirty or forty sheep on top of the hill that I could see, but I knew if they came to me, the other two hundred just over the hill would follow. All I needed was for a single sheep to come when I called.

They did not come. Those in view raised their heads and looked down the hill to the gate where I was standing. One sheep called back to me as she looked, but she, like the others, never moved. I could tell by her voice and by the looks on their faces that they were fully aware I was their shepherd. Yes, they responded just as I expected. They heard my voice, they knew who I was, but they did not follow me.

Sometimes my sheep do follow me when I call. They come when they are hungry. They come when they are frightened. And they come when they anticipate something better than what they now have, like a lush new pasture. They are very much creatures of habit, and they have a good memory.

During a Good Shepherd course here at Psalm 23 Camp, one of the pastures had begun to get a bit depleted because the sheep had been grazing there for several days. I told the group of pastors how the sheep would probably act when I called. Predictably, they looked up at the sound of my voice, and some even called back. But none came to the gate where I wished to let them in to graze on the lush new grass. After several unsuccessful attempts to get them to come, I sent my sheep dogs to bring the sheep to me so we could move them into the new pasture. They were afraid of the dogs and came running to me
The next day, the sheep were back grazing in the old pasture, and I informed the group that we would likely get a totally different response this time. Sure enough, when I called out to the flock there was an immediate lifting of heads, many calls back, and nearly a stampede as they ran toward the gate to the new pasture. They knew what to expect.

Jesus said, "My sheep know my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27). He did not simply say, "My sheep follow me." Nor did He stop at, "My sheep know my voice." In other words, Jesus indicated that those who hear also follow.

Why do my sheep fail to follow me at times? Unlike the shepherds of old, we do not lead our sheep out to pasture daily. Shepherds in the biblical days sometimes put their sheep in the folds at night with sheep belonging to other shepherds. Each morning the shepherd led his own sheep out to graze, and they followed his voice wherever he led them. I, however, am not a constant companion. Our relationship is not consistent, and they do not depend upon me to lead them to a pasture every day.

When spring comes and we have the lush green pastures, my sheep hardly acknowledge that I am in the field when I call them. I might as well be whistling "Dixie." But let my sheep get hungry and they will stampede toward my call. If I allow them to have a treat one day, like greener grass or some tasty grain, they will come running when I call the next day.

If I were to call my sheep three days in succession to put them through a routine checkup, a parasite treatment, or some other procedure that would be for their welfare, they would stop following because they were not being fed.

We Christians are like that so much of the time. We like the treats, and we come running when we are hungry or frightened. Yet we hear testimony after testimony of Christians who moved away frown God's lush pastures, following their noses instead of their Shepherd. Some testify that they knew God was calling them for a long, long time to do a certain thing, yet they resisted.

You see, we don't like the working chute with its accompanying vaccinations, the inspections for ailments, or the medicine for microscopic parasites that so often inhabit the pasture. We would much rather just let Jesus swing the gate wide open each day to a fresh, green, lush, tender new growth of pasture where we can get our fill quickly and then move over under the canopy of a huge shade tree to keep us comfortable through the hot part of the day.

Like the sheep, our well being is a whole lot better if we follow Jesus daily, and not just at the times when we know good things are goining our way. And when times are good, we need to make Him the first choice each day, rather than wait until disaster strikes and count on Him as a "last resort."

The message of the gospel is bringing new souls into the Kingdom by the thousands in Russia, Central America, the Philippines, and in other countries where there is a deep, deep spiritual hunger. And at the same lime, the gospel is falling on many deaf ears in the United States. Have the people in America been like the sheep in a springtime pasture, ignoring the call of the Shepherd? Do we not realize there are often sacrifices to be made, days when we must leave the green pasture and pass through His working chute? Do we not realize the lush green grass on which we are so contentedly feeding may have become contaminated with those invisible yet destructive parasites?

Do we hear His voice, but merely raise our heads while chewing a mouthful of grass? Do we look His way for a moment or two, ignoring the call as we return to graze at the spot where we stand? Or are we like the sheep described in John 10:27, when Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me"?

Dennis Rowan

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