His Voice

(John 10:1-30)

Your voice is uniquely yours. The sound of your voice is one way your family and friends know you. Many things make your voice what it is. Your body affects the sound of your voice by the size and shape of your mouth, throat, diaphragm, chest cavity and vocal chords and by your gender. You have your own patterns of speech, tone, speed, personal style, word choice and accent. Your voice sounds different depending on your mood and it can give away how you really feel, if you’re sad or really happy. Though we sometimes meet people who "sound like" another we know, usually after listening to them for a while and hearing their word choices and their style of speaking, we realize that they too are unique.

Your family and friends can often recognize you over the phone or in a group just by hearing one or two words from you. They can tell it's you from dozens of other voices they know. They know you in part by your voice and also by your words which reveal your heart and your thoughts to them. When you are with a group, others can recognize you by your voice even when they can't see you.

The family and friends of Jesus recognized Him by His voice too just like you are recognized by your voice. Jesus travelled around with a group of His friends and He too would recognize their unique voices. They were often in crowds among thousands of other voices but they could still recognize Jesus' voice because it was unique and stood out from the sea of others around Him. As well as the sound of His voice, Jesus’ words were like no others they had ever heard. Jesus spoke familiar words in new ways, often radically strong and challenging ways. The strength of Jesus’ words is still with you today through God’s living word, the Bible.

Jesus tells His friends that it is really important for them to recognize His voice and listen for it. The destiny of their souls depends on it. Speaking in a “figure of speech” Jesus compares His voice to the voice of a good shepherd whose sheep know His voice (John 10:3, 14, 16, 27). By your relationships with your friends you will know that this listening and knowing of voices is a two-way street, as Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd and I know My own, and My own know Me...My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (10:14, 27). Jesus wants you to be one of His friends (15:14) and one of His sheep.

Sheep listen and follow. Having grown up working with cattle which we herded and prodded from behind or the side, and which all sounded fairly alike to me, I was amazed the first time I was near many sheep. The variety of their voices was fascinating and would help their shepherd recognize them individually. The fact that sheep follow their shepherd and distinguish between the shepherd’s voice and others brings to life Jesus’ words about His voice being the one we should hear, know and follow. In both the English version and the Greek emphatic forms, Jesus strongly emphasizes that He lays down His life for His sheep (10:11-18). Jesus is worthy for you to follow because He cares so much about you that He lay down His life for you on the cross so that you can be forgiven, saved, protected, fed, brought into the presence of your Father in heaven and kept close to Him (John 10:11, 15, 17, 18; 14:23).

I hope you’ll read through John 10 and notice what Jesus says about His voice. Notice too what He says about competing voices. There are the voices of the “thief and robber” (10:1, 8, 10), the “voice of strangers” who want to lead the sheep astray (10:5), the voices of the “hired hand” and the “wolf” (10:12). The hired hand had no personal interest in the safety of the sheep, he was just in it for the money. The wolf was in it for his dinner. The hired hand listened to the voice of the wolf instead of the good shepherd.

Like today, there were many religious leaders in Jesus’ day who did not want people to know His voice and follow Him. They felt threatened and jealous of Him. In Roman and Greek culture there was also much sexual immorality, substance abuse and pagan entertainment spectacles. Jesus shows us that Satan wants to lead away, kill and destroy God’s sheep, that’s us (10:10). It’s a huge relief to know that Jesus is with His sheep, to keep us safe from thieves, robbers, the devil, false religious leaders and anyone who would want to destroy us and take away the extraordinary gift of life that Jesus wants us to have. Jesus shows that He will protect His sheep as they “hear My voice,” “know Me,” and “follow Me” (10:14, 27).

Later, Jesus tells His disciples that the way to hear Him and stay near Him, their shepherd, was by staying in His Word and doing it: “If you stay in Me, and My words stay in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you….If you keep my commandments, you will remain in My love” (15:7, 10). The root word for “obeying” God’s commands in Hebrew and Greek is “hear.” If you do a word search for “voice” in an online Bible you will see that God has always wanted us to hear and obey His voice.

Staying in the Father’s and Jesus’ words and love is the best place you can possibly be. But there are many voices calling for you today, so many loud voices in movies, music, magazines, ads and other media that want to take up all of your attention. These voices will likely get louder this century. Not that all of them are bad but can we tell the good voices from the “thief and robber,” the “strangers,” the “hired hand,” the “wolf,” and Satan who want to lead us astray, kill us spiritually and keep us from the extraordinary eternal life Jesus brings to us? Our challenge is to recognize and listen to Jesus’ voice above all the competitors. His words are awesome. His words are loaded with power. They are different and we can recognize them. Our question is not has God spoken to us but are we listening to Him? He’s made us to know Him if we’re willing.

In the end what really matters about us is not the sound of our voices but what’s in our minds and hearts and the love we give to others. What matters is not that we have heard the physical sound of Jesus’ voice, because we haven’t, but that we hear and know His amazing words. We can read them, memorize them, take time for them, speak them, listen as our friends in Christ speak them to us, hear them in sermons and lessons and from our family. Work at listening to God’s voice and being sensitive to Him. He knows you. He speaks to you. He loves you.

Recognizing Jesus' voice in the power of His words is possible because His words are like no other words or sounds. They reveal God's heart and thoughts to us. We can know His voice from among thousands of others by listening to His Word and letting it guide us in what we think and do. Today we have open and free access to Jesus’ voice in His Word. Living with His words day by day gives us the power we need to hear Him, to know Him and to follow Him.

Paul Birston

April 2007©

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