When I was in college, I had the opportunity to go on a pilgrimage to Israel. During my visit, I saw that the land lived up to the way it was depicted in the Bible–there were a lot of shepherds caring for a lot of sheep. As we toured the country, the question arose as to how an individual shepherd knew which sheep were his. Several times we saw herds of sheep with multiple shepherds watching them. So how did these shepherds keep track of their own sheep? It turned out that a more accurate question was how did the sheep know which shepherd to follow? They actually do learn the voice of their shepherd and will indeed follow the sound of their master’s voice.
Jesus often compares us to sheep through numerous metaphors in the Bible. Considering the general behavior of sheep, this is not the most flattering comparison for us. Sheep are not known for their intelligence, which is why they often wander off or just follow the rest of the herd, regardless of where it is going. Clearly, we are much more intelligent than the averaged sheep; yet, we can fall into sheep-like habits.
We human beings can become distracted and stray from our shepherd and our flock, but if we know our Shepherd’s voice we should always be able to find our way back to Him. Our Shepherd, of course, is Jesus, but we may choose to follow other “shepherds.” Jesus said, “The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me. But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep.” John 10:25-26. In our modern world, many shepherds’ voices clamor for our attention: money, fame, power, etc. It is easy to follow those voices because they are familiar and can provide instant (though temporary) comfort. At this time, it is more important than ever to learn the voice of the true Shepherd. It may not be so easy to follow Him, but He can provide the ultimate comfort–everlasting life with Him in those “green pastures beside still waters.”