The Bible teaches us that we are the Good Shepherd’s sheep and we are to hear His voice. Americans in particular do not care for this biblical sheep metaphor. In this country, we are all about being independent, “picking yourself up by your bootstraps,” being strong, and a leader. We like to be compared to things like lions and eagles. None of this sheep stuff — it does not resemble our vision of greatness.
However, contrary to popular opinion, sheep are actually amazing animals and they’re quite intelligent. Studies seem to indicate that sheep are a lot smarter than dogs, and because of their intelligence, they are highly communal. That means that they love to be together just like we do; they love hanging out with one another. You can see this when sheep are out at pasture, because they often resemble friends chatting and working together. In their own language, you can imagine them talking about what happened here and there, like ba, ba, ba!
Jesus tells us that sheep will never follow a stranger. In fact, they will run away because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice. Back in Jesus’ day, everyone would have understood this: Sheep know the voice of their shepherd. One present-day story about shepherds is described by the great Bible teacher, Ray Vander Laan, who spent time in the Middle East. There were four shepherds in their teens with four different flocks. They all stood around talking while the sheep grazed in the pasture. Ray said he became anxious when he saw hundreds of sheep all start to mix together. He thought, how will they get back to their own flock? As the sheep were grazing, the shepherds weren’t even paying attention and acted like it was no big deal. When it was time to go, each shepherd used their own unique call. Would you believe that all the sheep split perfectly between the four different shepherds and went their separate ways?! Isn’t that fascinating?
Friend, as Jesus is speaking about sheep He knows that if a stranger calls out their name, they will not respond to it. The same can be said of you and I. We know the Shepherd’s voice and when He calls, we come to Him. As believers of Jesus, we are a community. The Good Shepherd Jesus is our foundation and the gateway. He’s always guarding, watching, and protecting His sheep.