John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
Listened to a speaker by the name of Jamie Winship. He told a story of going to Israel and visiting shepherds in the Palestine area. Jamie asked one of the shepherds, “How do you keep all the sheep together and out of harms way?” One of the shepherds replied, “Oh, that’s easy, the sheep listen to my voice. Well actually, the head ram listens for my voice and the others simply follow the ram. Well that is, almost all of them.”
The shepherd went on to explain, “When I want to move the sheep, I start by giving a particular call. When I do, the head ram will raise his head and look in my direction. When the ram lifts his head and looks in my direction, the other sheep will lift their heads and in turn watch the ram and wait for his lead. When I have the ram’s attention, I will give a secondary call and he will start to move towards me. When he moves, the others will instinctively follow the ram. Oh, that is, except for that one” pointing to a large sheep off to the side. “When all the others follow the ram, that one nearly always heads off in the opposite direction. He’s a stubborn one.”
“Oh that simple” the shepherd exclaimed. “I throw a rock at it. You would be surprised at how fast he turns around and heads back to the group when he gets hit by a rock.”
This story just made me laugh. How often do I hear God’s voice and instead of listening to him and following his lead, I follow my own stubbornness and head off in the opposite direction. How often do I refuse to listen to God’s call and put him in a position of having to throw rocks at me just to get my attention. Then I turn around and blame him for “stoning” me? The answer? More often than I would like to admit.
One does not just become a master at listening for his voice by reading a book or going to a seminar. Hearing God’s voice starts with first becoming his child, followed by time spent in prayer, and reading God’s word, the Bible. You can be an adult or you can be a child. Age is not the determining factor. It’s simply a matter of humility combined with the desire to listen and obey with child like faith the voice of God the Great Shepherd.
And rarely does God ever raise his voice and yell at people. Most often his voice is just as it was described with Elijah in the wilderness in 1 Kings 19:12, “but the Then God called out, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel answered, “Yes? I’m here.” Then he ran to Eli saying, “I heard you call. Here I am.”
Eli said, “I didn’t call you. Go back to bed.” And so he did.
God called again, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel got up and went to Eli, “I heard you call. Here I am.”
Again Eli said, “Son, I didn’t call you. Go back to bed.” (This all happened before Samuel knew God for himself. It was before the revelation of God had been given to him personally.)
God called again, “Samuel!”—the third time! Yet again Samuel got up and went to Eli, “Yes? I heard you call me. Here I am.”
That’s when it dawned on Eli that God was calling the boy. So Eli directed Samuel, “Go back and lie down. If the voice calls again, say, ‘Speak, God. I’m your servant, ready to listen.’” Samuel returned to his bed.
Then God came and stood before him exactly as before, calling out, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Samuel answered, “Speak Lord. I’m your servant and ready to listen.”
God said to Samuel, “Listen carefully. I’m getting ready to do something in Israel that is going to shake everyone up and get their attention. The time has come for me to bring down on Eli’s family everything I warned him of, every last word of it. I’m letting him know that the time’s up. I’m bringing judgment on his family for good. He knew what was going on, that his sons were desecrating God’s name and God’s place, and he did nothing to stop them. This is my sentence on the family of Eli: The evil of Eli’s family can never be wiped out by sacrifice or offering.”
Samuel stayed in bed until morning, then rose early and went about his duties, opening the doors of the sanctuary, but he dreaded having to tell the vision to Eli.
But then Eli summoned Samuel: “Samuel, my son!”
Samuel came running: “Yes? What can I do for you?”
“What did he say? Tell it to me, all of it. Don’t suppress or soften one word, as God is your judge! I want it all, word for word as he said it to you.”
So Samuel told him, word for word. He held back nothing.
Eli said, “He is God. Let him do whatever he thinks best.”
You would have thought that after hearing about God’s coming judgement on his sons’ evil deeds, through his young apprentice Samuel, Eli would have gone out that day and taken immediate and drastic measures to make things right. But he didn’t. And it’s not like God had not warned Eli many times in the past. It is just that with each occurance, Eli refused to listen to God’s voice.
Instead, Eli had been living a life that instead of listening to God’s voice and following, he was the sheep that had the habit of walking away in the opposite direction. When God, the head shepherd, threw rocks at him to change his direction, Eli, the sheep, just kept moving farther and farther away. Eli was one stubborn sheep.
As the story unfolds, we find out later that Eli and his sons were put to death just as God had warned. Everything turned out just as Samuel had been told by God on the fateful night. When God couldn’t get through to Eli using his own voice, he tried connecting through the voice of the child, Samuel. Yet even the voice of a child caused no lasting change in the life of Eli or his sons.
After the death of Eli, it was Samuel’s time to grow up into a man. Samuel took over Eli’s old position and became the new High Priest of Israel. We read about it at the end of chapter 3 in 1 Samuel, “Samuel grew up. God was with him, and Samuel’s prophetic record was flawless. Everyone in Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, recognized that Samuel was the real thing—a true prophet of God.”
Eli was the sheep that walked away from God’s voice. Samuel was the sheep that followed God’s voice.
Have you heard God’s voice lately? Has he been calling you to follow him and instead of raising your head and listening, you are that one sheep that subornly heads off in the opposite direction? Do you keep wondering why instead of blessing, you seem to notice more rocks? Might it be that God is trying to get your attention and help you move in a direction that is for your ultimate good and not for your harm? For your betterment and not for your downfall?
John 10:14-15 Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd” following one voice.
When God’s calling happens, listen for his still small voice. When you hear his voice, and you will know, just respond like the boy Samuel, “Speak Lord. I am your servant, and ready to listen.” If you decide to move in the opposite direction though, remember that rocks are meant to turn you around, not to hurt you.
Best to listen for his voice and follow him in the first place. It’s for your good. That is why God is always referred to as the Good Shepherd. We are always referred to as the Sheep. We were created to listen for his voice. A voice that we can know and trust.
It’s just a better way to live.
D. Mike Collins
Habakkuk 2:4 “The Just shall live by faith.”