– From the fact that they are known by God. Gal. 4:9
– From the fact that the Father draws them, for no one comes to Christ but him whom his Father draws.Jn. 6:44
– From the fact that all are taught of God. Jn. 6:45.
Therefore it follows that only those sheep do not err who know the voice of their shepherd so well that they receive absolutely no other. H. Zwingli
A stranger once declared to a Syrian shepherd that the sheep knew the dress and not the voice of their master. The shepherd said it was the voice they knew. To prove this, he exchanged dresses with the stranger, who went among the sheep in the shepherd’s dress, calling the sheep in imitation of the shepherd’s voice, and tried to lead them. They knew not his voice, but when the shepherd called them, though he was disguised, the sheep ran at once at his call.—Orientalisms in Bible Lands, by E. W. Rice, pp. 159-161.
Sheep come to associate the sound of the shepherd’s voice (or even whistle) with certain benefits. They know who feeds them, protects them, and cares for their needs. Sheep can distinguish their keeper’s voice from others. But what about newborn lambs? How do they learn to recognize the shepherd’s voice? From birth, lambs are conditioned to follow the flock. Sheep often get a bad rap for their flock mentality, but God created them with an instinct to stick together as a means of survival. That instinct allows the lambs to flourish. Even sheep that are introduced to a new flock will follow the other sheep until they too recognize the shepherd.
Most people know that sheep tend to flock together, but did you know that many breeds also stick to the same grazing spot? These sheep can be “hefted,” which means they are taught to graze in the same general area (called a “heft”). Hefting is a system of livestock husbandry based on territorial instincts, usually practiced on the roughest and most difficult land. It enables stock to graze a selected area without the need for fencing.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. John 10:27-28
Guidance for the sheep. The shepherd always leads them, often going before them. “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them” (Joh 10:4). This does not mean that the shepherd is always in front of his sheep. Although he may be usually in that position when traveling, he often walks by their side, and sometimes follows behind, especially if the flock is headed for the fold in the evening.
From the rear, he can gather any stragglers, and protect such from a sly attack from a wild animal. If the flock is a large one, the shepherd will be in front, and a heifer will follow behind.
Isaiah speaks of the omnipresent Lord in a double relationship to His people: “For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your reward [rear guard]” (Isa 52:12).
Wishing you the omnipresence of the good Shepherd as you hear his voice as you graze in the “heft” of His presence this coming week.