Sheep are gentle creatures, but every shepherd knows how they love to wander at any opportunity. God’s people are compared to sheep throughout His Word. God made us for Himself, intending for us to be His children. He came to gather us into His family to enfold us in His flock through His concern and love. But He made it clear that not many would come into His care. His flock never has been very large. We’d all stray away from the Lord like sheep if left on our own. But God’s sheep are still His, whether we’re lying down or standing up or even wandering away from Him. He said, “My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, My flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them…thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search My sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out My sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered…” (Ezekiel 34:6, 11-12).
“…the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus does this in the beginning when His chosen ones don’t yet know the Shepherd or the fold, like wandering sheep. But the Lord is amazingly able to find His chosen ones! Even if many of the ones the Heavenly Father has given to Jesus have gone as close to the entrance of hell as they can, He’ll still search and seek to find them, so He can save them and draw them close to Him. Jesus is therefore both a Shepherd Who seeks, along with being a Shepherd Who saves.
Whenever any of His flock wander away from pastures of truth and holiness, they risk falling into extreme error, serious difficulty and dreadful sin. Yet Jesus, who has become liable to His Father for them, won’t allow any to go so far as to be destroyed. He searches for them and seeks them out because He’s their legal owner. He searches for His chosen people among those of the world where they live, and in the extremes of self-righteousness or sin, where these sheep tend to wander. He won’t quit seeking and searching until He finds them. He isn’t moved to do this by their nature, since they’re not better than others. Nor is it due to how many there are, because there aren’t many. He willingly does this because He loves them—since He’s their Shepherd and they’re His glory.
The distinguishing trait of the Good Shepherd Is His willingness to risk His own life for His sheep. It can’t be any other way, because Jesus’ essential nature requires it. Not even one of all His Father has given Him will be lost, because He cares so much for His own sheep that He’d even die for them. Jesus’ goal is to seek and save His whole flock with no exceptions. If we ever feel the necessity to cry out, “Help! We’ve gone astray like lost sheep!”—we’ll realize that, just as much as we want to seek the Lord, He wants to seek us!
Christ asks His followers to focus on keeping close to Him. He alone is the One we’re to follow, meaning we don’t follow anyone or anything else. The only way the sheep can be in a safe, protected place is by staying close to their Shepherd, within hearing range of His voice. Our Shepherd and His voice are as one, showing that He’s present in person. Sheep have to continually stay under the sound of the Shepherd’s familiar voice in order to flourish. The Owner is represented by His voice, along with His ability, authority and power to protect them in danger, and to provide their every need. It’s the evidence of His faithfulness to and fondness for them. Knowing and hearing His voice continually restores the confidence of the sheep that their Shepherd cares for them.
The sheep remain content by recognizing their Shepherd’s voice. Whenever they hear it, they know it’s their Master and they respond right away. But they don’t just recognize Him—they run in His direction, knowing He has something of benefit for them. Most of God’s children have heard His voice at one time or another, and knew it was their Good Shepherd calling them—because true sheep hear the true Shepherd’s voice. He has twice as much love for His own because He’s both their Owner and their Shepherd.
We’re not to recoil from the voice of our Shepherd. When He speaks, we’ll never be disturbed, troubled or alarmed because we are delighted to hear Him. Therefore, we have no reason for foreboding or fear when we commit ourselves to Him. We can intentionally submit our welfare to Him. A strong, calm and quiet certainty will then saturate us, telling us that everything is all right when we’re in His care—because we know His voice, and we know Him.
He knows us by name! We have a personal, profound and discerning relationship between us and our Shepherd as the ones He has called. And we know that He calls us for a specific purpose, because He always has our best interests in mind. No matter where we walk along life’s winding path, we can come together with our Shepherd in delightful communion. Nothing we do on our own is needed to make us safe and secure, because Christ our Shepherd has already taken care of all we need to be saved. Therefore, we can trust the keeping of our life and soul to Him, allowing Him to gently lead us along paths of righteousness and peace.
Christ sought us out. Now we should have hope for the ones He lays on our hearts in prayer, that He’ll find and save them too. He declares: “…I will both search for My sheep, and seek them out” (Ezekiel 34:11). No matter where they are, He’ll find them! And let’s not forget that He never seeks without finding! He said, “My sheep hear My Voice, and I know them, and they follow Me…” (John 10:27). The ultimate question therefore is: “Do they hear the voice of Christ?” Our responsibility is to show them the way to the Good Shepherd; their responsibility is to walk in it. Then we know that all will be well!
[Additional image credits: Featured image (when applicable) by Jack Seeds from Unsplash]