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Listening to the Shepherd’s Voice1 week ago
In Jesus’ day his family, friends and disciples and many others would have known the comforting sounds of the voice of the Son of God. We cannot know his human voice today, but we can know his speaking to us by his Holy Spirit day by day. In this week’s inspiring Blog, Canon Michael Adams helps us to reflect on Jesus the Good Shepherd who speaks to his sheep, and asks whether we are listening.
One of the great joys for the disciples of Jesus would have been to hear him speak, to become familiar with his voice, his intonation, his use of language; to know what he sounded like and, no doubt, to be captivated by the authority with which he spoke. His family, friends, disciples and many others would have known his voice.
Sheep know the voice of the Shepherd
One of the images Jesus used of himself in John’s Gospel was that of the “Good Shepherd”, knowing that sheep know the shepherd’s voice. Jesus said, (in John 10) “My sheep listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me”. The theme of sheep and shepherds threads its way through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. And the image of sheep and shepherds would have been instantly recognisable in Jesus’ day just as they are to us today. Jesus talked a lot about sheep and shepherds, and he sees his followers as sheep whom he knows, loves and serves. There were shepherds around at his birth. He spoke about lost sheep. He described himself as both the gate of the sheepfold and the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep, and after his death and resurrection he commissions Peter to feed his sheep in his place. He also reminds his followers that sheep are helpless without a shepherd.
When I first retired from Parish ministry in 2014, my wife, Jenny, and I went to live in the village of Coniston in the Lake District. There, through the local church, we got to know Hazel, a Shepherd with her own flock of Herdwicks, the breed made famous by Beatrix Potter. Hazel became a good friend and still is, and we spent time helping with lambing, doing some occasional shearing and learning first-hand about these lovely creatures.
Sheep know their Shepherds
One of the things that soon became clear whilst spending time with Hazel and her sheep was that the sheep knew her voice, particularly the ones that she had cared for as new-born lambs and who had needed a shepherd’s care to give them a good start in life. I have been thinking about this recently as we are currently in the middle of the lambing season and although no longer living in the Lake District, we can imagine Hazel at full stretch as she always is at this time of the year. And there’ll be a new crop of lambs who’ll come to know her voice this springtime.
Christians know the Good Shepherd’s voice
One of my spiritual heroes, Oswald Chambers describes Christians as “those who have come into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ whereby their disposition has been altered, their ears unstopped and they hear the still small voice”.
And it is hearing the Shepherds voice that makes all the difference to living in his presence and his peace in today’s world of competing voices and many distracting sounds, all clamouring for attention in our busy and noisy world, even in the midst of lockdowns.
The Holy Spirit is the One who continues the ministry of Jesus in our lives today; it as we listen to Him speaking to us in quietness and confidence that we know we are in the centre of God’s will and following in the footsteps of the Master shepherd whose voice we listen for to obey and follow.
The gentle wind of the Spirit’s voice
The Holy Spirit most often comes to us as a still small voice as Chambers reminds us, but we are to be quiet and listening, to hear what he is saying and I so often miss Him, because I am not quietly tuned in to him. He is, after all, the Holy Spirit who can be quenched or grieved or resisted and we are to be repentant and humble to hear him speak.
But oh what joy when he does speak! We sense the unmistakable voice of the Spirit with a word of encouragement a command to obey, a divine nudge, a thing to do, or a word to speak to someone, and our whole frame tingles with a sense of the presence of God.
In Jesus’ day his family, friends and disciples and many others would have known the comforting sounds of the voice of the Son of God. We cannot know his human voice today, but we can know his speaking to us by his Holy Spirit day by day.
Maybe the lambing season is a good time to listen afresh to the voice of the Good Shepherd through his Holy Spirit, whose desire is to bring glory to the risen ascended and glorified Lord who loves us eternally and who longs that we listen and follow him as long as we have breath to do so. And that is even if life is hard and difficult, as it is for so many at the present time for lots of different reasons. The voice of Jesus by his Holy Spirit can bring comfort and guidance and a sense of his presence even in the most challenging of times and especially an assurance, that though the future may be uncertain, it is not so for him and we can trust him with everything that lies ahead.
A Prayer for today
“Holy Spirit please speak to us and through us today, we ask, for the glory of our risen ascended and glorified Lord.” Amen