"My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow Me . . . a stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers." -- John 10: 5, 27
Christ's sheep know how to hear, what to ignore, and who to follow. While anyone can recognize the "echo" of the Creator in creation (Ps. 19: 1-4), and to many the "sound" of God's testimony in Scripture (Jn. 5:39), it's only the chosen sheep that ever hear His voice. Three characteristics of the Shepherd’s voice:
First, it's a powerful voice. "My sheep hear My voice" -- not "a" voice, which denotes uncertainty; neither "our" voice, regarding consensus. It's singular, direct, and authoritative. It's the same voice that stills the waves, silences the demons, raises the dead, and forgives sins. Whether knocked to the ground (Acts 9:4) or caused to rise up (Matt. 9:9), the results are always the same -- sheep that follow with no regrets (Mk. 10:22) and no provisos (Matt. 8:21-22). Anything less is the voice of a stranger.
Second, it's a personal voice. "He calls His own sheep by name." Saul's companions heard something (Act 22:9), the Jews thought it thundered (Jn. 12:29), but sheep hear their name. The Shepherd doesn't call out His flock; He calls His own one at a time. And not only is their name known but their sin is personal as well -- "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" -- not persecuting the Church, or disobeying the law. His companions were never called "on the carpet," and neither were they called to Straight Street.
Third, it's a pleasant voice. ". . . that they might have life abundantly." The Shepherd's voice has a certain cadence to it, a harmony that is melodic to the sheep. His voice soothes with the promise of abundant eternal life (vs. 10); it quiets the fears of being found alone or lost (vs. 28-29). It even has the ability to make for peace when other sheep are added to the fold (vs. 16). Regardless if the sheep find themselves lying in green pastures or trembling in the valley of the shadow of death, it's the Shepherd's voice that reassures.
What sheep lack in intelligence or courage is made up in voice recognition. Strangers may look like angels (Gal. 1:8; 2 Cor. 11:14-15) and even act like God, but it’s their speech that gives them away -- a voice that lacks authority, intimacy and hope. Those who have ears to hear, hear -- they also know what to ignore.
- Mark Lacour