FORWARD WITH CONFIDENCE
ďMy sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."
Several times in the Old Testament the people of God are described as being "like sheep without a shepherd."† They depicted as wandering aimlessly without direction or purpose because they have no leader.† They seem vulnerable because they have no protector.† So great is their need that God promises: ". . . because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock . . . I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.† As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep." -- Eze. 34:8-12. The phrase, ďlike sheep without a shepherd" is never, not even one time, used as a positive description.† It seems that a place of security, provision, and purpose for sheep can only be found under the leadership of a loving caring shepherd.† And nowhere is it ever even implied that sheep would prefer not to follow their shepherd.† Sheep know their shepherd, they recognize his voice, and they follow.† And yet, many Christians seem reluctant to follow God.† I have pondered that oddity for years; why don't God's people want to follow Him?† Here are my conclusions:
1. They fear that God will take them where they donít want to go.† As Isaiah prophesied, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way . . ." -- Isa. 53:6.† There is a way that seems right to us; and if we aren't listening for the shepherd's voice, it is the way we will go.† Because it is our way, it is the comfortable way; it may seem like the easy way.† But as it says in proverbs, it is a way that leads to destruction (Prov. 14:12, 16:25).† It isn't really God that people fear, it is change. They fear being led into unfamiliar territories. They fear not being in control.†
2. They want things to stay the way they are.† Beginning in Luke 6:57 there is a story about people who come to Jesus declaring their desire to follow Him, but in each case put off doing so because they have other things planned.† One didn't want to leave home, one wanted to wait until his father died, and another wanted to go back and say goodbye to his family.† The truth is that they would only follow Jesus if they could keep things as they were.† But when you follow Jesus, nothing stays as it is.† Jesus is a transformative shepherd.† He has come to lead you from the hopeless path to the helpful one; from the road that leads to destruction to the heavenly highway.† He came to make everything new!
3. They donít really trust God.† People can lack faith because they don't really know God, they don't know His Word, or they don't know His character.† They don't trust God's purposes, they don't trust God's promises, and they don't have confidence in His faithfulness.† BUT it can also be because they DO know God.† The Lord is great and awesome and wonderful, but the Lord is also GOD!† In Isa. 55:8-9 He declares: "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.† As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."† And, as the psalmist admits in Ps. 139:6 (NLT) while contemplating the transcendence of God: "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!"† The truth is that we will never figure God out.† We will never - at least in this life - get to the place where following Him doesn't require faith.†
Listen friends, you can trust in this: Jesus Christ IS the great shepherd of the sheep.† He knows where the green pastures are and He will take you there.† He will lead you to the still water.† He will direct you toward the path of righteousness.† In fact, He will give you peace and renewal and everything else you need for this life and for the next.† But you must listen for His voice.† You must spend enough time with Him to be able to confidently separate His voice from the world's babble; and then you must confidently follow HIM!
--- Pastor Keith Andrews