My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27, KJV)
In this profound statement, Jesus identifies a distinctive characteristic of His followers: they hear His voice. This raises an intriguing question: What constitutes the “voice” of Christ in this context? How do His followers discern it?
The metaphor presented in this text is that of Jesus as the Good Shepherd guiding His flock, His people. The term “My” connotes “ownership” and “belonging”—signifying His sheep, distinct from those not His. In this context, believers are likened to sheep, emphasizing followership and guidance.
Understanding the phrase “My voice” is pivotal. It should be interpreted within the context of the shepherd-sheep analogy, where the shepherd beckons his sheep. Here, “voice” is metaphorical, representing not an actual auditory sound. While it’s true that God has historically communicated audibly and could still do so under exceptional circumstances, this specific verse does not refer to hearing God’s voice in a literal sense. Instead, it’s not suggesting that Christians will daily hear Jesus’s audible voice guiding them.
What, then, is the symbolic essence of “voice” in this context? Simply put, the shepherd’s “voice” represents two fundamental attributes. First, it embodies His identity and person—the sheep recognize this voice as uniquely their Shepherd, distinguishing it amidst many others(John 10:3-4). Second, this voice is the conduit of His directives to His people, offering guidance and leadership cues that the sheep understand and follow.
Hebrews 3:15 echoes this concept, stating, “Today if ye will hear His voice.” Here, “voice” transcends the literal auditory experience, as with the Israelites at Mount Sinai. Instead, it symbolizes God’s words, His guidance, and the cues of His leadership.
So, how do Jesus’s sheep—believers—discern His voice today? Let’s reframe the question: How does God guide you daily? His voice reaches us in various forms (Hebrews 1:1-2). Foremost, the Bible stands as His primary means of guiding His Church. All other sources are secondary and must align with the canon of His written Word. Thus, each time you read the Bible with a receptive heart, the Holy Spirit breathes upon those words, enabling you to “hear” God’s voice. In tandem with Scripture are the teachings of God’s ministers, such as pastors. When you listen to your pastor expound the Word on Sundays, you are, in essence, hearing God’s voice. Additionally, God communicates through the gift of prophecy and impressions in our hearts, guiding us toward His intended paths.
In conclusion, as followers of Jesus, you are already attuned to God’s voice. By shedding the notion that His voice must be a tangible auditory sound, akin to His speech at Mount Sinai, you will greatly advance in discerning His guidance and following His lead.
Why do I assert that the term “voice” in John 10:27 is figurative? How does its meaning shift if interpreted literally?
Apply the Word
Many among you hear God’s voice daily yet fail to recognize it. For instance, many of God’s children yearn for a deeper, closer relationship with God in their hearts, but many fail to recognize that those impressions are not normal—they are the voice of the Holy Spirit calling them to draw close. May the Lord help you identify His voice and follow His leadership.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you hear and follow His voice in every form it comes to you.
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