A man comes to the sheep pen, but the sheep aren’t scared. He speaks to the sheep with his comforting words. They know that voice. It’s the one they have known ever since they were first brought to this safe place. It’s the voice that has calmed them when they were caught in the fields during storms. It’s the voice that scared off wolves who wanted to make a meal from them. It’s the voice that called for them when they were foolish enough to wander away from safety and got lost. That voice never stopped calling until they were found and brought back to safety. That voice is so familiar and loving. And that man is the one who loves them. Who always provides everything they need. This man has put his life on the line to rescue them. He has sat with them when they were injured or sick, and leads them to safe places. This man who opens the gate for them walks among them, and they know who he is. He is the Good Shepherd. The only one they can trust. Oh, other people come to the sheep pen. They creep up to it and try to lure the sheep away. Not by the gate. Instead the tiptoe around the outsides of the pen, calling to the sheep. But their voices are completely different from their Good Shepherd, the shepherd who has shown them endless love. Those other voices, those other people scare them. They cower away from the lying whispers and know that their words are trying to lead them to danger.
But sheep aren’t exactly the brightest animals and after a while some of them begin to wonder: what do these other voices have to offer? Better food? Easier life? More fun? They get comfortable with these other people, and those words that they knew were wrong now sound so convincing. Some of the sheep are carried off into the darkness, far away from the Words of the Good Shepherd. And they are lost.
Have I gone on long enough with that metaphor? There is a reason that God so often used the imagery of us being his sheep and he is our Good Shepherd. Psalm 23:1: “The Lord is my shepherd.” Mark 6:34: “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he began to teach them many things.” Ezekiel 34:31 “You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.” And let’s not forget Revelation 7:17: “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Those are just a small handful of the many, many times that God refers to us as his sheep. And that’s exactly what we are. Creatures who need his protection and love. Beloved and cared for by the Good Shepherd whose voice we know and love. And we know him because of the faith that he has worked in our hearts. “Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus—the great Shepherd of the sheep—through the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with everything good to do his will, working in us what is pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21) We, his sheep, have been equipped. We have faith and through that faith we have love and desire to follow our Good Shepherd. But we can’t pretend that we don’t hear the voices of those thieves and liars.
They want nothing more than to take us away from the safety that we have in the presence of our Savior. They hate the joy and peace we have. Instead of joining us they want to pull us away from our Shepherd. Sometimes those voices are so obvious: they come to us as insults and mockery. Friends who laugh that we are so foolish to believe in God. The world that acts so superior in it’s lack of faith. They think that they are wiser because they have turned away from the One who made them. Those voices are dangerous, but mostly we just know that they can’t harm us. But there are other voices, voices that we should know better than to listen to, but they sound so soothing. Voices of philosophy that promise wisdom and insight into your inner self. A better understanding of who you are. A different way to look at truth and begging you to question if truth is even a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. The problem is that it’s not how God describes the world. Other voices call to us: voices of false religions that at first glance are easy to ignore. But the more they call, the more they sound not so bad. They satisfy that inner itch inside of us: the itch of feeling like we have to do something, earn something. “If you died tonight do you know where you would be?” “Heaven.” “Good! Do you know why?” “Because I’m a pretty good person and tried to do all the right things.” No! You don’t get to Heaven by being a good person. You get to Heaven only through the work and sacrifice of Heaven. There are even some who call themselves Christian but are not. False teachers who want us to look at ourselves. All of these insults, philosophies and false teachings are nothing but lies whispered by the world. Thieves and liars who want nothing more than to steal some
of the sheep away from the Good Shepherd. They want to pull you away. We may want to say: “Never! Not me!” But aren’t there times these liars and thieves make us wonder? Look at how many so-called Christian books promise true happiness but don’t point back to God as the source. They promise peace if you do all the right things. How often are we tempted to say that really the world makes some pretty solid arguments. Whenever we fooled into patting ourselves on the back for how well we are doing it’s easy to give thanks to the one who is truly deserving. Whenever we are convinced that what we truly need to be happy is just that one more thing, we ignore the warnings of our Good Shepherd. That’s why he shouts out to us. To warn us: “Listen to the voice of the Shepherd. Turn away from all of those lies. Ignore those who want nothing more than to tear you away from safety.”
In fact, it’s out of love for us that our Good Shepherd came to save us. He came into the world to go after the lost, the wandering, the frightened sheep. He came to rescue all of the sheep from certain disaster. He found us in sin. And with his Word faith was worked in our hearts. Faith that knew how much the good shepherd loved us. Enough to place himself in harms way and to die in our place. When the enemies and thieves wanted to steal us away from safety, Jesus stood up to death, the Devil, and hell. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) And so we listen to his voice today. His voice that we find in the Bible where he lovingly speaks both Law and Gospel. We hear his voice in every word of Scripture. He guides us away from the dangerous calls of the world, philosophy, and false religion and brings us to places of peace.
Safely in his promises, our Good Shepherd leads us to serve him. No, this is not doing good works in order to make God love us. It’s a response to his love. In fact it is only through our Good Shepherd that our works are even seen as good in God’s sight. Through the blood that Jesus shed to save his flock from death faith has been worked and we have been equipped so that we can glorify him forever and ever. After all, it’s not our power that accomplishes these things. Remember how David brags about his victories over all of his enemies? He didn’t brag about himself, but about the one who gives us every victory: “When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:34-37) Out of love and thanks to our amazing God and Good Shepherd we want to show him thanks. We want to use the gifts he has blessed us with and to proclaim his glory to the whole world. We want to do the works that God has prepared in advance for us to do.
And so, brothers and sisters, let us follow our Good Shepherd as he leads us to safe places. His is the Word we know so very well. It’s the Word that first called us to safety. The Word of Scripture that gives us comfort when we are sick, alone, or worried. The Word that is always there for us and leads us to safe places. It’s the Word of our Good Shepherd who warns us away from the liars and thieves of this world. It’s the Word that brought us back when we began to wander away. It’s the Word that reminds us that our sins have been paid for. Our Good Shepherd leads us. By faith, let’s follow. “Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus—the great Shepherd of the sheep—through the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with everything good to do his will, working in us what is pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)
The peace of God , which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.