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Can You Hear the Good Shepherd’s Voice?

Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd. I love the mental picture this name evokes. It’s not an original image in my mind. It looks a lot like the painting that hung on the wall in my Sunday school classroom when I was a little girl. Have you seen it too? Did your grandmother or great-aunt have it on her wall? I think mine did. In muted greens and blues Jesus is walking through a beautiful valley with a staff in one hand and a lamb cradled in the other. Like that famous painting, the picture in my mind portrays a gentle, loving, and patient Jesus. And I just want to be that little lamb carried in His arms.

The Meaning of “Good Shepherd” in Hebrew

“Good Shepherd” is even more beautiful in the Hebrew language. “Good” is translated from Tov. This word does mean good, but the Strong’s definition also includes the words: gracious, joyful, kindly, kindness, loving, and precious. Click here to read the entire dictionary entry.

This word means so much more than our English word, “good.” I mean, good is good! But just look at the depth of Tov (or Tob.) Jesus is not just good. According to the full definition He is gracious, joyful, kind, loving, merry, pleasant, pleasing, precious and sweet. Tov also includes “welfare” and well-favored. Our Jesus cares about our welfare and favors His sheep, so much so He will leave the ninety-nine to find the one who got lost.

following the good shepherd

A Lover of the Flock

The Hebrew word for “shepherd” uncovers why He would leave the ninety-nine to find the one. This word, Ro’eh-Tzon, means “herder” and “sheep,” but the root word for ro’eh means “companionship and affection.” According to Israel Institute of Biblical Studies,

“The Hebrew Bible’s unique term ro’eh tzon – lover of the flock – teaches us that a shepherd was not just a responsible overseer, but a caring father figure, tending to his flock out of a deep sense of love. The prophet Isaiah tells us that the shepherd “gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart” (Isaiah 40:11). The bond between a shepherd and his animals has all the qualities of a true family.”

Israel Institute of Biblical Studies

Good Friend

Another article I found defined this root word as “friend.” Can you picture David’s relationship with his Shepherd–the One he wrote of in Psalm 23, as not only his provider, protector, and leader, but also his friend?

Think of the full counsel of the Word, scriptures from the Old Testament to the New, that bears witness to these definitions. From the scripture above in Isaiah, describing God as this “lover of the flock,” to the gospel of John recording Jesus saying to the disciples, “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14).

Though this name for Jesus, Good Shepherd, is endearing to us, it angered the religious shepherds of the day. They weren’t offended by the thought of “friendship” with God, but rather how Jesus’s claim to be the “Good Shepherd” shed light on their own failure as shepherds of God’s people.

Why the Pharisees Didn’t Like the Good Shepherd

I’ve never considered this name for Jesus as a threat to the Pharisees. Yet, when you begin to read the context of the verse where Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd, you discover His proclamation comes during a debate with the religious leaders.

Jesus had given sight to a man born blind. This had never been done before, so it was a big deal, but it became even more of a big deal because Jesus performed “work” on the Sabbath by making mud and placing it on the man’s eyes. You and I know Jesus could have simply said, “Your faith has given you sight.” But He knew the hearts of these prideful, oppressive shepherds.

As they argued with Jesus, He closed the debate with His proclamation:

I am the good shepherd. The shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. . . . I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me–just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay my life down for my sheep.

John 10: 11, 14-15

At this the religious leaders lost it. They were divided. Some said he was crazy and had a demon while others were amazed and convinced of His divinity because of the blind man’s restored sight. They said, “Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

bible reading

Can You Hear the Good Shepherd’s Voice?

I pray I never have the religious spirit of the Pharisees who were so consumed with their rules they missed Jesus. They could not hear His words as truth because they did not know God’s voice anymore. Though steeped in study of Torah, their focus moved to the additions they’d made to God’s Law. Perhaps that’s why they did not recognize the Good Shepherd’s voice.

Do you know His voice? Do you question at times if the voice you hear is your own or His? I think most of us do at one time or another, but we are blessed with an entire book filled with His words, wisdom, and heart. It is where we must start when we’re learning to hear His voice, and it is where we must come back daily to continue our ability to discern all the voices shouting, murmuring, demanding, convincing us today. The world is so loud, but the Good Shepherd never raises His voice.

3 Things to Help You hear him

  • Read the Word. Get a Bible reading plan like the one on this post. Read Scripture daily and read the text around the verses. This is the Good Shepherd’s voice in black and white. Whatever you feel you’ve heard in your spirit can be measured by the Bible. The world tries to figure out their path and God’s will on their own. We just aren’t smart enough. We need His advice. So many good resources are available. Grab the YouVersion app, purchase the Bible Recap, or a One-Year Bible to help you journey daily through God’s wisdom.
  • Listen in prayer. We think of prayer as a monologue, our own petitions to the Father, but we must practice listening in prayer. Prayer is a dialogue. We can’t know His voice if we never stop to listen. When you hear Him, write it down. Keep a journal of His responses, His answers. If you are worried about discerning your thoughts from His voice, ask Him to lead you to scripture. He will.
  • Turn off the noise. We live in a really loud world and are constantly bombarded by technology–especially with those little computers called cell phones we’re attached to 24/7. Even when the sound is turned off, scrolling on our social media platforms is LOUD. Find a quiet place, and do not take your phone with you. Practice the Shepherd’s presence a few minutes a day in silence. Lengthen this time each week.

Finally, if you’re struggling with this concept of Holy Spirit and hearing the Shepherd’s voice, I am so excited for you! My walk with Holy Spirit and my ability to hear Him all began with the struggle–the deep desire to hear Him like a friend of mine did. You might want to read this article in my archives, “Evidence That God Keeps His Word.”

Good Shepherd Scriptures

Good Shepherd Scriptures

We need both the Spirit and the Word to hear Him. Come join me this month with the reading plan on the Good Shepherd. It’s divided into three sections. The first are all the scriptures that speak of the Shepherd, the second are all on hearing His voice, and the third section takes Psalm 23 verse by verse. I pray these scriptures draw you nearer to Him, you feel His friendship, love, and kindness. Oh beloved, let Him lead you by the quiet waters and lay down in the green pastures. The Shepherd’s voice in calling. Can you hear Him?

Prayer for Ears to Hear

“Good Shepherd, we love you. We’re so thankful for you. Thank you for laying down your life for us. We desperately need your direction. Help us trust you. Help us intentionally read your Word every day and go to the quiet places where we can hear your voice. Help us turn off the noise. Thank you, Good Shepherd for your Spirit’s presence. You are so faithful. Don’t let us stray. Amen.”

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1 Comment

  1. […] doing what he said he would never do, Peter did not go back to fishing permanently. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, lovingly brought him back into the fold. Humbled and stronger in faith, Peter proclaimed Jesus […]

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