F B Meyer
“When He putteth forth his own sheep, He goeth before them,
and the sheep follow Him; for they know his voice.” John x. 4.
Few images could better express the relationship between our Lord and his people than that of Shepherd and sheep, so often applied to God in the Old Testament, and appropriated by Christ Himself in the New. He had already shown that references to Himself underlay the manna, the water, and the fire-cloud. And now He shows that beneath the sweet pastoral imagery of the prophets He was ever the glorious substance and reality.
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The Eastern sheepfold is a mere enclosure surrounded by a palisade. The sheep are brought into it in the evening, several flocks being committed to the care of the common keeper or porter for the night. In the morning the shepherds return and knock at the closely barred door of the enclosure, which the porter opens from within. Each separates his own sheep by calling to them; and the sheep respond, disentangling themselves from the rest, and when thus collected they follow their own shepherd, wherever he may lead.
Up to the end of the chapter it might have appeared that the whole of Israel might be included in his flock. But recent events had proved that this could not be. The Messiah, as Zechariah had foretold, had taken to Himself his two staves, “Beauty” and “Bands,” and had fed the flock for one month, but had finally been compelled to renounce the task as hopeless (Zech. xi. 10-14). The expulsion of the blind man; the decree of excommunication which had struck at Himself and his followers; the violent hostility that dogged his steps—all pointed to the impossibility of gathering the whole nation into his care.
There was but one alternative. He must bring his own from out the Jewish fold-separating them, not by force, but by his gentle voice; calling them by name and leading them out. Is not Jesus always leading us out? He calls the souls of men from the fishing-net and the toll booth; from scenes of worldly pleasure and haunts of sin; from associations with the flock of slaughter. And the one test of their being his is that they hear his voice and follow. Not to believe, or obey that voice, or follow it, proves that the soul is none of his.
But a stronger word is used: “He putteth forth his own sheep.” The phrase is a very strong one. He casts or thrusts them out; as when He constrained his disciples to get into the ship. So was Israel thrust out of the luxurious fare of Egypt to the simplicities of the desert; so are the young eaglets thrust out by the mother bird when she stirs up her nest, and forces them to learn the joys of flight.
If He calls you to know some new aspect of truth, throw on Him the responsibility of adding line to line, precept to precept, till it is clear. If He desires you to live a life of daily appropriation and dependence, trust Him to make it possible and congenial. If He bids you separate yourself from some unhallowed alliance, or to quit some unhealthy companionship, or to confess your new-found rapture, let Him understand how absolutely you look to Him to show you just how He would have you act.
Let Jesus Christ stand between you and everything—between you and circumstances; between you and dreaded trials; between you and temptation; between you and your attainments in the blessed life; between you and your projects of Christian usefulness. Follow Him, i.e., let Him go first. If He does not go forward, wait for Him. Every step taken apart from Him, or in front of Him will have to be retraced with bitter tears.
The attitude of the sheep is submission. From the first its attitude is one of utter obedience to the will of another. It has no will of its own or if it have, it is instantly repressed. So there must be the entire and utter surrender of our will to the will of Christ. This is the hardest lesson we have to learn; but everything of blessedness depends on our coming to a point at which we say, “From this moment and for evermore, in the smallest details, in the routine of daily life as well as in its great crises, I choose the will of God.” Never again to do what we wish because we wish it; never again to consult our own preferences or choice; never again to have a way or will of our own; but to follow absolutely and always the path marked out by another: this is the secret of blessedness.
It would be impossible to submit, if we could not also commit.
But it becomes easy to do the former when we can do the latter.
The attitude of the sheep is dependence. It would be impossible to submit, if we could not also commit. But it becomes easy to do the former when we can do the latter. To have an absolute confidence. Him, to lean on Him, to look to Him for direction and help as each moment needs; to trust Him on the rocky mountain path equally as the green sward; to believe in Him against appearances and our own hearts, to refuse to take a thread or a shoe-latchet from any other hand; to abstain, as David did, from taking advantage even of a means of deliverance, which may seem ready at hand, but which would be inconsistent with his revealed will; to wait only on the Lord till He shall pluck the feet out of the net, and give the heart’s desires-this too is the secret of blessedness.
Let us quiet ourselves as weaned babes. The world is, and life’s paths are, perplexing; but He is leading us on who cannot make a mistake, who will give us just as much of a rest and refreshment as we require, and who is more than sufficient to deliver us from the lion and the bear. The memory of his agony and death shall ever be with us, nerving us to believe that He loves us too much, that we have cost Him too much, for it ever to be possible that we should be forsaken or neglected. And so at last we shall be folded with all the flock beside in those sweet pasture lands, in which the Lamb leads his flock unto living fountains of water, and God wipes away all tears from our eyes.
F B Meyer, The Gospel of John
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