My Sheep hear my voice (John 10: 27-29)
by Daniel Yahav
Often people ask "How can I hear the voice of God?" In the following teaching we will examine what did Yeshua teach us, how can we hear HIS voice?!
Yeshua said in John 10:27-29 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand".
These verses are rich and contain very deep truths. We all want to hear the voice of our good shepherd, but let's first ask ourselves, WHY do we want to hear his voice?! Is it out of curiosity? Or because it's something special? The answer needs to be: in order to know His will so that we can do it!
If we just want to know His will, but have no intention of doing it, we have a big problem. Yeshua says "MY sheep hear my voice". This is not just referring to His disciples at that time, or only the prophets, or only pastors and spiritual leaders. ALL of His sheep, everyone who belongs to Him, who is a true disciple and is listening sincerely, will hear His voice. It is not difficult or complicated, it is intended for all of us, throughout our walk of life with Him, and even more so, when we are facing major life-decisions. But, we need to know that there are some conditions:
1) I NEED TO BE ONE OF HIS SHEEP
"MY sheep hear my voice". If I have heard the call to follow Him and have made the decision to repent and ask forgiveness, to surrender my life to God and obey him, to take up my cross daily and follow after Yeshua, my shepherd, then I am born again as one of His sheep. It is not enough to be born into a believing family. Not enough to be a nominal Christian who belongs to some denominational Church. I must make a conscious decision to follow Yeshua and show the fruit of repentance in my everyday life.
2) I NEED TO SUBMIT MY WILL TO THE WILL OF GOD FOR MY LIFE
"If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me"(Luke 9:23). This is a daily decision to deny my own desires and my old nature and to submit to the Lord's will and follow wholeheartedly after the Shepherd. We need to ask ourselves: Do I really want to follow Him? When the Holy Spirit convicts me of sins which I need to get rid of, am I prepared to submit my will to His will and cut it out of my life?! "For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is whole toward him" ( 2 Chron. 16:9 ). The Lord is looking into our hearts. He is not looking at our bank account, or our academic ability, or our physical strength. He constantly searches everywhere throughout the earth to see who is seeking Him wholeheartedly. So we can be encouraged that He sees when we say in our heart: "Lord, I desire You, my life belongs to You and I want to fulfill Your plan for my life!" Then He will gladly work in my life his good plan. Yeshua is the perfect example of a will submitted to God. In the garden of Gethsemane He poured out His heart to the Father before facing His biggest trial and made His request: "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me", but ultimately His heart and His will were surrendered: "yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt" (Matt 26:39b). We are not perfect, but if we are sincere and genuinely seeking God, we will hear His voice. David was an example of one who remained sincere, and even when he fell, he repented and confessed his sin with no excuses, and was restored. He loved God and wanted to serve Him. He was jealous for God's name and fought the one who defied the God of Israel - Goliath. There are also examples in Scripture of those who sought the will of the Lord, but when they heard it, they did not want to obey: In the book of Jeremiah we read such a story. Jerusalem was destroyed and the people taken captive to Babylon, just as Jeremiah had prophesied, but a remnant of the tribe of Judah was left behind by the Babylonians to take care of the agriculture. Gedaliah was appointed as their leader. At this point, evil-minded Ishmael decides to assassinate him and the Babylonian guards. Now the people left in the land feared that the Babylonians will return and kill them all. So they thought to escape into Egypt. They approach Jeremiah and asked him to seek the Lord on their behalf for an answer. While Jerusalem still stood, they did not believe nor listened to Jeremiah's words. They even tried to kill him, but God rescued Jeremiah. Now everything he had said had come to pass, and so they petition him to seek the word of the Lord. The people said to Jeremiah that they are prepared to listen to the word of the Lord and obey everything He tells them to do, even if it is unpleasant. This all sounded so very good! (Jeremiah 42:1-6). But in reality they had no intention of changing their mind from their own opinion. After ten days Jeremiah gave them a very clear answer from God, not to go to Egypt but to remain in the Land, where He will watch over them and establish them. He also described in detail what will happen if they disobey and decide to go to Egypt anyway. Everything they feared in Judea, will come upon them in Egypt, and they will die there. God’s words were very clear and strong. The consequences of disobedience were to be very serious. Jeremiah then told them that both God and he know that they will ultimately decide to disobey (Jeremiah 42:7-22). The people's response was arrogant and aggressive. They called Jeremiah a liar and proceeded to carry out their own plans and desires which were to take the whole remnant of survivors and go down to Egypt, against God’s clear word. At the end, the disaster Jeremiah prophesied befell them in Egypt (Jeremiah 43:1-7).
All this to say, that if we want to hear the voice of the Lord, it should be in order to obey Him.
Let us not be like the remnant of Judah who asked God to show them what to do, and then did according to their own thoughts. They chose to submit to their fear of the Babylonians rather than submit to the word of the Lord. God had told them not to be afraid, but to trust HIM.
How do we respond when the Lord speaks to us? Do we argue and rebel, thinking we know better?!
Or do we submit to Him, knowing that His plans are for our good? Do we filter the word of the Lord through our own thoughts, desires and fears, or do we trust that His heart is for us and that He will watch over us? He loves us and wants our best, from an eternal perspective - we need to trust the Lord completely, and not be swayed by doubts over His intentions. He has good plans for our future: "For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11) . Yes, there will be trials and tests, we may have to go through fire in order to purify us, but these are so that we will be better off in the end. The greater God's plans are for our life, the deeper the preparation will be. "For we are His workmanship, created in Yeshua the Messiah for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).
God has a plan for our lives. We need to submit to God and ask him to reveal it to us through His Holy Spirit. (1Corinthians 2:10-11, Philippians 2:13). When he then directs us, we must obey and follow his guidance, even if it means laying aside prestige, our own logic, the riches of this world, or anything else. If we walk in his plan by faith and love which is willing to sacrifice, if we walk in faithfulness and humility, we are building with gold, silver and precious stones. Everything else is wood, hay and stubble and will be burned up when the Lord tests it with his fiery eyes. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15, Revelation1:14). Joseph knew the vision from a young age that his father and mother and his brothers would bow down to him. But in the mean time he lost everything. He was taken away from his father to a foreign land where he knew no one, and sold into slavery. He was then thrown into jail for something he hadn't done. He suffered gross injustice and he didn't know why all this was happening to him. Although he had endeavored to do everything right, he had received punishment in return. He had no clue that he was a picture of Yeshua, that there were so many parallels with his life and the life to come of Yeshua. But by the time he was exalted and made ruler of all Egypt, he had learned on his own flesh what it meant to be a slave. He knew how important it was to rule with righteousness and justice. He had a heart and understanding for the people, because God had prepared him. Through the sufferings he learned many valuable lessons.
Also Moses was prepared for forty years in the household of Pharaoh and forty years in the wilderness in order to be ready for what God had planned for him. David went through times of life-threatening danger in preparation for being King of Israel, hiding in caves and in the desert, surrounded by rough and bitter men. So don't be shocked if you go through fire and persecution, persevere through the trial. Submit to God's plan as Yeshua did: "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me , yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt".
3) I NEED A SPIRITUAL EAR
In Revelation chapters 2 & 3 Yeshua is speaking to the seven congregations. Each time he says: " he who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the congregations". Again, it is clear that God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit. We need our ears to be tuned to His voice, just as a musician's ear can distinguish the slightest variation in notes and pitch, even when others do not notice anything, so we need to be sensitive to the slightest prompting of the Holy Spirit. We need spiritual ears, and, as one of His sheep, we can ask for this. According to what we read in Revelation, not everyone in the congregation had spiritual ears. We must ask and get tuned!
"For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God" (1 Cor. 2:10-11) .
We need The Holy Spirit to guide us, and He wants to guide us. But He is very sensitive and it is possible to grieve Him. Paul, in Ephesians, gives us a list of things that can grieve the Holy Spirit. For example, when we turn our attention to unclean things, things of the flesh, and are 'lovers of the world' (James 4:4-5) it grieves Him. He is precious and we cannot afford to be without Him. We do not want to miss the plan God has for our lives and the Holy Spirit is the one who reveals it to us. One of the characteristics of God's children is that they are led by the Holy Spirit. They are not walking according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Rom.8:12-14). Just as Yeshua said "My sheep hear My voice", in the same way God is saying here: "My children walk by my Spirit" - it is the same message. If you are a child of God, walk by the Spirit! If you are walking according to the flesh and you know it, now is the time to repent and to return to God wholeheartedly, so that you do not waste the opportunity of finding God's perfect plan for your life.
After we have fulfilled these conditions, to be His sheep and submit our will under His, He can then begin to speak to us:
A) THROUGH HIS WORD:
"All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness" (2 Tim 3:16-17). "'These things I have spoken to you, while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you" (John 14:25-26) . We need to read the Word of God daily, so that the Holy Spirit can bring it to mind. If it is not in our hearts, He cannot bring it to our remembrance. The Holy Spirit will bring to mind words and verses that are specific to our personal situation, and will also prompt us with the general guidance found in scripture, that applies to everyone, at all times. As an example, I can tell of an incident that happened to me many years ago, when one of my children came and asked to be baptized, at the age of six. My first response was: "no way, you are too young". But the next morning, my daily reading was from Mark 10:14 "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God…" I knew immediately that God was speaking to me on this issue, and so I did let this child to be baptized, according to his own request.
B) BY PUTTING HIS WILL IN OUR HEARTS:
"For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil 2:13).
Saying: 'not my will but Yours be done', is the precondition for God to starts putting His will in our hearts. When this is our heart's attitude we find that our thoughts and desires take the shape of God's will for our lives. God has given us understanding and a free will, and we are to use them, according to the best of our understanding, but we must at all times have our spiritual 'antennas' up for any adjustments He might want make. If we make a mistake, and make a decision which is not according to His good plan for us, He is gracious to stop us and bring us back to the right path if our heart is soft and open to hear His prompting. When God puts a desire into our heart, He will also provide the grace and strength to do it - so we don't have to be afraid of what He will ask us to do.
In Acts 13:1-3 The Holy Spirit set apart Paul and Barnabas for their first journey. It was the Holy Spirit who initiated it and He led them all the way. However, In Acts 15:35-36, they decided together, to go back and visit the congregations they had established on their first journey. But they had a difference of opinion over Mark and they split up in different directions. Paul was not willing to take Mark after he had disappointed them the first time, but Barnabas was willing to give him another chance. This is an example of real life situations and differences of attitude, as we are all human. In Acts 16:6-10 Paul and Silas went on their way visiting the congregations. But on two occasions the Holy Spirit blocked their path. They were proceeding according to the best of their understanding, but were sensitive to the Holy Spirit saying 'No, not this way.' Then, at the coast of Asia Minor Paul received a vision of the man from Macedonia and it became clear what they were to do.
If we plan out our lives with our own ideas and understanding and leave the Holy Spirit out of the picture, He will not force himself on us, but wait patiently for us. In such a case, not only are we missing His purpose for our life, but we do not really know what a day will bring. We cannot guarantee how things will turn out. James 4:13-17 Warns us against doing this: 'Come now you who say “Today or tomorrow we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there....” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.... Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that." We can make plans - but submit them to the Lord first and if He has a different plan for our life, then change our own plans and go with His! When we understand this, it makes it a lot easier for us to know the will of the Lord. We don't have to feel self pity or inferior that God has not sent an angel to speak to us. He speaks in natural ways, through His Word, through putting His will in our hearts and through life circumstances. Our part is to walk in humility trusting God and not walk in self confidence. Let us allow the Lord to lead us and test our hearts, so that we will not be led by our selfish ambitions, by our imagination or emotions. Also, we should always bear in mind, that God will never contradict His own word. That means, the Holy Spirit will never lead us to do something that will contradict God's clear written word.
C) THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT WHO IS WITH US AND WITHIN US.
The Holy Spirit is within us, to guide us and to intercede for us. Sometimes even without words and sometimes through by-passing our intellect. He knows the will of God for our life. He can also prompt us and whisper His instructions into our heart, therefore we must always have our spiritual antennas up, being sensitive to His prompting. At times, it can be a matter of life and death! I can share one such instance that took place in my life. It was during my army service that we had a night maneuver in a mountain area which we were not familiar with. We were driving an armed military vehicle with our lights turned off, as it was not allowed to have any lights on. At some point the Holy Spirit warned me in my heart of a danger of the vehicle falling and turning on it’s head. Although it was not an audible voice, yet it was real and clear. I warned all the soldiers and officer which were with me in this vehicle of the danger. Everybody heard my warning. The driver stopped. However after a short discussion it was decided by the officer in charge to continue on our way as they couldn't see any danger. At this point I decided to prepare for this danger by lowering myself into the vehicle. The officer in charge and the Sergeant who was giving the driver instructions, stayed with their upper bodies above the roof of the vehicle. A few seconds later the vehicle fell straight forward into a deep ditch and landed on it’s roof. To my sorrow, the officer and the Sergeant both died in this accident. Because I took the necessary actions immediately, my life was preserved. For me as a bible teacher, hearing the prompting of the Spirit is a daily reality when it comes to the sharing of Gods word with others. Only the word of God, shared by the anointing of the Holy Spirit can produce the right fruit in the lives of people. It is fascinating to experience it.
The guidance of the Holy Spirit is the only way, in which we can find out and carry out, God’s good plan for our lives. It is the Holy Spirit who knows God's perfect plan for our life (1 Corinthians 2: 10-11), which was designed for us before creation (Eph.2:10). God has prepared a full life and good works for each of us to walk in and to fulfill. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to show us and guide us into the plan God has for us. When we seek His guidance with sincerity, He will give us a deep peace when we are on the right path, according to His will, and will give us no peace, when we are sliding off the path.
The Holy Spirit can also by-pass our intellect when it comes to prayers. "And in the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for word, and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God" (Rom.8:26-27).
D) THROUGH CIRCUMSTANCES TO LEAD US THROUGH LIFE.
God will lead us by opening doors and by closing doors. Situations happen in life which we didn't plan, but God has planned them, and he uses these situations for our good. He may also give us these situations as an opportunity to bless others, if we allow him to use us, and if we flow with Him. For example, a lady I know, had a high fever and strong pain in her stomach, so much so that she needed to be hospitalized for several days. During her stay in the hospital, she witnessed to an older man who was at the same ward, and he opened his heart and accepted Yeshua. After several days this older man passed away, and this sister was released from hospital. None of this was planned by her, but the Lord had it all planned. Simply tell the Father you are available, and you will be amazed by what He has planned for you. "The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps" (Prov. 16:9). If you have handed your life over to God for His will and His plan, then He will direct you. "Man's steps are ordained by the Lord, how then can a man understand his way?" (Prov. 20:24) . At times you may not know why something is happening in your life, but be encouraged, if you are a sheep of the Lord and you have committed your life into His hands, it is all part of a bigger plan that is ordained for you by the Almighty God. Your life is in His hands, if you have fulfilled the conditions of being one of His sheep and of surrendering your life and will to Him, then no one can snatch you out of His hands. We encourage you to trust God and continue to walk in love and obedience to Him.
E) THROUGH TWO OR THREE WITNESSES.
"This is the third time I am coming to you. Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses" (2 Cor. 13:1) . In the Biblical court system it is forbidden to convict someone of murder on the testimony of only one witness. There must be two or three witnesses. Paul uses this principle from the Law in other areas of life. " Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses" (1 Tim 5:19). This is a safeguard against the tactics of the enemy who is always trying to accuse and make us fall. If leadership is constantly dealing with accusations, it makes their job of leading extremely difficult. On the other hand, if there is a genuine issue and two or three faithful witnesses concur, then the issue must be dealt with, Biblically. Likewise, if we are facing important decisions, it is perfectly alright to ask God for the confirmation of two or three witnesses before taking action. Life decisions, such as getting married, are extremely important and God will graciously confirm for us in different ways. He will also give us His supernatural peace in our hearts. If He has confirmed His will, we need not be afraid or look back when we are tested, but keep our eyes fixed on Him and go forward, always open to His adjustments.
F) THROUGH GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
"But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; and to another prophecy…" (1 Cor. 12:7-8,10). These gifts of the word of wisdom, word of knowledge and prophecy, are used by God to direct us in special situations when we need specific guidance. Wisdom will tell you how to act wisely in a certain situation. An example for the word of wisdom we can see in the story of king Salomon, when he was faced with the two women arguing over one baby. He spoke a word of wisdom knowing what to do: Telling the soldier to cut the baby in two… This brought the two women into an immediate testing situation which revealed what was in their hearts. We are all invited to ask God for wisdom (James 1:5-6), it is available to all of us through the Holy Spirit, but some situations call for a 'word of wisdom' which will give you direction what to do in a specific situation. Whereas wisdom guides you what to do, a word of knowledge gives you some very needed information that you would not otherwise know, in order to deal with a situation. I remember years ago, while I was serving as a director in a company, we had our annual global directors meeting. Our company's US director was an older Christian brother. He was a tough WW2 Sergeant. One morning as we came together for our meetings, this man was all shaken up. He told us that during the night, while sleeping in his hotel room, a demonic being came into his room and was physically shaking his bed. As we tried to pray with him and help him, one of the brothers got a word of knowledge. He had a revelation that this occurrence had to do with Free Masonry. He asked him if he was a member of this group? The answer was no. Still he asked if he has any family relatives connected to this group? The answer was yes. His father was a Free Mason and he had given him his golden ring which has an inscription on it’s inside, with the emblem of this cult. This was the needed key which was missing, in order to know how to pray and help this brother. The devil had some rights over this man as long as he cherished this satanic item.
There are plenty of examples of words of prophecy in the New Testament such as a prophetic word about a coming hunger which allowed the True Disciples of God to get ready for it, or warnings to Paul about his arrest in Jerusalem which prepared him and gave him peace to know that God was in control. Later on, he knew that he will face Caesar, and so again could find peace and confidence during the storm.
To summarize, there are all these many ways in which God can speak to us and direct us. Let us find rest in the knowledge that He loves us, He sees our hearts and knows that we want to follow him, and He is faithful and able to speak to us, His sheep, in ways that we can understand His will.