Into the tenth chapter of the gospel by John, John's gospel chapter
10. We are seeing that behind everything in the gospel by John is a
Jewish background and we are seeing that in this gospel there is the
movement from the Jewish background to the new Israel foreground.
That is, from the old dispensation of Israel, to the new
dispensation of the new and heavenly Israel. In this gospel
a movement going on; on the one side it is the closing down of the
history of the old Israel and on the other side the opening up of
the history of the new Israel so that there is a background and a
foreground in this gospel.
Now, we are following sixteen points in that transition and tonight
we come to point number 13 which means that there are not many left
for us! And point number 13 is marked in chapter 10 of the gospel by
John. Everybody knows what is in this chapter, it is the chapter of
the good shepherd and his sheep. We're not going to read the chapter
because it is so well known, the heart of the chapter is the words,
"I am the good shepherd." I want to put alongside of that one or two
other passages of Scripture and go back to the book of the Psalms.
Psalm 77 and verse 20: "Thou leddest thy people like a flock, by
the hand of
Moses and Aaron".
Chapter 78, Psalm 78 verse 52: "But he led forth his own people
like sheep, and guided them
in the wilderness like a flock".
Now in the book of the Acts, chapter 20, at verse 28: "Take heed
unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit
hath made you overseers, to feed the
church of God, which he purchased with his own blood. I know
that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among
you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall
men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples
Now over to the letter to the Hebrews, and this letter is the
basis of all our meditation this week. The letter to the Hebrews
chapter 13 at verse 20: "Now the God of peace, who brought again
from the dead
the great shepherd of the sheep with the blood of the eternal
covenant, even our Lord Jesus, make you perfect in every good
thing to do his will".
So here we have the flock spoken of, both in the Old Testament
and the New. There does not need that there should be very much
argument that the
Lord looked upon Israel of old as His sheep. The books of the
prophets are just full of this idea; the prophets were continually
speaking about Israel as God's sheep. The nations were
judged by God because of their treatment of God's sheep: they
destroyed and they scattered God's sheep. With the false shepherds
in Israel, God was very angry - they failed to fulfil their trust
the sheep. Well, there's a very great deal more, as we have seen
in the Psalms about
Israel as the Lord's sheep.
We begin our meditation on this matter by speaking about
the Lord who is the owner of the sheep. That is the great point
governs this whole matter. The sheep belong to the Lord. They are
the Lord's sheep, the Lord's ownership of the flock is everywhere
emphasised. The sheep
exist for the Shepherd, and the Shepherd exists for the sheep. The
love of God for Israel as His sheep is everywhere to be noted.
They were "the
people of his pasture". The love of God
for Israel of old is a very wonderful thing. What care He showed
for the sheep in the wilderness! How, as a Shepherd, He provided
pasture and water for them, even in the desert. How angry He was
when anyone touched His sheep! He was very jealous about His
sheep. Touch one of the Lord's sheep and you
touch the Lord! The Lord claimed the ownership of His
because He owned them and they were His sheep,
everything He did
was on that ground.
In these days we are seeing how God, on the one side, had
to forsake Israel. The God who had so loved Israel, the God who
had been so
jealous for Israel, the God who had done everything that He could
do for Israel, had
at last to hand over His sheep and break His relationship with
Why was that? that is not like God! It seems to be such a
contradiction of God. God would never, never do that if He could
possibly avoid it. He had said: "I
have loved thee with an everlasting love". It was a terrible
thing for God to have to forsake Israel, and He had to
do that. And today Israel is in that condition - no longer God's
flock, as it was in old times. Those sheep are scattered over all
the earth, they are without a shepherd.
Why did that come about? Simply for this one reason:
Israel's fatal sin was their repudiation of God as their one
Shepherd. They turned to other gods; they made other gods their
They followed the voice of other gods, they repudiated the sole
the Lord. That great chapter, Isaiah 53, shows their attitude
toward the Shepherd. A word rises out of that chapter: "All we
sheep have gone astray", and that chapter shows how they
treated God's provided Shepherd.
It is impressive to note that the Apostle Paul quotes this
very thing in his letter to the Romans in chapter 10 and verse 16:
"But they did not
all hearken to the glad tidings. For Isaiah said, Lord, who
hath believed our report?". They
refused to believe the message of the prophets, and the message of
the prophets was all about God as the Shepherd and Israel as the
sheep. And the
prophet says: "This is why they turned away from Jehovah... All we
like sheep have
gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way". Away
way of the Lord to their own way. And their own way was to choose
other shepherds than the Lord.
It is a rather impressive thing to notice that in Psalm 95 where
this matter of the sheep comes up, Psalm 95 verse 7, :
"For He is our God, and we are the
people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand". Now, do
you notice the verse does not finish there, the rest of the verse
this strange word: "Today, oh, that you would hear His voice!
Harden not your heart". We
are the... sheep of his pasture but the sheep can have
hard hearts and refuse to hear the Shepherd's voice. So to His
sheep of old He said: "Oh, today, that you would not
Do you know friends that that very word is quoted at least three
times in the letter to the Hebrews? Three times in that letter it
is quoted: "Today if ye shall hear
his voice, harden not your hearts" (Hebrews 3:7,8). So it
hardness of heart, that lost Israel
their Shepherd - the refusal to hear His voice. Paul said in that
letter to the Romans: "I would have you know,
that a hardening of heart has happened to Israel", and you have
only got to read this one chapter, John 10, to see
the hard heart of Israel. It's a terrible thing!
Just look at this: Jesus has been speaking about Himself as the
good Shepherd, who gives His life for the sheep. He has said: "I
give unto my sheep
eternal life; and they shall never perish" and all
these wonderful things about Himself as the Shepherd and His
sheep. Do you notice what happens at verse 19? "There arose a
division among the Jews because of these words. And
many of them (the Jews)
said, He hath a devil" ... "I am the good shepherd... I give My
life for the sheep... I am come that they might have life... I
unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish." All
these wonderful and beautiful things and the Jews said: "He has a
Now do you understand why God had to cast them off? "We
have hardened our hearts. We have turned every one to our own way.
All we like sheep have gone astray. We have gone away from the
Shepherd because of self-will. In other words, we have said: 'We
will not that have this Man to reign over us'".
That is the Jewish background of John 10. Into that
situation Jesus came as the good Shepherd. And what a situation to
come into! You can feel
the very atmosphere of antagonism, you can feel how they hated
Presently they will take counsel that they may kill Him. He was
right when He called them wolves who would destroy the sheep!
Right into that atmosphere Jesus came and He said: "I am the
good Shepherd, and I am going to lead My sheep out of all this. I
going to take My flock out of this setting, out of this
flock." And He leads the nucleus of His new flock and He
unto them eternal life. He begins with a nucleus out of the old -
dividing work takes place.
I didn't read the whole of that statement just for this purpose;
I wanted to keep it until now: "There
arose a division among the Jews... many of them said, He has a
devil, He is mad;
why hear Him? Others said, These are not the sayings of one
possessed with a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?"
He is evidently getting some other sheep. There
are those out of the old flock who are inclined toward Him. They
are the new beginning, the new Israel, and He says: "I will lead
them out, right out of that whole setting". And we see that
nucleus on the Day of Pentecost: beginning
with twelve - and then one hundred and twenty - and then more than
hundred brethren at once - and then three thousand - and then five
thousand. The new flock.
Well, here you see, Jesus is building upon the Old Testament
principle. If He cannot take the Old Testament sheep, He will take
up the principle of Shepherd and sheep and He will carry it over
His new Israel of this dispensation.
Well, the position is perfectly clear, isn't it? There you have
quite plainly: one Israel is being put aside and another Israel is
being put in its place. The earthly is going, the heavenly is
coming in to take its place, and this heavenly Israel becomes the
new flock under the new Shepherd.
Now we have to note some of the marks of these true
Jesus says here "I know My sheep", and there are
certain things by which He knows His own sheep. If you have any
doubt as to whether you are one of the Lord's sheep, here it is,
you can prove
it, and the Lord knows Himself by these marks.
You know, shepherds put a mark on their own sheep. It may
be a red mark, or it may be a blue mark, but on their sheep they
own mark. And in our country it's just wonderful to see how that
works. Many flocks of sheep are sent out onto the mountains and
they all get mixed up, they wander far, far over the mountains.
And the day comes when the shepherds want to bring in their own
sheep. Well, how are they going to get their own sheep out of all
this mix up? Now here is a very wonderful thing: the shepherd has
a sheep dog and how it is I don't know, but those dogs know the
sheep that belong to their shepherd. The sheep dog knows the sheep
that belong to his master and the shepherd simply gives a word to
the dogs. And off he goes over the mountains, he's picking up all
the sheep that have a certain mark on it and the dog brings back
just those sheep. The point is that the sheep have a mark on them
and by that mark they are known. Now Jesus is saying here: "I know
My sheep because there are
marks on My sheep." And what are these marks?
The first one is this: "My sheep hear My
voice and they know Me... My sheep hear My
voice and they know Me".
You know, this is, this is an illustration of a great truth. The
gospels are but the illustrations of great truths. If you go on
the rest of the New Testament you will read a great deal about
spiritual intelligence, spiritual understanding, and
you will read about having an ear to hear what the Spirit says.
Seven times at the beginning of the Book of the Revelation you
have that - "He that hath an ear to hear,
let him hear what the Spirit saith". Of course, that is not our
outward ear. The
sheep of the Lord have an inward ear given to them, that is, a
spiritual intelligence; an ability to hear what no one else can
hear. It was to that that the Lord was referring - "My sheep know
when I speak. They have an ear for Me. My sheep are always
My voice. My sheep hear My voice".
Every truly born again child of God is given a faculty
of spiritual hearing. That is why, you say in the early days of
Christian life: "The Lord seems to be saying something to
me. The Lord seems to be saying that I ought not to talk as I do
talk, and the Lord seems to be saying to me that I
ought not to dress as I have been dressing, and the Lord seems to
be saying to me that I should not
to go to the places which I used to go to...", and a thousand
like that. The Lord seems to be saying something... He is
speaking in the heart, and as we go on in the Christian life that
becomes the governing thing in our lives. We seek to hear what the
Lord has to say to us, and when we hear His voice then there
arises a crisis.
Are we going back to the way of the old Israel going our own way?
Or are we going to
hear that voice and obey?
You see that is the message of the letter to the Hebrews: "Don't
go back on to that old ground! Today if ye shall hear His
harden not your hearts as they did." But it is a very
wonderful thing to see people who are obeying His voice! It is not
people have to tell them these things. They are a poor kind
of Christian who have to be told all the time what they should do
and what they should not do. The true sheep hear
His voice and
they follow Him. It's something that comes out of the heart -
they have heard Him speak in the heart. This, of course, is the
whole of that New Testament subject
of spiritual understanding, and you and I, as Christians, are
supposed to have that faculty of spiritual understanding.
We were speaking about Nicodemus earlier. He was a ruler of
the Jews, a great man in Israel. He had a high position and a
great education, and yet he hadn't the first idea of spiritual
things. Jesus had to say to him: "If I had spoken to you
earthly things, and you have not understood, well, what will
happen if I begin to speak of heavenly things?". Nicodemus could
not see beyond the natural to the
spiritual. When Jesus said "You must be born again", he could not
see beyond the natural, he said: "How can a man be born
when he is old?". He hadn't any spiritual intelligence. He was
like a little
child, although a great teacher in Israel.
I have a little grand-daughter about four years of age. She
went to Sunday School and when she came home from Sunday School
she said to her
mother: "Mother, will you get me out all my baby toys, the baby
toys that we
put away?' Her mother said: "Why do you want your baby toys out
again?" "Oh," she said, "my teacher says I must be born again!"
Well, that's a little child, you might expect that of a little
child, but here is the great big grown-up Nicodemus and he is no
better than that! You might expect more of him, but you don't get
it. Spiritual intelligence belongs to the born again ones, and you
are given that gift with our birth. We have a whole new set of
faculties, to hear, to see, to feel, and so on. And I repeat
it is about that very thing that the New Testament speaks when
it speaks of spiritual understanding. That is what Jesus meant
when He said: "My sheep hear My
voice and they know Me".
The next mark about these sheep is: "My sheep... follow
Now that is very simple in the words, but they have a very deep
meaning. It means that His sheep never have to be driven, His
sheep never have to be
compelled to go His way. His sheep follow Him in a
and spontaneous way. The Lord never has to say (or ought never to
say) to His sheep: "You must come this way."
The Lord is going a certain way and His sheep see which way He is
going and they follow Him.
Of course, in this part of the world, it is just the other way
round where sheep are concerned. I have a son who is a farmer and
he has one of these wonderful sheep dogs. And how often we have
heard him give the dog a word of command and off the dog has gone.
But the dog has never stood in front of the sheep and said,
"Follow me"! He has gone round behind the sheep and has driven
them on. He is running from side to side all the time, he is not
letting one of those sheep get away; he is driving them on. And if
a sheep should stop, the dog quietly creeps up and then suddenly
lets his presence be known and that sheep goes on! Well,
these sheep have to be driven, but it's never like that in
the East, and Jesus takes the principle of
government from the East. He says: "I don't drive My sheep. I
never have to get behind them and force them to go on. I never
have to send a dog after them bite their heels to get them going.
My sheep hear My
voice and they follow Me." It's a spontaneous movement of the
heart to go after the Lord.
Now let us apply the law. These are the marks of the His
sheep. Are you one of His sheep? Do you really hear the Lord
in your heart? Do you listen for His voice? Do you seek to have
your life guided by that voice of the Spirit within speaking to
you through the Word of God, speaking to you through the
circumstances of your
life, speaking to you through your sorrows? The Lord always having
something to say
to us, there are very few things which happen to the Lord's sheep
which do not have some meaning. It is for us to seek to know what
it is the Lord is saying to us - the government of the life of the
Lord's sheep is by hearing His voice. Do you know anything about
And what about this spontaneous response to the Lord... a heart
that readily goes after the Lord? We have only to know that the
Lord wants something and we respond with a
hearty "Yes, Lord"?
Now I must close, time has gone extra quickly tonight somehow!
What is the bond between us, His sheep, and Him, the
Shepherd? It is the same bond as existed between old Israel and
the Lord. This same
principle is taken over, it is the principle of His ownership.
That which unites us
with the Lord is the realisation that we belong to Him,
that He is
the absolute owner of our lives. To quote another Scripture: "Ye
are not your
own; ye were bought with a price", and we have the mark of the
Lord put upon us, which is
the seal of His ownership. And Paul tells us that the seal is the
Spirit - "sealed with
the Holy Spirit". When you look at the seal you know who the box
belongs to. That says that "This is the property of a certain
Lord gives us His Spirit as the seal that we belong to Him.
What a sheep the apostle Paul was! He said: "Let no man
trouble me (that
is, trying to draw me away): for
branded in my body the marks of Jesus... The marks of
Jesus mean that I belong to Him". He said to the centurion on the
ship when he was
travelling to Rome: "The angel of the Lord stood by me this night
whose I am, and whom I serve". The true sheep of the Lord
are never ashamed to say: "I belong to the Lord Jesus. He owns my
life and everything that I
have. I am completely committed to Him." That is a true sheep!
Well, these are the marks of His new Israel. And you
can now understand why we have these words which have been the key
to all our meditations: "Wherefore, holy brethren,
companions of a heavenly calling... companions of
Christ". There is a kind of companionship between this Shepherd
and His sheep. They are not just animals, they are friends. There
is a wonderful friendship between the Lord Jesus and His own -
"Companions of a