One of the most frustrating things that can happen as a parent is when our children hear what we say but do not follow through and do what they are told. Perhaps they do not promptly obey therefore forget what they were to do, maybe they do not want to do what we say, or perhaps it just simply is not important enough for them to be attentive and follow through. Jesus tells us a story about two sons in Matthew 21:28-32 “”But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.”
There are certainly many truths to be garnered from this parable, but the visual we receive between the words and actions of the two sons speaks volumes about “hearing” and “doing”. This moves us into the deeper or next level of defining the word “hear” in Greek meaning “to attend to, to consider what is being said, to understand, to perceive the sense of what is said, and to learn and comprehend”. Once we physically hear, the next step is to understand so we can do something with what we hear. The first son heard his father, disobeyed and later regretted his response so went out to work. He heard and then he “heard”! In other words he physically heard and then he comprehended and followed his understanding with action. The second son heard (physically) but did not hear (perceive, learn, or attend to) what was truly being said by his father, therefore he did not obey.
Taking the parenting scenario again, infants begin to “hear” inside the womb. They can recognize and distinguish voices, music, and other sounds before they are even born. After birth, they continue to hear, turning their heads when they hear voices and begin responding with smiles and sounds of their own as the months progress. Very soon, they go from simply hearing the sound of their parent’s voices to comprehending, perceiving, and paying attention to what their parents say (or choosing not to pay attention). The meaning of the word “no” is something they learn quickly and then make a choice each time they hear “no”; to “hear” or “not to hear” becomes the question.
Hearing or not hearing the voice of our shepherd is a major issue in the Church today. Scripture gives direction for us in every area of life and we may even say “Yes, Lord” but then do not follow. Oftentimes our own will overrides the voice of God just like the second son in the parable who thought it was no big deal to say “I go” and then not go. The first son turned away, regretted (repented) of his disobedience and then followed up with action by making things right with his father. How often do we as sheep of His pasture hear His voice but do not follow? Our “hearing” is in vain if we physically hear the voice of our Shepherd and do not follow Him.
In John 10:3 we established “hearing” means the act of hearing the voice of God whether inwardly, outwardly, through Scripture, a prophetic word, or multiple other means. Jesus says “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” Then in John 10:4 Jesus says “And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”
True sheep hear the voice of our shepherd and follow because we know his voice. We willingly submit to His guidance, joyfully obey His commands, and cheerfully conform to His Spirit and the pattern He lays out for us because He says “Follow Me.” The act of following intimates (hints) Jesus may take us places we would not go unless we are led. But as sheep who know His voice and remain eager to keep up with Him. Jesus told the disciples to let the dead bury the dead. Follow. He told a rich man to sell everything he had. Follow. He told people to deny themselves and pick up their crosses. Follow. He tells us we must do all these things as well if we are going to serve Him. Follow Me. We must keep our eyes on Him as Leader and Captain, walk where He walks, pray what He prays, and do what He does.
There is great encouragement and confidence knowing he goes before us therefore following should be exciting and adventurous. Perhaps “following” carries a negative connotation because we have an erroneous view concerning the “privilege” of following. Think of the childhood games in which there are leaders and followers. For example: “Follow the Leader.” Everyone wants to be the leader – why? Because we can do our own thing and everyone follows. Being the follower can get boring and even difficult if we just do what the leader is doing, especially if the leader is super athletic. If the leader does difficult things or those we are not capable of performing we just give up. How about “Red Light Green Light”? Again, being the “Light Caller” is the preferred position. Not only do you control how fast people can move but you get to send them back if you “catch” them moving. How fun is that? How “not fun” is it if you are the one sent back?
When was the last conference or book you saw or heard that spoke of “Raising Up Followers for a New Generation”? That sounds almost humorous or absurd, right? We are all about raising up “leaders” for the next generation. Obviously there is nothing wrong with raising leaders up but we can only have so many leaders. With no followers it becomes impossible to lead. One of our children is a “born follower”. We saw it as clearly as we recognize “born leaders”. Encouraging this attribute was as challenging as promoting the leadership qualities in one of our other children. Following has as many responsibilities and privileges as leading. Just as we have good and bad leaders, we have good and bad followers. If we can gain the ability to see clearly the blessed nature of following, perhaps we would follow our shepherd closely.
Could it be we do not follow because we do not know His voice? What does it really mean to know the voice of our shepherd? That will be answered in the next blog!
Father, thank You that the door is opened unto us and we hear Your voice and the voice of our pastors. We thank You for calling us by name and leading us out! Thank You for the privilege of hearing and following. Thank You for always being before us! We love You Lord!