Among the many names by which Jesus is recognized by his people, in his multiplied relationship to them, is that of “Shepherd,” and in that relationship they are likened unto sheep. In the tenth chapter of John the Savior himself points out with peculiar clearness the difference between the Shepherd whose own the sheep are, and the one who tendeth the sheep as an hireling, at the same time presenting himself as the true Shepherd. The sheep follow the Shepherd because they know his voice. A very clear evidence that one is a follower of Jesus, is that he knows his voice. The apostle John, in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, saw Jesus, and heard his voice, and described it as” The voice of many waters.” Elijah, at the mouth of the cave, heard the same voice, and he describes it as “A still small voice.” The Israelites heard it in the wilderness at Mount Sinai, and to their ears it was a voice of thunder, yet they all knew it and recognized its import also. Observe how the sheep follows its natural owner, willingly, gladly, without a doubt or question, or a moment’s hesitancy, aught but obedience is not thought of, because love is the incentive, and obedience is the result. Hark, saith the bride in the song, “The voice of my be loved! behold, he, cometh leaping: upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.” It is the time of love, and now we hear the divine Shepherd calling to his sheep, it is not a command, there is no need of that; it is love calling to love, “deep calleth unto deep,” the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. You hear the voice in your heart saying: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” And immediately we become his true and faithful followers. Some one will ask, How do I know when Jesus speaks to me? What are the signs of his beloved presence? Satan is so cunning that I am often deceived. Well, in the first place, the apostle tells you what to do, he says: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God.” Then he gives you the evidence that will convince you of the truth, he says: “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God.” On the other hand, all these spirits that confess not that Jesus is come in the flesh, are antichrist and false prophets. Again, you are not ignorant of your own condition, you know that if you are alive to righteousness, you are dead to sin. The voice of the messenger from God that speaks to you, brings with it life, and peace, and quietness, and joy in the Holy Ghost; while the messenger from Satan brings confusion, and evil thoughts, and a discontented mind. When you can say out of a full heart, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want,” then you may know that the Spirit of the Lord dwelleth in you. This Spirit within you is of faith, and enables you to say: This is the voice of my beloved. Added to the loving voice of the Shepherd is the tender care which he devotes to the sheep; of him the prophet says: “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd, he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead these that are with young.” In every vicissitude of our life the pitying eye of our tender Shepherd looks upon us. He does not look down upon us as though he were far above us, but he lifts us up by his very presence; he is right with us, and our afflictions are his afflictions, we are weak and he is strong, but lie becometh weak that we may be made strong. In our fleshly lusts and wordly ambitions, our backslidings and uncomeliness, we are made to realize his long and tender forbearance toward us. We also observe that this watchcare is so persistent that he never leaves nor forsakes us. When Israel traveled in the wilderness the Lord was with them, and as a shepherd leadeth his sheep and careth for them, so the Shepherd of Israel led his sheep about in the wilderness and instructed them in all the way he would have them go. He was unto them a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night; his vigilant eye was always upon them. The helplessness of sheep to care for themselves is well known; when separated from the shepherd they are utterly incapable of protecting themselves from the enemy, or of taking care for themselves in any way. The shepherd being fully aware of this fact, constantly watches over them, he knoweth all their weakness and frailties, and so nourished) and cherisheth them as a father careth for his children. As sheep of the fold of the flock of God, we are under complete control of our precious Shepherd, of ourselves we can do nothing, left alone for a little time we become scattered from our fellows, and soon fall into the hand of the enemy, and are lost. But the watchful Shepherd leaveth the ninety and nine that are safe in the fold, and goeth out into the darkness to seek the lost one, and he seeketh until he findeth and restoreth the precious one to the fold. Thus do we die daily, and thus are daily delivered. As the natural sheep are found in flocks, so also the Lord setteth the solitary in families, whence they organize themselves into bodies that they may worship the Lord, and maintain the order of God’s house. Ever since the visible church has been set up this has been the case, but in order to maintain which, they have had to suffer many trials and undergo much persecution. These little groups, or families, called churches, have, when available, an undershepherd who ministereth to them in word and deed, but the spirit of the Shepherd is with them, according as he (Jesus) has promised, that where two or three are gathered together in his name, he is in their midst. They are to be distinguished from the religionists of the world, in that they continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship; they manifest the faith of God’s elect, they use not humility as a cloak, but with fear and trembling they worship God in spirit and in truth; they preach not themselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord. The way and the works of man all lead unto death, but the way of God is unto life eternal. Like sheep their trust is in their master who leadeth them and careth for them. Of Joseph it is declared: “Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches run over the wall: * * * from then is the shepherd the stone of Israel.” Of David he saith: “And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.” Joseph and David both being lively types of our Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel assurance also comes to us with much sweetness: “Now the God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in your that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ.” Again: “For ye were as sheep going astray, but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your Souls.” And also both assurance and promise: “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” Wondrous Shepherd, blessed sheep, how strong is our hope, and how secure our inheritance, and how faithful the promise.
B. F. COULTER
Philadelphia, Pa., Nov. 25, 1901
Signs Of The Times
Volume 73, No. 1
January 1, 1905