Why sheep hear His voice

Why did Jesus say that His sheep will hear His voice and follow Him? What is it about being sheep that makes us hear His voice?  I’ve already talked about this here, but I want to bring up another important point that’s significant in Scripture and easier to miss than one might think. I would like to briefly take a look at this to help us hear God’s voice.

First, here’s Jesus giving a rather cryptic illustration to His followers:

And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.” (John 10:4-5 NKJV *)

It’s interesting that God is not referred to as a shepherd in the beginning of the Genesis account. We begin to see this idea with Joseph (Gen.48:15), but it’s with the Passover in Exodus that this concept really comes into focus.

When Israel offered a lamb on that first Passover night, God figuratively became the Lamb who delivered Israel from bondage, and this Lamb became their shepherd to lead them into the Promised Land. We know this because it prefigured Christ, our Passover Lamb (1 Cor.5:7).

What was only a shadow in Exodus would culminate with the real thing in Christ. This is what John said when Jesus came to him to be baptized:

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29 NKJV).

I hope I can adequately explain what’s going on here because it will change your life forever when you get it. Jesus becomes a lamb for our redemption so that He can become our shepherd to lead us by His voice. As I’ve said many times before, this is because it’s not only what God did for us on the Cross, but what He did as us and, most importantly, what He did to us.

Here’s what God did to us: the Lamb of God took our place and then God placed us in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated us with Him in heavenly places!

He raised us up with Christ the exalted One, and we ascended with him into the glorious perfection and authority of the heavenly realm, for we are now co-seated as one with Christ! (Eph.2:6 TPT *)

This is what it means to be a “Christian” at the most fundamental level, which is why Robert Capon could rightly say that Christianity is not a religion but the announcement of the end of religion.

What figuratively happened at the first Passover and literally happened on the Cross is what’s called a divine exchange. Another word for it is reconciliation.

19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation…. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor.5:19, 21 NIV *)

As I said in “Jesus Christ is how we understand ourselves,” the word “reconcile” means to exchange. God exchanged us for Jesus on the cross. When Christ died, we died, and when He rose from dead, we rose with Him. Now our life is Christ’s life. Our relationship with God is Christ’s relationship with God.

Here’s how the Mirror Bible translates 2 Corinthian 5:21:

This is the divine exchange: he who knew no sin embraced our distortion he appeared to be without form; this was the mystery of God’s prophetic poetry. He was disguised in our distorted image, marred with our iniquities; he took our sorrows, our pain, our shame to his grave and birthed his righteousness in us. He took our sins and we became his innocence.” (2 Cor.5:21 MIRROR)

Let me say it another way: when we sinned we needed a lamb, and this Lamb took our place. This means that we leave this exchange as a lamb, which also means that God is our shepherd!

This is why we can hear Jesus’ voice. Because we’ve been exchanged with Him and placed in Him, so we now have access to what Jesus has access to in the Trinitarian life of God. Jesus gave us His Spirit so that He could reveal to us what’s been given to Him (see John 16:12-15).

I say all this because one reason people don’t hear God’s voice is because they make it all about them. We do this when we try to pay a price that God already paid, by fasting, or anything else to try to please Him. But if what we’re doing doesn’t point to what Jesus did on the Cross, we’re living on the wrong side of it.

When we focus on trying to make ourselves right with God so we can come to Him, we have only proven that we don’t know who we are…or where we are. And when we don’t know these things, we’re not going to hear His voice. There will be too much traffic in our minds about us and what we need to do instead of what we need to be. We’re still living like orphans instead of like sons and daughters.

But when you abide in His other-centered love, He will manifest Himself to you (see John 14:20-21; 15:9-12).

Beloved, God has already exchanged you for Himself. Your life is His life (Gal.2:20). You can’t do anything about it but believe it and walk in it. And when you make it about Him instead of about you, you will begin to hear His voice. After all, as Jesus said, that’s what His sheep normally do.

* All emphasis added.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 41 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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7 Responses to Why sheep hear His voice

  1. “But if what we’re doing doesn’t point to what Jesus did on the Cross, we’re living on the wrong side of it.”

    Great stuff. So many great quotes in this post.

  2. Wally Fry says:

    Mel, nicely done and thought provoking as usual. I don’t have a thing to add, other than this made me think of one of my favorite songs. This is also a great rendition of it. Shows a thing or two about about the reach of our Lord in looking for His sheep.

  3. hawk2017 says:


  4. It took awhile for me to learn this lesson but you are writing the truth. I strive to walk away from sin NOT because I’m afraid God will be mad at me but because of the joy and peace that comes with walking a life pure and holy before the Lord. I hear Him because I am putting myself in a position to listen.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Well put, Patrick. We are compelled by love, as Paul says. And His perfecting love casts out our fear. We can hear His voice when we make it about Him and not us. This is where I like the KJV of Gal.2:20. I live by the faith OF the Son of God, which is closer to the original Greek. I live by His faithfulness, not mine.

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