Characteristics of the Sheep

And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him; for they know His voice (John 10:4).

It is profitable if we ponder a little upon some of the characteristics of Christ’s sheep:

  1. They hear His voice (Jn. 10:4,16,27). This goes back to the very commencement, when He calleth His own sheep by name, and is that which distinguishes them as His sheep. We may combine with this another trait, "They know not the voice of strangers" (verse 5). Herein lies the safety of the flock. They at once recognize the voice of the Shepherd, but though a stranger should simulate the tones of the Shepherd ever so closely, they know not his voice and detect it as that of a stranger. There is no need, therefore, that we should seek to be familiar with all the errors that abound on every hand in order to escape their seductions; it is enough for us that we know the voice of the Shepherd; and our safety will be in ever listening to it, becoming increasingly acquainted with it, maintaining evermore the attitude of her who sat at the feet of Jesus, and heard His word (Luke 10:39). This will be at once our preservative from danger and the means of our safety and blessing.
  2. They follow the Shepherd (Jn. 10:4,27). The sheep have no will but that of the Shepherd and ceasing to follow Him, they become wandering sheep. In Eastern lands, and indeed in some parts of Europe, the shepherd ever goes before his sheep; and when he moves onward, they follow, and when he stops, they stop likewise. Our blessed Lord alludes to this in the scripture before us, and uses the custom to convey most striking instruction. For to follow the Shepherd necessitates that the eye of the sheep should be ever upon Him, that they should ever be on the watch to ascertain when He would have them to move, and where He would have them follow. Everything is thus left in the Shepherd’s hands; it is His to discern a coming danger, to provide for their sustenance, and to indicate their path. Their responsibility is to follow the Shepherd wherever He may lead and to follow Him until He shall come to receive them to Himself.
  3. They know the Shepherd (Jn. 10:14,15). They not only know His voice; but they also know Himself. This is the highest blessing of which the sheep are capable; for it implies entering into His own thoughts, ways, and desires. It is thus that we are brought into communion with Him. We may know His voice, and be following Him, and yet be without much acquaintance with His character. This is the highest and most blessed attainment which the believer can make. And the Lord desires that it should be made in an infinite measure, "as the Father knoweth me, and I the Father." He knows us, and He desires that we should know Him. May He Himself lead us into an ever increasing acquaintance with Himself that we may so keep Himself before our souls and may grow daily in the knowledge of Him.