These words of the Lord Jesus Christ are found in John 10:27 and were spoken when he was in Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication (v22). This was two months after the events of John 9–10:21, but as the subject matter is similar, John constructs the narrative so that both discourses are linked. Again, we find there are wonderful echoes bridging Old and New testaments, things “old” with “new” things.

I am the Good Shepherd

 In John 9 we read about the blind man who had his sight miraculously restored by the Lord. Because he would not renounce his benefactor, but professed him to be “of God”, he was excommunicated by the Jews. But Jesus carefully sought him out and found him:“Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” (John 9:35). By this action he demonstrated that he was the Good Shepherd and proceeded to speak the parable which bears that name.

It is interesting to notice how many times reference is made in the parable to hearing the voice of the shepherd, namely,

“the sheep hear his voice” (v3)

“for they know his voice” (v4)

“they know not the voice of strangers” (v5)

“but the sheep did not hear them” (v8)

“other sheep… they shall hear my voice” (v16)

“my sheep hear my voice” (v27)

“Today If Ye Will Hear His Voice”

 In the Hebrew Scriptures the word translated “hear” in Psalm 95:7 is “shama” (Strongs 8085). It means “to hear intelligently” and has a number of extrapolated meanings, one of which is “to obey”, the sense being that one who hears intelligently will obey.

There are a number of significant contexts where this word is used in relation to hearing or obeying the voice of Yahweh. Following the “offering” of his beloved son Isaac, God blessed Abraham, the reason being “because thou has obeyed (“shama”, heard) my voice” (Gen 22:18).

 In his final words of warning to Israel Moses implored his people to “love Yahweh thy God, and that thou mayest obey (“shama”, hear) his voice” (Deut 30:20). In the same chapter he forecasts their ultimate regathering and conversion and declares that then they will “obey (“shama”) the voice of Yahweh, and do all his commandments” (v8). It is very significant that this same form of words was used by Yahweh when Israel entered into covenant relationship:“Now therefore, if ye will obey (“shama”) my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people….” (Exodus 19:5).

It was not long before Israel’s unwillingness to hear the voice of their God became apparent. Yahweh’s people hardened their hearts and provoked Him despite having seen His mighty works. Psalm 95 contains an appeal to a later generation to come and sing unto Him, and to make a joyful noise to the rock of their salvation. The basis of that appeal is His mighty power,“For Yahweh is a great God, and a great King above all gods” (v3). Significantly His mighty hand is then contemplated:“In His hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is His also. The sea is His, He made it: and His hands formed the dry land” (v4,5).

A further appeal is then made to worship and kneel before “Yahweh our maker”. This is followed by a further reflection on the relationship between Yahweh and His people in which they are described as the “people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand(v7). It is only then that the psalmist implores them not to repeat the sins of past generations,“Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart… ”.

 Summarising thus far we have seen that there is in Psalm 95 reference to hearing the voice of God, the Shepherd of Israel; while in the New Testament in John 9–10 we find Yahweh’s anointed, the Good Shepherd, speaking to his sheep whom he declares will hear his voice. There is a final powerful and beautiful connection in Jesus’ words with Psalm 95. If you have followed the emphasis you may have anticipated the point?

“No Man is Able to Pluck Them Out of My Father’s Hand”

 On the occasion of the Feast of Dedication the Jews questioned the Lord,“How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24). This was an amazing question in view of the miraculous works he had done, not the least of which was the notable miracle performed on the blind man (John 9). Again, as in the case of former generations, there was persistent unbelief. So Jesus replied, “I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you” (10:25,26). The miraculous works bore clear witness of his heavenly origin and His Father’s approval. They were evidence enough. What more could he do to convince them? It is interesting that Yahweh alleges that their fathers tempted and proved Him despite having seen his work(Psa 95:9).

Jesus then declared, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish” (v27,28). These are wonderful consoling words giving to us the utmost assurance that if we continue to follow in his footsteps and obey his commandments we shall be saved.

It is then that the Lord gives a further guarantee,“neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand(v28). This phrase is our next echo from Psalm 95, where Israel was described as the “sheep of his hand” (v7).

But this is not the end of his glorious words. He proceeds to say in verse 29, “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand”. Clearly, we are also the sheep of the Father’s hand if we hear the voice of His Son, the Good Shepherd. What is affirmable of the Son is true of the Father also: if we are safe in the Son’s hand we are also in the Father’s, and He is greater than all! It is significant that Jesus then says, “I and my Father are one” (v30). They were one in purpose, determined to save and deliver those who hear the Father’s voice in the mouth of His Son (Deut 18:18).

Notice what Jesus says of his sheep, “My Father, which gave them me… ”. They had been drawn to him by the Father (John 6:37,44). This phrase also has an old Testament echo. In Isaiah 8:18 we read,“Behold, I and the children whom Yahweh hath given me. These words are spoken by Christ prophetically and are quoted in Hebrews 2:14 to show his identity with his servants. Read John 17 and note all the occasions where Jesus refers to his disciples as “them which thou hast given me”.

 Summary

 There are beautiful parallels between the words of Psalm 95 and Jesus’ discourse in John 10. The importance of hearing and obeying the voice of God, stressed in Old Testament times, finds equal urgency in our day and age. It is easy to discount and take for granted the wonder and power of miraculous happenings, and fail to appreciate the privileges we enjoy. Let us then hear the voice of the Good Shepherd. Then will he lead us “unto living fountains of waters”, and give unto us eternal life.

 We could do no better than conclude with the words of Hymn 106 which bear upon these thoughts:

Loving Shepherd of Thy sheep,

Keep Thy lambs, in safety keep;

Nothing can Thy power withstand,

None can pluck them from thine hand.

Loving Saviour, thou didst give

Thine own life, that they might live;

And the hands outstretched to bless

Bear the cruel nails’ impress

Loving Shepherd, ever near,

Teach thy lambs Thy voice to hear,

Suffer not their steps to stray

From the straight and narrow way.