There’s an awful lot of competing voices out there within the community of faith. And a lot more outside. Can you tell I read the first 100 pages of Love Wins last night?
We need to hear the ONE true Voice.
“My sheep hear My voice—and I know them—and they follow me.”
That’s a bona fide promise you can take to the bank. For those who have ears to hear, that is.
Hear ye! Hear ye!
He’s speaking so we’d best sit up and listen.
The Jews reaffirm their faith daily by reciting the “shema“ which derives its name from the opening word “hear” in Deuteronomy 6:4. Sit up, people. Pay close attention. One can almost hear the sound of fork on champagne flute or the clearing of James Earl Jones’ throat preceding the section.
It has been deemed appropriate by rabbis through the centuries for observant Jews to recite the sh’ma twice a day—at daybreak and as day closes—which has caused a slight dilemma: so eager have been the devout to get on with the business of recitation at dawn, some have jumped the gun and prayed when it was still technically night. Did it take? How early is too early?
The horns of the dilemma were smoothed down by rabbis who said it would only be appropriate when there was enough natural light to distinguish the color blue from the white background of the prayer shawl. Other rabbis said when you could distinguish a person from six feet away. Oh it’s you, George… Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil…Still others gauged it by the length of time it took Lot to walk from Sodom to Zoar, which was evidently 4-5 miles away. So…an hour before the first glint of sun?
Really? This is what the sh’ma has become?
Rabbi Jesus, who kind of invented the sh’ma, made it relevant and alive, minus the religious trappings—in the same paragraph He says He and the Father are “one”, he tells us that His true sheep are hearing (present, active tense) the sound of His Voice.
Not Bell’s. Not So-and-So’s. Or Whomever’s.
Living the Sh’ma means when He speaks, we follow. Not just recite. Or analyze. Or vote. If the Sh’ma tells us anything, it tells us God wants to be loved, and the fullest expression of our love language in return is obedience. He speaks. We listen. We go. And He goes with us. And His sheep love the arrangement.
That’s the nexus of faith. Isn’t it?
But, again, there’s the matter of competing voices. How can we tell the One from another? I like the illustration Lynn Anderson uses in his remarkable book, They Smell Like Sheep:
My friend Roy tells a fascinating story about a trip to Palestine some years back. One afternoon, he stood on a ridge overlooking a long, narrow gorge. Below him, the gorge opened out into rolling grass-covered pasture lands. A single trail meandered down the length of the gorge floor, then branched out into dozens of trails when it reached the grasslands. A group of shepherds strolled down the gorge trail, chatting with one another, followed by a long, winding river of sheep. At the forks of the trail, the shepherds shook hands and separated, each taking a different path as they headed out into the grasslands. Roy recounted the fascinating sight that followed.
As the shepherds headed their separate ways, the mass of sheep streaming behind them automatically divided into smaller flocks, each flock stringing down the branch trail behind its appropriate shepherd. When the various shepherds and their flocks were distanced from each other by a few hundred yards, each shepherd turned to scan his own sheep, noting that some strays had been left behind and were wandering in confusion among the rocks and brush.
Then one of the shepherds cupped his hands around his mouth and called in a strange, piercing cry, “Ky-yia-yia-yia-yia.” At his shout, a couple of stray Iambs perked up their ears and bounded toward his voice. Then a second shepherd tilted back his head calling with a distinctly different sound, “Yip-yip-yip-yipoo-yip.” A few more strays hurried straight toward him. Then another called his strays with a shrill, “Hoot-hoot-hoot!” Each shepherd, in turn, called.
Each of the strays, hearing a familiar voice, knew exactly which shepherd he should run to. “In fact,” my friend Roy marvelled, “none of the wandering sheep seemed to notice any voice but the voice of his own shepherd.”
He’s the Good Shepherd and He’s got something to say. It’s about the True path, not the path we like better, or the shepherd that seems to better “say what agrees with my perception” (watch out: he may not be a shepherd at all. Check under his woolly whites!).
Lord God, may I receive a love for Your Truth and hear Your Voice above the din and amidst the confusion. Here I stand. And prick my ears. And go to You. (to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life!)
I can do no other…