There are some people who have a voice that stands out in a crowd. They range from the authoritative, the arrogant, the amusing, and the annoying. Being a born and bred southern boy, I always thought I spoke normal. When I moved to Chicago to attend Moody Bible Institute, the discovery was made that I must speak rather abnormally. Each day at the lunch table I seemed to draw crowds of northern-born students who simply wanted to “listen to him talk.” Recently, I spoke at a Bible conference, and one of those in attendance said to me, “You sure speak different than you write!” However, my discovery of myself was set in stone when I preached in India. After concluding my message one night during the crusade, I sat beside the Indian dignitaries who were on the platform. One of them leaned over to me and graciously said, “You must be from the south in America.” Even foreign speaking people recognized the difference because my accent seems to give me away. If I didn’t find such great humor in it, a fellow sure could get his feelings hurt!
In John 10, Jesus painted a vivid picture of His place as the good Shepherd. While the Shepherd is known for His vigor and His vigilance, He is distinguished by His voice. Verses 3 and 4 declare, “…the sheep hear His voice, and He calleth His own sheep by name…and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.” What I would have given to have been one of those who sat in the presence of the Lord soaking in the intimate tones of His voice in conversation. For the majority of His three and a half years of ministry, the multitudes were simply looking at Him, but His disciples and close friends were listening to Him. This would be critical because after His resurrection the multitudes would miss His form, and only those who knew His voice would be able to discern His nearness. Among the many “words from the Lord” today, the
multitudes are still missing Him! The Lord truly still speaks to His sheep through the witness of Scripture and the witness of the Spirit. But among the distractions, disturbances, and distortions created by the world, how can we distinguish the Lord’s voice from the crowd?
The Lord’s voice is accented with love. Jesus said, “…He calleth His own sheep by name…” In a day when technological advances have given us automated answering services and telemarketing sales pitches, the Lord still maintains a personal touch. He does not know us by a number or by our nation. The Lord knows us by name! How valuable this would be to Mary Magdalene on resurrection morning. Her eyes were so filled with tears, she mistook Jesus for the gardener. However, once He said, “Mary,” her ears told her what her eyes could not perceive: He is alive and He is standing close to me! Jesus had a most unique personality in His voice when He addressed those He spoke to in disappointment. He spoke their name twice. To a frustrated woman He said, “Martha, Martha.” To an arrogant disciple He said, “Simon, Simon.” To a destructive church leader He said, “Saul, Saul.” Yet, in His own gentle way, hinted in the accent of that approach was a heart that spoke, “I know who you are, and I know what you have done, and I still love you incredibly.”
The Lord’s voice is authoritative in its leading. Again, Jesus said, “…and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.” If I wanted to know about the weather, I would ask a meteorologist. If I wanted to know about a transmission, I would ask an auto mechanic. Why? Because they are the experts in their field. When it comes to direction in life, Jesus is the only expert! On several occasions, Jesus said, “he that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” The implication was clear: not everyone would listen. When Jesus spoke, sometimes the audience marveled and other times they murmured. They said, “never a man spake like this man.” On another occasion they were “astonished at His doctrine.” The Greek word for “astonished” carries the idea of a “knock-out.” He speaks with authority! Both Ezekiel in the Old Testament and John in the New Testament described “…His voice as the sound of many waters.” We may not always know where the flow of His voice is leading, but the force of His voice will ensure we arrive at our appointed destination in life.
The Lord’s voice is assuring in its legitimacy. In John 18:37, Jesus says to Pilate, “…for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” The voice of the Lord only knows one language: truth. It is saddening to listen to the things people do in the name of “the Lord told me to.” When I tell my children to look both ways before crossing the road, I am not illuminating their ignorance as much as I am my experiential knowledge of the consequences when it is crossed at the wrong time. When the Lord speaks, He can be trusted because He has seen the beginning from the end in our lives. The one thing you will never hear in His voice is panic. Whether it be His speaking to the waves or commanding the demons into swine, when the Lord speaks, it may contradict the laws of nature, but His voice will NEVER violate the laws of Sripture.
In Genesis 28, Jacob had a dream of a ladder and the Lord was standing above it speaking to him. However, when Jacob awakened, he said, “…surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not.” I wonder, how many times the Lord has been speaking, “and I knew it not?” Perhaps too often we are searching for large billboards and listening for loud sirens, but like Elijah, we are surprised when the Lord speaks by way of a simple “still small voice.” I have a feeling if we would listen carefully amidst the noisy clutter of this world, somewhere the accent of His heart would give Him away!
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2006 Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart: Dr. Alan Stewart has served as Senior Pastor of Rechoboth Baptist since December 1999. He attended The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Moody Bible Institute, Covington Theological Seminary, and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Prior to pastoring the Tennessee church, Alan was an evangelist for 15 years. He has preached revivals/pastor’s conferences in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. He also preached crusades/conferences in India, Hungary, and conducted a crusade in South Africa in August of 2009. Pastor Alan is married to Jeanne, and they are blessed with two children – Sierra and Seth.