How do you really know you belong to God?
God has plans for your life but we can have doubts at times, sometimes we fail, we can feel detached, unconnected to God. What gives us confidence that we belong to him?
In John's Gospel he records words of Jesus that give a powerful picture of our relationship with Him.
John 10 The Message
He Calls His Sheep by Name
1-5 “Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good—a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it.”
6-10 Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep rustlers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.
11-13 “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.
14 “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me.
In New Testament times a villager would measure their wealth by the numbers of their flocks. The shepherd would bring his sheep at night to the village and put them in a sheepfold with sheep from other shepherds in the village. One shepherd would stay at the door overnight while the others went home. In the morning the shepherds would come and call their sheep. The sheep would recognise their voice and follow them.
- Do you know the voice of Jesus?
- Do you hear him call you?
The sheep had confidence in their shepherd. He carried a crook or staff to reach out to an individual sheep and pull it back into the herd by the neck. He carried a rod, a short knotted stick, to fight off wild animal predators but also to keep the sheep together.
Ezekiel 20:37 Lexham English Bible
37 “And I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant.
The law of Moses speaks of tithing the flock for a specific purpose at such a time. Leviticus. 27:32
"And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passes under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord".
To do this Jewish writers tell us that the shepherd allowed the animals to come by him as they would under the rod at a narrow entrance. The head of the rod was dipped into some coloring fluid and was allowed to come down upon every tenth one that passed by, thus marking him as the one to be given to the Lord for sacrificial purposes.
The shepherd also carried a small horn of oil. Oil was used to deal with cuts, wounds, ticks and other injuries to the sheep.
Psalm 23 Lexham English Bible
Yahweh the Shepherd
A psalm of David
Yahweh is my shepherd; I will not lack for anything. In grassy pastures he makes me lie down; by quiet waters he leads me. He restores my life. He leads me in correct paths for the sake of his name. Even when I walk in a dark valley, I fear no evil because you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare before me a table in the presence of my oppressors. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.
Sheep have fairly unremarkable needs. They want security from wild animals and they want pasture. They are pretty happy chewing grass all day and having somewhere safe to sleep at night. If it is cold they do not need to buy a woolly coat, they just wear one all the time. At night they just cuddle up to the next sheep to keep warm.
But humans want more. We need a sense of significance, that life is worth living. We want to enjoy what we do or be recognised as someone who is liked or looked up to or considered in a respectful way. We also need a sense of belonging, of being part of something that is greater than ourselves, of being accepted and valued.
Dealing with Low Self-Esteem
Revelation 3:20 Contemporary English Version
Listen! I am standing and knocking at your door. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and we will eat together.
A sheep is happy with food and shelter. A sheep is happy to follow behind its master when called. It just feels part of the flock and is happy to stay that way. The human heart has a soul that is yearning for communion with God. There is a desire (Maslow pyramid self-actualisation) – to be all that one can be. But there is a sense of unworthiness, of inability to reach that perfection and fulfillment.
We are made of clay, our heart is desperately wicked, when we want to do good we do evil. Even as Christians there is still a conflict that can go on within ourselves as the devil accuses us of not being worthy, of not being godly, of not living up to the high calling that God is looking for.
Matthew 18 12
“If a man has 100 sheep, but 1 of the sheep gets lost, he will leave the other 99 sheep on the hill. He will go to look for the lost sheep. 13 And if he finds it, he is happier about that 1 sheep than about the 99 that were never lost."
We must never underestimate God’s valuation on us.
You matter to God.He values you. Matthew 13:45-46 Easy-to-Read Version
“Also, God’s kingdom is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 One day he found a very fine pearl. He went and sold everything he had to buy it. –
Image of Flock of Sheep Southland New Zealand by Andrea Lightfoot on Unsplash