Last week, when our time ran out, we were talking about making the convincing argument. The convincing argument is the one that settles any need for further discussion and both sides agree.
You’ll remember, when you can’t win the argument by logic you’ll turn to emotions. If that doesn’t work, you’ll threaten them to agree or else. It’s called winning at all costs. We’ve watched this over the past year or so in government overreach to force compliance and limit personal freedoms.
The Rulers Jesus faced operated the same way. They were considered the government. Israel was a Theocracy. A Theocracy is a form of government in which a god or God, Himself, is recognized as the supreme ruling authority, giving divine guidance to humans to manage the day-to-day affairs of the nation.
Since the government of Israel included the religious practices of the nation as well as national affairs, it was easy for these Rulers to exert control in all aspects of a Jewish person’s life, exercising power to even disconnect their connection with God.
Vital to that connection were the Temple and the Synagogues. The sacrifices performed in the Temple had direct bearing on the lives of the people. Sacrifices dealt with their sins and kept them in right standing with God. So, if you wanted to force compliance to the desires of the Rulers, withholding access to the Temple would be a major trump card in any argument. Restricting them from the Synagogue was amputating their social connection with the people, making them outcasts of society.
John 9:19 “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? Then how does he now see?" 20 His parents answered them and said, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself." 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.
It was a policy of exclusion. We can’t win the argument with Jesus, so we’ll punish the people who believe in Him by excluding them from what was important to them.
John 16:1 These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. 2 They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. 3 These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me.
They think they are honoring God in preventing people from following Jesus. That’s what Paul thought when he began persecuting Christians. But the reason they did this, ultimately, was because they refused to be convinced Jesus was their Messiah. Just the opposite of what God was giving them opportunity to do.
Throughout the OT, God had to speak through His prophets to expose the leaders who did opposite from what He wanted. He’d use images they could remember. The one He used most was the Shepherd. They understood that image well. The prophets would contrast the good shepherds with bad shepherds, showing from the sheep’s perspective how their lives were benefitted from one and made miserable by the other. Now, Jesus was showing them that the image of the shepherd was within the role of the Messiah.
John 10:11 I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
Sharing this had two targets: the people, so they would understand the life He offered them, and to the Rulers to show them their disobedience. But just before He said He was the Good Shepherd, He made a rather accusing point:
John 10:8 All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
They knew what He was talking about. The OT spoke of the role of leaders to shepherd the people on God’s behalf. To do so, you need to understand what is on God’s behalf. Part of that was to teach the people what they needed to know. Rabbis, Scribes and Pharisees were the sources of the information about God. To teach about God they needed to know Him. To get to know Him they needed to follow Him. Jesus accused them of not following God and therefore were unqualified to lead His sheep.
John 10:26 But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;
They heard Him speak, but didn’t recognize the voice of God in Jesus. He wasn’t talking about His physical voice but the fact of what His voice represented. It was the voice from which sheep respond to their shepherd. Jesus was the voice of the Shepherd.
John 10:2 He who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers."
Even today, the Shepherd image is a warning to church leaders, and to some an accusation about their leadership. There are many in ministry who have no right nor business being there. Either they were never called by God or have disqualified themselves by sin or operate without regard to God’s intentions and will. The Rulers stood accused.
But it also had deep meaning to the people to remind them how God had always related to them. He was the Shepherd of Israel, who leads Joseph like a flock; and Like a shepherd He will tend His flock. But, that image also held a Messianic promise:
Ezek 34:23 Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them; I the LORD have spoken.
Sheep were everywhere in Judea, and where the sheep were, there also would be the shepherd. All sheep had to be led by shepherds. The people understood the concept. Wherever they were, God would be there leading them, protecting them and providing for them as a good shepherd would his sheep.
David had long ago explained that essential connection when he wrote: The Lord is my shepherd...
Sheep do what the Shepherd wants them to do. Sheep go where the Shepherd leads them to go. They rest in the care of their Shepherd. Why do they follow him and not another? They know His voice.
Now, with all this background, you’d think the Rulers would have understood, but John said: John 10:6 This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.
How could they not hear it? They had never listened for it before. They didn’t need to. Everything they were to believe, someone else told them. But being told something is one of the least effective ways of learning. That’s why we read our Bibles daily. The Bible is the number one way God speaks to us. If we only listen to someone else speak about it, what we’ve heard will eventually slip away.
Within one hour we will forget 50% of what we’ve heard. Within 24 hours we’ll forget 70%. By the end of the week 90% is gone. But we will remember most what we’ve read, discussed and incorporated into our lives.
Why did David mediate on the Words of God? The same reason a sheep chews its cud. To get all the nutrition they can get from what they take in.
That’s why we give TAKEAWAYS. They are the key thoughts of the message to take home and review. That’s why we use the Sunday message as our discussion topic in our Home Groups each week. It’s so we can remember what we heard and allow more of the message to stay with us.
These Rulers chose not to listen to the voice of the Shepherd which proved: John 1:11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.
So, Jesus had to go to show and tell. Let me demonstrate Messiah to you.
John 10:37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father."
John 10:30 "I and the Father are one." 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. 32 Jesus answered them, "I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?" 33 The Jews answered Him, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God."
Jesus then says something quite strange:
John 10:34 Jesus answered them, "Has it not been written in your Law, 'I SAID, YOU ARE GODS'? 35 If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'?
That’ll jerk your head around. But keep in mind who He was talking to. Not the people but the Ruling leaders. And not in a flattering way. What was behind Jesus saying, you are gods? Let’s go back to Moses.
Ex 4:15 You are to speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I, even I, will be with your mouth and his mouth, and I will teach you what you are to do. 16 Moreover, he shall speak for you to the people; and he will be as a mouth for you and you will be as God to him.
The word for God is the word – Elohim. It’s one of the names of God used frequently in the OT. It’s the same word in: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Yet here it was used in a representative form of how Moses would function on behalf of the people.
“Moses, you will assume a role over Aaron as I have over you. That’s how I will work through you and from you into him, so that, when you speak, it will be as Me speaking through you.”
But Jesus is quoting Scripture. Where does it say: You are gods?
Ps 82:1 God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. 2 How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? 3 Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. 5 They do not know nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I said, "You are gods, and all of you are sons of the Most High. 7 Nevertheless you will die like men and fall like any one of the princes."
The word rulers is the same word – Elohim. The point is the rulers of the nation who were to represent God to the people were failing miserably. They had an honorable role yet treated it dishonorably. The value of their position will not help them in the end.
Jesus was drawing them into a conversation they didn’t want to have, taking them to the heart of their problem. Just like shepherds God placed in charge of leading His flock, as rulers of the people, they were to be representatives of the desires of God in daily life. Their role over God’s people was to be like His over them. As He was in their lives as rulers, they were to be in the people’s lives. So, they were as gods before the people, demonstrating the goodness of the God they represented.
Quite embarrassing when you realize, that instead of representing God, you are actually interfering with God’s intentions. Instead of shepherding the flock, you are misleading the flock.
Jer 23:2 Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: "You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds," declares the LORD.
But like the shepherds the prophets spoke against, instead of softening, these Rulers stiffened their necks. They failed at the first requirement of a leader – being teachable.
Being teachable is the willingness to learn, unlearn, and relearn. It is to admit we don’t know everything. [The greatest enemy to learning is thinking we already know it all.] Being teachable is an indication of humility: God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.
Because the Rulers weren’t teachable, they lost out on one of the most precious privileges given the Children of God: hearing God speak.
How can we hear the voice of God?
- We can hear Him talk in His word.
- We can hear Him whisper within our spirits when we pray.
- We can hear Him speak through others.
- We can hear Him shout through our circumstances.
- When you read Scripture and suddenly realize that verse fits this moment, you’ve heard God.
- When you’re sitting under a teacher or preacher and they say something that touches a sensitive area of your life, you’ve heard God.
- When you’re praying and get an insight you didn’t have before you prayed, you’ve heard God.
- When you’re distressed and need an answer, then you understand what to do, you’ve heard God.
- When you’re sitting in a doctor’s office asking each other what do we do now, and suddenly a peace fills you both with a hope that is beyond the circumstances, you’ve heard from God.
God speaks when there is something we need to know that without it we’d be lost.
- What we hear will be confirmed in Scripture. God will never contradict Himself.
- What we hear will bring evidence of God’s presence: peace, comfort and hope.
- What we hear will give us answers, direction or assurance.
- What we hear will produce an understanding that clears up the confusion.
Most people can’t hear the voice of the Lord because they won’t listen. Some don't believe God speaks to His children or speaks at all. Some don't think God would speak to them because they feel they are unqualified or unworthy.
I remind you what Jesus said: John 10:27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;
If you belong to Him, you can hear His voice. The first step to hearing God’s voice – listen. In your prayer time this week, spend as much time listening as you do talking to God. Just sit there with an open heart.
Crickets – crickitcus irritatus, crickitus drivemecrazius. How can you tell? I’ve listened to them so much that I know what each one sounds like.
When Samuel was a young boy, he heard someone call his name at night. Eli, the priest, told him it was the Lord and next time He called to say: speak Lord, your servant is listening. And God spoke. Ask God to speak and then listen for what He says as a servant ready to obey.
- We can use our imaginations to rewrite Scripture when we assume we have heard from God something that violates His written word.
- Hearing God say the wrong thing is as bad as not hearing Him say the right thing.
- We must train our ears to hear by listening for His voice as we open our hearts to accept what He’s said.