In the Cool of the Day

Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

Genesis 5:24

Take a moment to imagine what it would take to so thoroughly enrapture God’s heart that He just refuses to go another moment without you by His side, so he just snatches you up to heaven while your heart is still beating.

We don’t officially know why God chose to take Enoch from the earth at the tender age of 365, but I would like to think that it had a little bit to do with how intimately Enoch “walked with God”. In fact, early in my walk, I would fantasize about the idea of one day growing so close to God that He would just swoop down and pull me up into heaven, desperate to embrace me in glory.

Still do, if I am being honest with you. If, one day, I vanish without a trace, I fully expect that all of your searches for me will come up empty, because I will not be missing at all. I will be standing before the throne of God, crying “holy holy holy” alongside Enoch, Elijah, and a host of suckers who had to die to get their entrance ticket. (Go ahead and look for me anyway though, just in case I’m wrong.)

All jokes aside, although we do not know God’s reasons for taking Enoch before his death, it does inspire us to think about what it means to “walk with God.” Which is what I would like to spend some time exploring together here.

Walking with God

Truly, truly I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.

John 10:1-4

More often than not, if a text regarding sheep comes up in church, the preacher is about to point out how stupid sheep are. It sounds rude, but I am being serious. Nearly every time I have heard someone read this passage publicly, they have gone on to tell the congregation that sheep are incredibly stupid, and then they tie that in to the absolute need for a shepherd. However, that is just a blatant misrepresentation of this text, and of sheep to be honest.

When Jesus called us sheep, he was not suggesting that we are stupid, useless or failures. He was referencing intimacy, not dependence.

For this text to come alive, you need to understand a few basic things about sheep.

First, sheep are afraid of everything. They do not like loud noises, people, or anything else that could be perceived as dangerous or predatory. If they see, hear, or sense something near them that does not belong, they will flee.

Second, the primary weapon that sheep employ to protect themselves is community. They flock together in large groups so that predators will have a harder time overwhelming any of them.

Third, sheep are very loyal to those they have welcomed into their fold. So loyal, in fact, that if one of them walk away from the flock, the rest will follow. Not because they are too stupid to think for themselves, but because their community means safety.

Sheep are loyal, social animals and they understand that community is their life.

Que the shepherd… often we read texts like this one and we focus on the wrong part of the text. We read this and we focus in on the voice of the shepherd. But I would suggest that the important part of this text is the fact that the sheep follow it.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that our effort is the center of our story with God. But there is something incredibly important for us to understand here. Why would animals that are terrified of humans be following the voice of one?

Because their shepherd has earned a place among them.

Imagine living in a world where nearly every creature you meet is either competing with you for your food, or considering you food. Imagine danger not being some hypothetical threat, but a present reality. Where every trip to eat, or drink, means potentially encountering a predator. Every nap means letting down your defenses and exposing yourself. Where any fight you get into means certain death.

How would you feel about making room for outsiders in your inner circle if that was your reality? Especially outsiders who looked, spoke and behaved differently than you? And yet, the sheep know the shepherds voice and follow…

Here is what I want to communicate with you. The shepherd and the sheep are not set up for successful communication when they meet. They are different in every possible way. They don’t speak the same language. The shepherd is a natural predator of the sheep. Every circumstance has set the sheep up to not trust the shepherd. And yet, there is something that happens that begins to shift the tide.

When the shepherd speaks, he leads the sheep toward food. When he speaks, he leads them toward water. When he speaks, he leads them toward shelter. When they hear a coyote, it is followed by the voice of the shepherd as he charges the beast in their defense. As time goes by, the sheep learn to associate the voice of the shepherd with safety. With life. And slowly, that voice becomes one they trust.

The sheep may not know English, but they know that when they hear that voice, they are safe.

As one, the sheep welcome the shepherd into the flock, and from then on out, if they hear the voice… they follow.

When you hear the voice

Far too many of us approach intimacy as if our depth with God is measured by our efforts. We would never say that out loud, because legalism is a no-no, but it is how we live. When someone asks what it takes to develop an intimate relationship with God, we give them a list of activities to engage in. Pray an hour a day. Read a chapter of the Bible every day. Do a fast. Go to church. Tithe.

We all have a list of religious practices that we secretly believe have power to draw us nearer to God, and I need you to know that literally nothing you do can draw you near to God. Look at this text:

“Be still, and know that I am God.

Psalm 46:10

Intimacy with God isn’t something to be won. We cannot religion ourselves into depth. Intimacy is something that deepens as our history with God is written. Like sheep with their shepherd, we come to truly know God in our stillness, where we hear Him speak, and see His goodness follow.

I want to know what you think. What does it mean to know God's voice? How do we follow? What does developing a history with God look like? How is intimacy developed?

I would love to hear your thoughts on all of the above and more. Make sure to share in the comment section below.

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© 2019 by Michael LaBorn