The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He renews my life;
He leads me along the right paths
for His name's sake.
Even when I go through the darkest valley,
I fear ⌊no⌋ danger,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me. (Psalm 23:1-4, HCSB)
Why use the relationship of sheep to shepherds to illustrate the relationship humans to God? Perhaps because we are similar to sheep and need a Shepherd to guide us (Matthew 9:36, Mark 6:34). While God could tell us the future, He generally doesn't. If He did, would we understand or respond correctly?
In ancient Israel sheep knew their shepherd and responded to his voice similar to our pets when we call them today (John 10:1-18). Sheep from different flocks would gather together at a watering hole. When a shepherd was ready to leave, he called them and they followed.
How do we recognize God's voice? First, it takes building a relationship of trusting God. It takes confiding in God's provision, Christ's life, death, and resurrection to provide forgiveness for our sins. We commit to God's way as better than ours. God uses even unwanted circumstances to accomplish good for those who trust Him (Romans 8:28). We recognize God works in our lives (Ephesians 2:9; Philippians 2:13), shaping our character through the circumstances of life. On the other hand, responding to Christ's call demonstrates already recognizing His voice (John 6:37).