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"When he putteth forth his own sheep,
he goeth before them, and the sheep
follow him, for they know his voice."—John 10:4 .
WE understand that the sheepfold was the Law Covenant arrangement under which Israel was placed at Sinai, that they were glad to be thus folded or put into the Lord's special care, and that Moses did all that he could for them as a kind of shepherd, but was not able to give them the liberty from the Law which they needed. Various others who pretended to be shepherds came afterwards. The Lord says that all these false shepherds who came before him were thieves and robbers. They did not come in through the door. They were endeavoring to take advantage of the sheep; hence they were selfish. He who is the Good Shepherd is willing to lay down his life for the sheep. It required the true Shepherd to bring about the conditions and the relationship thus expressed. "When he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them." They needed to be led out into the green pastures. The fold is a place for rest and protection, but not a place for feeding.
So as respects the Law. The Apostle says that the Jews were shut up under the Law. Until the due time should come there was no way of escape. There was only the one door, which had not been opened, and which none of these would-be leaders could open. That door was the Door of Redemption. Our Lord, by laying down his life for the sheep, could open that door.
Having made satisfaction for the sins of his people, our Lord gained the right to be their Shepherd or Leader. When he puts them forth, he shows them the way they should walk. He is not only the Leader, but also the Shepherd to watch over and care for them. Thus he leads them through green pastures and finally will bring them to the heavenly fold. Jesus became the door of egress from the Jewish sheepfold, and there is no other egress. Any of the Jews who came out came through Christ. Any of them who did not come out through Christ are still shut up under the Law—to remain until the Mediatorial reign. Others might take advantage of the offer through Christ now, that they might have life and have it more abundantly. He is the good Shepherd. A stranger will the sheep not follow, because they know not the voice of strangers. This indicates that in the voice of the True Shepherd there is something that has the proper ring. And the sheep will not follow another having a different voice—a different sound or message.
Now is the Harvest time. The voices of the false shepherds who have temporarily bewildered some of the "sheep" are losing their influence and more are listening to the Voice of the True Shepherd, which is unlike that of any other voice, and which is unmistakable. In the sound is the chord of Justice mingled with those of Love and Wisdom and Power. All other theories and doctrines have no such power or harmonious sound as the glorious message of "good tidings" which the Father has sent us through his Son. The voice of the True Shepherd satisfies the longings of the sheep as nothing else can do.
The question has been suggested, In what way could we apply our Lord's statement to the Gentiles, "My sheep hear my voice and they follow me?" Our answer is that the Lord had sheep amongst the Gentiles; that is, those who were seeking to serve him. But at that time he had not received anyone from amongst the Gentiles—the middle wall of partition was still standing. But subsequently they had the opportunity of hearing his voice and following him, the middle wall of partition then being broken down. A little later than when he used the above words he said: "Other sheep have I; these also I must bring and there shall be one fold and one Shepherd." While this may be particularly applicable to the sheep of the next Age, it may not be amiss to apply it now to those who are received from amongst the Gentiles. In the next Age he will receive some from the natural house of Israel and some from the Gentiles. At the present time he is receiving some from the natural house and some from the Gentiles. During the next Age there will be but one fold and one Shepherd; and all the sheep will be brought into full harmony with God.
To carry out the thought of Revelation 7, and viewing the number of the Lord's people of the "little flock" as one hundred and forty-four thousand, this offer being originally made to the twelve tribes of natural Israel, [R4732 : page 399] others subsequently were permitted to take the places of those who were first called or first recognized as sheep, and who proved unworthy.
When Christ said, "All that ever came before me were thieves and robbers," we understand that these to whom our Lord thus referred were those who attempted fraudulently to palm themselves off on the Jewish people as their leaders. These are particularly referred to by Gamaliel in his address to the Sanhedrin, when he said to them, "Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves; who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to naught....And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to naught."—Acts 5:35-38.