Below is an informative, short study on the Sheepfold. Thanks Lee, for once again educating us and giving us insight to this passage! -anita
I’ve been reading in John 10 about Jesus, our great Shepherd, and how He protects His sheep (that would be us!). In particular, reading the passages that describe how the shepherd conducts himself [John 10:1-16] vis-a-vis the sheep. In a commentary, I read a clarifying explanation of this passage that helped me better appreciate the story Jesus told of the sheepfold.
Verses 2 through 5 of this passage has always confused me a bit. Why does he have to call his sheep by their own name [verse 3]…are there other, unknown sheep there, too? At least that’s how my thinking went. And why were all these sheep there together? In a commentary in Dr. R.C. Sproul’s Tabletalk on this passage, some things were nicely clarified.
The explanation given was that in 1st century sheep management, while various shepherds would lead their flocks by day, at night, numerous flocks would be gathered together into one, large sheepfold with walls for safety. The next morning, the individual shepherd would go to the fold and call to his sheep and they would come in response to his voice alone. Thus, Jesus’ parable makes more sense to me now. But maybe this parable operates at another level, as well.
As I began thinking a bit more about this passage, it occurred to me that, in some sense, we all live in a metaphorical sheepfold. Bear with me on this if you will. I praise our Lord for this wonderful creation He has made, which keeps us safe and in which we can live and conduct our lives. The earth is our safe place, our sheepfold. Further, various “shepherds” strive to control/call their sheep from this fold. Think false prophets and idols that we concoct for ourselves here. But Jesus, the one true Shepherd, calls to His sheep (believers) and they respond to His voice. Out of all the many voices clamoring for our time and attention, Jesus’ voice is the one we need to hear and to which we should respond.
A very important lesson is contained in this passage (one among many lessons, I would add). Notice in Jn 10:5, the Bible says the sheep do not respond to the voice of a stranger “…but will flee from him….” Maybe we should take our lead from the sheep here; maybe we shouldn’t follow many of the voices that vie for our attention and which we allow to control us and fill our time.
Jesus is our true Shepherd and it’s His voice alone we should follow. And with the teaching of Scripture and the work of the Holy Spirit to guide us, we can learn more about our Savior and those things He values, and we can strive to do those things more selectively as He leads us to safety and life everlasting.