I believe the secret of eternal life is hidden right here—“My sheep hear My Voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life…” (John 10:27,28).
I remember an experience I had years ago while we were visiting my mother-in-law in Calgary. This goes back about thirty-five years, to 1980 or thereabouts.
We were visiting her in the house, and after a while I decided to go for a short walk down the street along the city sidewalk. I walked down the block, and as I walked along, the thought came into my heart—and it was so clear, and the Presence of the Lord was in the thought—that death was not inevitable… if I could simply hear God saying, “Live.”
For, I asked myself, “What has more authority? The commandment of the living God? Or death?
I remember how exhilarating the thought was. As I walked along, I was certain that if I could but hear His commandment, His Voice saying, “Live,” I need never die. All I needed was to hear with the hearing of faith. And then life, not death, is inevitable.
Very naive of me? Young in the faith, and in need of teachers who could sit me down and wise me up?
But Jesus told Martha the very same thing, first saying that those who believe in Him, though they were dead, they would live (which most Christians believe to be true), but then continuing with, “whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die” (Jn. 11:26). To this last statement He appended a question. “Believest thou this?”
That’s a hard one to believe. Yet Paul talks of a day when “those who are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall be caught up together with them [with the dead who have been raised] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thes. 4:17).
So my thought on that city sidewalk was entirely scriptural.
However, there was a lot more to it than I realized that day; it was far from a lesson in theology that the Lord was speaking into my heart.
He was showing me—and I didn’t discover this for some time—that there is a domain of hearing His word that rules over and overrules the whole domain of sin and death in which the family of Adam is bound—so that, in hearing His Voice, I need not be subject to the law of sin and death, but am empowered to walk in Life, eternal Life. “My sheep hear My Voice… and I give unto them eternal life.”
Death is far more than an event that terminates our mortal lives; it is the whole domain under which all those in Adam spend their lives from the moment they are born to the day they go to the grave. The Good News is that there is realm of life in Christ over which death has no dominion.
And, there is a faith, a hearing of faith—not just in the moment I first heard His Voice and was born again, but a continual hearing—that enjoins me to that life, in fact joins me to Him who was once dead, and is now reigning in eternal life.
My sheep hear My Voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life…
There are things in the domain of Hell—the realm of the dead, the domain of sin and death—that are very tenacious. The grip of sin, guilt, in the soul… addictions of the body and the mind, thought patterns, the habit of ingrained thought patterns… all the domain of the carnal mind. Which Paul says is itself death. “For the mind of the flesh is death…” (Rom. 8:6).
Yes… but to hear His Voice calling out to us!
Bound down with twice ten thousand ties,
Yet let me hear Thy call;
My soul in confidence shall rise,
Shall rise and break through all.
And so God cries in Isaiah the prophet:
Incline your ear, and come unto Me: hear, and your soul shall live…” (Isa. 55:3).
That is just what God is dropping into my heart these days.
Anticipate hearing His Voice afresh.
…Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David (Isa. 55:3).
What are the sure mercies of David? According to the apostle Paul, it is resurrection life.
And as concerning that He raised Him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, He said on this wise, ‘I will give you the sure mercies of David’” (Acts 13:34).
This is an astonishing verse. Remember that in the King James Version, ye and you are always plural pronouns. So apparently God, in raising up His Son from the dead, fulfilled the ancient prophecy that says, “I will give you the sure mercies of David.” Who are these—you—who receive the sure mercies of David, that is, resurrection life, because of the raising of the Son of God from the dead?
It is those who hear His Voice, and respond, and as a result are brought into New Covenant relationship with Him!
Let’s begin at Isaiah 55:1.
Ho! Everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? And your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto Me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
Incline your ear, and come unto Me: hear and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.
And so, in raising up His Son from the dead, God makes an everlasting covenant of life with the thirsty, the hungry, the poor, the weary…. who hear His Voice and simply come to Him.
Perhaps we say, “I don’t know how good my hearing is.”
But are we hungry? Thirsty? Spiritually impoverished? Weary—tired of labouring to advance ourselves spiritually? Then let us notice the steps.
1) “Incline your ear…” This is where we begin. If we are unsure how good our hearing is, let us begin by at least inclining our ear to Him, training our ear in His direction, and not toward the world with its many voices constantly clamouring for our attention. To put it another way, let us cultivate an ear to hear like we would a plant, watering it, and keeping the weeds out.
2) “Come unto Me…” It is a loving invitation. “Come unto Me.” He says to the hungry, “Come,” to the thirsty, “Come,” to the weary, “Come.” Do we hear Him calling us? “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” (Jn. 6:37).
3) “Hear, and your soul shall live,” He calls. It is a quickening word, it creates the very hearing it calls for, imparts the very life it promises.
Years ago I had an old friend who lived in a seniors’ facility. She was deaf, and those who visited her had to communicate by writing on a little notepad she kept. I say she was deaf, but let me tell you, she was not deaf. One day she gave me a bookmark on the back of which in her very shaky handwriting she had written a few lines from Psalm 143 beginning, “Cause me to hear Thy lovingkindness in the morning…”
I treasure that bookmark, which I keep in my Bible; what she wrote on its back has been my prayer for years. Cause me to hear Thy lovingkindness in the morning—that is, Lord, Your Voice! Which, as He speaks with quickening power, the sure mercies of David become mine– the faithful mercies, His covenant-love, His lovingkindness. (It’s the same word in Hebrew, chesed.)
And this is my prayer in this hour, which many are beginning to recognize is a very early hour of a brand new day. Let those of us who are watching for the morning be praying:
“Dear Lord, for our part, we are inclining our ear to You, recognizing how deeply we need to hear Your Voice in this hour when the morning is about to break on a world in gross darkness. For your part, please cause us to hear Your Voice, cause us to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning! For in Thee do we trust, for You are our beloved Shepherd David, and we are the beloved sheep of your pasture. Cause us to hear Your Voice, our Shepherd! We believe that in Your Voice is the grace to do things otherwise impossible for us to do. Cause us to hear Your Voice! We trust You; hearing your Voice we will follow You as You lead us in the realms of eternal life.”