John 10:3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
In Israel at the time of Jesus it was customary for the shepherd to place his sheep in a communal pen near town at night. The pen was called a sheepfold. In the village fold the sheep would be mixed with the sheep of other local shepherds overnight.
When the gate was opened in the morning, the sheep wouldn’t stampede out like cattle but would need to be called.
From birth onward, endless hours are spent by the shepherd with his sheep. No wonder they would be in tune with his call and his unique voice. The shepherd in turn knows them well enough to name them: “Joshua,” “Grumpy,” “Ruth,” “Frisky,” “Sam,” “Fluffy,” “Precious,” “Slow-poke.” Names or nicknames are given based on circumstances, appearance, character, the opinion of the shepherd.
And so, the shepherd would call them in his own distinctive “voice” using certain words in his unique way. Sing song perhaps, with clucks of his tongue, interspersed with whistles, each shepherd having a signature sound. That shepherd’s sheep would recognize that “voice,” hear their name, and follow him.
The shepherd gets a few leaders moving and the whole flock follows. He calls the stragglers by name, too.
God’s names for His people are tender and kind, though we do not deserve it. We are works in progress though He sees us complete in Him, as we someday will be. We will even have a special heavenly name that God will give to us on a white stone, a promise to the overcomers. (Rev. 2:17)
I believe that special name will be the culmination of our life’s work and journey. I sometimes think of what my name might someday be, a mix of my life’s challenges and how I met them perhaps.
May we listen for and respond to the Shepherd’s voice. May we live heavenly minded, in a manner consistent with a heavenly name that God will someday give us: Faithful, Loving, Patient, Merciful, Fearless, Compassionate, Hopeful. Or perhaps we might add “Became” before those names, whatever good thing God is working out in the believer’s life.