Today I’d like to talk about what the US Army Special Forces has in common with both sheep, and us.
In the Special Forces, we trained for many different kinds of missions, but one of our missions called for being inserted 800 to 1200 miles behind enemy lines (usually via parachute). It is kind of a risky situation. When you but one of 12 guys roughly 1000 miles behind enemy lines, you have to be wise. You need to avoid the enemy, almost at all costs. If the enemy finds you, you can’t possibly run fast enough on foot (laden down with heavy rucksacks and gear) to get away from his artillery, his dog teams, and/or his helicopters. If you run into the enemy, you are dead men. Your only hope of survival is to detect the enemy before he detects you, so you can avoid him altogether.
How you avoid the enemy depends a lot on the situation. When visibility is good (such as in the desert) you have to stop at all ridgelines, and visually look down into the valley before you move into it. When visibility is good, you scout out ahead of you by vision. But when visibility is bad, you cannot scout the terrain ahead of you out by sight: you have to use your hearing instead.
When visibility was poor (such as in jungles, or even in forests), one of the means we used to avoid trouble was called the listening halt. We normally tried to be as quiet as was reasonable, but when visibility was poor, about every 15 minutes we would stop, sit completely quiet, and listen. This was not a time for fidgeting or daydreaming, but of listening as carefully as one could.
Yahweh likens us to sheep. Sheep are perhaps like Special Forces teams in low-visibility terrain, because they don’t have very good eyesight: they cannot see very far ahead. They are also perhaps like the Special Forces in that if an enemy comes upon them, they are easily overpowered. If a sheep is overtaken by a wolf or a bear, more than likely, that sheep is going to die. Sheep survive, then, by listening carefully for the enemy, and by listening for the voice of their shepherd, to lead them away from danger.
We are a little like Special Forces teams because we live in Satan’s world. Until Yahweh calls us back to dwell in His land, we are all behind enemy lines, in a sense. None of us can afford to take the enemy head on. The enemy has the home court advantage, and he is much stronger than we are. For that reason we need to avoid coming into contact with the enemy, just as Yeshua tells us to pray that we be not led into temptation, but that we be delivered from the evil one.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 6:13
13 “And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amein.”
One of our best means to avoid falling prey to the enemy is by practicing the listening halt. What do we mean by that?
When our forefathers left Egypt after the first Passover, Yahweh said that if we would hear His voice and obey His covenant, that we would be a special treasure to Him, and that we would also be to Him a kingdom of priests and a set apart nation.
Shemote (Exodus) 19:5-6
5 “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.
6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a set apart nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
Obeying Yahweh’s voice and keeping His covenant is not easy. It is no small thing. Before we do anything else, first we have to genuinely love both Yahweh the Father, and our fellow man (at least as much as we love ourselves). Without this love, none of the other commandments mean anything.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 22:35-40
35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying,
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Torah?”
37 Yeshua said to him, “‘You shall love Yahweh your Elohim with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
40 On these two commandments hang all the Torah and the Prophets.”
After we have genuine, abiding love towards both Yahweh and our fellow man, then there are some specifics that we need to do as well. Yeshua reminds us that even though we have justice and mercy and faith, we still ought to do these specifics.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 23:23
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, but have neglected the weightier matters of the Torah: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”
But once we have this abiding heart of love, and once we remember to do everything else the Torah says to do, what does Yahweh mean back in Exodus 19:5, when He says that in order to be a “special treasure” to Him, we need to obey His voice?
Shemote (Exodus) 19:5
5 “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.”
Scripture is a written record of Yahweh’s utterances from times past. Surely we need to obey the record of Yahweh’s words in Scripture, just as a child needs to do what his mom and dad told him last year; and yet there is also something else. Isaiah 30:21 speaks of a still small voice that exists in addition to Scripture.
Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 30:21
Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
“This is the way, walk in it,”
Whenever you turn to the right hand
Or whenever you turn to the left.
This still small voice is what the prophets hear: they have to quiet their flesh and their thinking, in order to hear it. We laud the prophets for being so disciplined, and for obeying Yahweh even in the face of great trials, and yet ironically, even from earliest times, our flesh has never liked obeying Yahweh’s voice.
All the way back in the garden of Eden, Havvah (Eve) knew what to do, but she chose instead to listen to the voice of the Enemy, who implied, “No, you don’t need to do what Yahweh says! Just do what YOU think is right! Follow your own thoughts! That is because YOU can be like Elohim, knowing what is good and what is evil, by way of your own thoughts!”
B’reisheet (Genesis) 3:4
4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.
5 For Elohim knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like Elohim, knowing good and evil.”
And of course, because Havvah was human, she fell for it, because the nature of men is to want to do what we want, and justify it using our reasoning intellect (rather than just listen to Yahweh, and obey Him).
In his flesh, any child would prefer do what he thinks is right, rather than listen to his parents: that is just how children are built. It takes training and self-discipline for a child to realize that he is going to be a lot better off if he listens to his parents’ advice, than if he blunders ahead with his own inexperienced thoughts and urges. (Sadly, many never really do learn that lesson.)
Yahweh has always wanted us to seek His face, hear His voice, and obey the written record of His words (i.e., Scripture). Yet when the papacy arose, the bishop of Rome (i.e., the pope) taught us not to seek Yahweh’s face, or listen for His voice. The pope also told us not to study the written record of Yahweh’s words, because we might misinterpret it. Instead, the pope taught our forefathers to follow the Catholic Catechism (i.e., the pope’s torah).
Even though it comes from a different angle, the secular world has taught us pretty much the same thing. The Enlightenment of the 16th and 17th centuries taught us to turn away from Scripture, and to rely instead on our reason (i.e., our thoughts). It taught us to find the solutions to all of the problems by way of our own human intellect. This pattern is also taught to our children in the government schools. Rather than praying and listening to Yahweh, and asking Him to show us the way, the government schools teach our children to trust in their own right arm (or in their own frontal lobes). This is clearly against what Scripture teaches, which is to trust Yahweh with all of our hearts, and to lean not on our own understanding.
Mishle (Proverbs) 3:5-9
5 Trust in Yahweh with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear Yahweh and depart from evil.
8 It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.
Not long after Yahweh told our forefathers that they would be His special treasure if they would just listen for His voice and obey it, our forefathers told Moshe that it was too scary to listen to Yahweh; therefore they wanted Moshe to serve as an intermediary.
Shemote (Exodus) 20:19
Then they said to Moshe, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not Elohim speak with us, lest we die.”
Consider the irony in that this refusal to hear Yahweh’s voice took place at the handing-down of the Torah, which was the precursor to the outpouring of the Spirit in Acts 2; and just as our forefathers were too scared to hear Yahweh’s voice directly in the Wilderness of Sinai, today many of our people are still scared to let His Spirit rule over their lives. Is it because they are afraid of what His Spirit would tell them to do?
As you go throughout your day, take lots of listening halts. About every 15 minutes or so, take just a minute to stop, clear your mind, and listen for what He might be trying to say to you. And then, be careful not to rebel against what His voice tells you to do. This is always a challenge, because His Spirit will almost invariably tell us to do something our flesh does not like to do, such as to give something to the poor, or to be nice to someone who is cruel to us. His voice might tell us to support a ministry that feeds us spiritually, or not to respond in anger (because the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of Elohim).
Ya’akov (James) 1:19-20
19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;
20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of Elohim.
We will know His voice because it is a still, small voice. It does not contend. We can only hear it when we discipline our own heart and mind to be quiet. In order to hear it, we have to stop our heart and our mind from racing.
And when we do hear His voice, then no matter what it tells us to do, we have to be joyful to hear it. We must be careful not to harden our hearts against it, for that is the way of rebellion.
Ivrim (Hebrews) 3:15-19
15 while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
16 For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moshe?
17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness?
18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey?
19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
And whenever we find ourselves in a tight spot (or a “narrow place,” as Scripture calls it), then rather than thinking our way through, let us take a moment to stop, pray, and then quiet our minds and our hearts, and listen. Let us discipline ourselves to take the time to let Yahweh’s answer come to us. This does not mean that we should not think at all: it only means not to allow our thinking get in the way of listening for Yahweh’s clarity.
The clarity that Yahweh gives whenever we hear and obey His voice is what Scripture calls wisdom. This kind of wisdom leads to great happiness.
Mishle (Proverbs) 8:34
34 Blessed is the man who listens to me,
Watching daily at my gates,
Waiting at the posts of my doors.
When we listen continuously to Yahweh’s voice, and do whatever He says, we will find blessings, and true happiness. This kind of wisdom and happiness is His true goal for all those who keep their attentions focused continuously on Him.