KEY THOT: Jesus speaks here about two voices: the shepherd's voice and the stranger's voice. The shepherd's voice refers to the Lord himself. The sheep recognize the shepherd's voice--they only follow his voice. Stranger's voices they will totally ignore. This is how God has made up the sheep: they are created to instinctively hear true Shepherd's voice. In contrast, they run away from the voice of the stranger (devil). But sometime, the devil disguises his voice and imitate the true Shepherd's voice--and some sheep are led astray because they cannot discern the voice of the Shepherd and the voice of Satan.
How can we ensure that we hear only the Shepherd's voice and not the Stranger's --and think it's the Lord. Many cannot discern the devil's voice because they think that he would tempt us to do something terrible or obviously wrong. They may consider any voice that asks them to break the Ten Commandments as the voice of the Stranger. But the devil is more subtle than that: "Now the serpent was more crafty (subtle, skilled in deceit) than any living creature of the field which the Lord God had made" (Genesis 3.1, Amplified Bible).
The devil's number one strategy to mislead believers is to undermine trust in God's Word by sowing doubts: "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1). If we do not know what God "actually says" in His Word, we are easy meat for the devil to swallow. Unfortunately, most Christians lack the discipline and also the desire to spend time studying God's word. They rely largely on the Sunday sermon as their main spiritual diet for the entire week. While they feast on their physical food 3-5 times a day, they fast on spiritual food and only break their fast on Sunday. They are living in spiritual famine from Monday to Saturday. And if they do have their daily spiritual diet, it's often similar to MacDonald's "Grab and Go" fast food. No wonder they don't often know what God actually says in His Word. So for that reason alone, like Eve, they can't tell the Shepherd's true voice from the Stranger's counterfeit voice.
The devil's second strategy to mislead believers is to lie by presenting his offer as something "good for you": "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." ("Genesis 3:4-5). In other words, you don't really need God--you can be your own God! The devil gives to Eve an offer she cannot refuse--becoming your own God rather than relying on God. Most people have bought into this lie: they either think they don't need God or they think that they just need a little "spiritual input" or "religion" to enhance or advance their god-like status.
How did Eve fall for this devilish stratagem? She bought into the devil's lie: "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate" (Genesis 3:6). Note that the devil appeals to the woman innate needs to feed her family with good food (survival), for nice stuff (self-esteem) and also to be sophisticated (significance). In short, the devil offers us something that is "good for us" and that meets our innate needs. There is nothing wrong with meeting our innate needs for survival, self-esteem and significance. What makes Eve's choice wrong is the voice she was listening to in order to meet her God-given needs.
If we do not make it a habit of reading and studying God's word and walking by His Spirit daily, then we are open to all kinds of strangers' voices out there--mostly demonic--that everything is okay if it meets our needs and makes us feel good. But those voices may not be the Shepherd's voice just because they are "good for us". We are in real danger of being deceived and ultimately destroyed if we work on that assumption alone.
May God grant us wisdom and discernment to identify the source of the voices we hear everyday in the books we read, in the media we listen and watch, and the websites we view on the internet. Including voices heard in church on Sunday. Not every preacher speaks in God's voice; sometime it can simply be just human voices inspired by human ideology and theology rather than by the Holy Spirit. And that can be equally destructive. Only the Shepherd's voice is worth listening to. And only the Shepherd's voice we should follow: "the sheep follow him, for they know his voice" (John 10:4).
Father, thank You for Your Spirit and Your Word, for it is through Your Spirit that we can hear Your voice in Your Word. Amen.