And the priests and the Levites who were in all Israel presented themselves to [Rehoboam] from all places where they lived. For the Levites left their common lands and their holdings and came to Judah and Jerusalem, because Jeroboam and his sons cast them out from serving as priests of the Lord, and he appointed his own priests for the high places and for the goat idols and for the calves that he had made. And those who had set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel came after them from all the tribes of Israel to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the Lord, the God of their fathers. They strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and for three years they made Rehoboam the son of Solomon secure, for they walked for three years in the way of David and Solomon. II Chronicles 11:13-17 ESV
“The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:3a-5, 14-15 ESV
Henry had a dog named Ribsy, and Ribsy loved Henry very much. But one day Ribsy got confused by the smell of new cars, got into the wrong one, and was separated from Henry. He kept trying to find his friend, but he couldn’t. He was taken in by other people, but he kept wanting to be with Henry. One day he got into a high school football game and made the game-winning tackle! Henry’s family saw the story in the newspaper and Henry called the boy who was keeping Ribsy. When Ribsy heard Henry’s voice on the phone, he ran out trying to find Henry. Henry’s family finally found Ribsy and brought him home again.
Some of the people in the northern kingdom of Israel realized that they had been separated from the true God when their kingdom separated from the southern kingdom of Judah. Their king, Jeroboam, set up false gods to worship, and he drove all the Levites and priests who wanted to serve God out of his kingdom. These priests and Levites and some of the other people as well went south to Rehoboam’s kingdom and lived there. They wanted to be where the true God was worshiped, and God brought them home to him. They heard the voice of God and wanted to follow his ways.
Jesus said that he is the Good Shepherd, and that his people hear his voice and follow him. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice, because they want to be with Jesus and follow his ways. We are Jesus’ sheep, and we know his voice. We follow Jesus, who died for us to make us his people. Following Jesus means leaving behind things that would take us away from Jesus or listening to people or ideas that lead us away from him. Wherever Jesus is, that’s where we want to be!
Dear Jesus, thank you for dying for us and making us your people. Help us to follow you always. Amen.
Cleary, Beverly Ribsy New York: William Morrow and Company, 1964.