Years ago, I used to watch a very popular TV show called “Name That Tune.” Contestants would be asked to identify a well-known song by as few of its opening notes as possible. They often could guess the correct name of the song after hearing just a handful of notes, even three or two.
The trick was that the songs were so distinctive and had been played so often, in some cases for years and years, naming them after just a few notes was almost automatic.
I’ve discovered we can do the same with prominent people whose voices have been preserved in history. Recently our pastor gave some examples, using audio recordings of leaders giving some of their best-known messages. We heard Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his declaration after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, “This day shall go down in infamy.” We listened to John F. Kennedy’s inaugural exhortation, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
And then there was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which included, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Interestingly, all three are known not only by their distinctive voices but also by their initials – FDR, JFK and MLK. We hear those letters and almost immediately, we make mental associations with them.
Can you think of others whose voices you could identify instantly when you heard them? Jesus said His should be among them.
One day, after having the audacity of healing a blind man on the Sabbath, Jesus was confronted by religious leaders. They were clearly more concerned that a traditional law had seemingly been violated than that a man who’d been blind since birth had miraculously received sight.
Jesus used the opportunity to distinguish between His true followers and those who trailed after Him either out of curiosity or annoyance. Using the familiar image of a shepherd and his sheep as an analogy, the Lord declared,
“The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:2-4).
He built on this metaphor, observing that even simple sheep know enough not to follow a false shepherd. “But they will not follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice” (John 10:5).
Then Jesus closed His story by announcing, “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14-15).
Today we’re living a noisy world filled with a multitude of voices, each of them clamoring for our attention and allegiance. Some of them sound very good, appealing to our egos and fleshly desires. But as the apostle Paul warned his protégé Timothy, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3).
This raises an important question: How can we distinguish the genuine from the counterfeit, truth from the words of those whose intent is to “tickle our ears”? The very first entry in the book of Psalms offers some excellent guidance:
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).
When we spend time in the Scriptures, not reading it as a daily chore but studying it, meditating and dwelling on what it says, the words of our Shepherd become familiar and comforting. Then, when we hear the seductive messages resounding around us that would lure us away from the Lord and His truth, it becomes increasingly easy to disregard them.
Just as light and darkness can’t coexist, God’s truth can’t abide with the lies and deceptions of our culture. The mark of a true follower of Christ, one of His “flock,” is being one who knows Him and responds to His voice. When He calls, we need to be able to “name that tune.”
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.