December 24, 2014
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
This is Christmas Eve! We are going to take a break concerning Giving And Getting from Luke 6:38 and concentrate for a couple of blogs on the Christmas story, examining the Shepherds in Luke 2:8 through 14:
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the field, keep-
ing watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood
before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were
greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be to all people. For there
is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling
clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multi-
tude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the
highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Shepherds, in ancient Israel, were not necessarily ‘country bumpkins’! Several things stand out in Eerdmans’ The New Bible Dictionary in an article on “Shepherd”:
• “Such is the honor of the calling that the Old Testament frequently delineates God as the Shepherd of Israel (Genesis 49:24; Psalm 23:1; 80:1)….”
• “The…shepherd pursued, and still pursues, an exacting calling….He must find grass and water in a dry and stony land (Psalm 23:2), protect his charges from the weather and from fiercer creatures (Amos 3:12), and retrieve any strayed animal (Ezekiel 34:8; Matthew 18:12….)”
• “Ideally, the shepherd should be strong, devoted, and selfless, as many of them were.”
• “In the New Testament it is Christ’s mission to be Shepherd, even Chief Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20 and I Peter 2:25; also I Peter 5:4). This is worked out in detail in John 10…” – where the Lord says in verse 11, “I am the good shepherd.”
So these Bethlehem shepherds to whom the angels came with the announcement of the birth of Christ, were synagogue-schooled in the Old Testament scriptures and Jewish history, and were very familiar with the promises of the coming Messiah!
The angel told them, “…there is born to you…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The same words, “…born to you…,” were used many times in the Old Testament to signify the birth of a baby to the father and mother who had brought that little one into the world. Had the shepherds brought Jesus Christ into the world? In a sense, yes! Those Bethlehem shepherds were part of sinful humanity – the humanity for whom Jesus Christ came to sacrificially die, so we could be born……again! So the Messiah was specifically born to – born for – those shepherds! They cared for sheep, sometimes searching for lost sheep! Jesus gave His purpose in Luke 19:10: “…the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
So the shepherds went – following the directions of the angel – and found baby Jesus. It must have taken a lot of faith to look upon this newborn infant “…wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger,” and see “…He who has been born King of the Jews…!” (Matthew 2:1). But God gave them the gift of faith (I Corinthians 12:9) to so see that baby! For it says in Luke 2:17, “Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this child.”
What about the heavenly host of angels who joined the original announcing angel (most likely Gabriel)? They were “…praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’ ” They were proclaiming the results of putting one’s faith in the Lord Jesus Christ! I see three things in what they said:
• There will be peace on earth through the Messiah! James tells us in James 4:1 through 4:
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from
your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not
have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet
you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, be-
cause you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers
and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity
with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes
himself the enemy of God.
But peace on earth will only ever be accomplished when the inhabitants of the earth have peace within – toward God and each other! Only God through Jesus Christ can give us that peace! (see Colossians 1:10 through 23).
• Why would God do all this for us? The angel said it is because He has shown “…good will toward men.” That good will is perfectly described in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
• Because of Jesus Christ coming into the world, the angels were “…praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest….’ ” If this blessed event led the angels to praise Him for what He has done for us, should not we do the same? Should not we who know Jesus as Savior and Lord live our lives to be an ongoing praise to Him?