December 23, 2010
Why God Told Shepherds First
"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified."
Luke 2:8-9 (NIV)
If you had good news, whom would you tell first?
When something wonderful happens to me, the first people I want to tell are those closest to me, those most important in my life. They have proven themselves trustworthy over time, and will rejoice with me. They've stood by me during difficult times, and will share in a victory.
When God had the best news of the ages, whom did He tell first? Important religious people? Wealthy folk? Learned men? Actually, no. God told shepherds.
The Christmas story told in the book of Luke reveals this interesting fact. The story takes us right from the manger to the fields nearby, where an angel appeared to some terrified shepherds. Who wouldn't be if an angel and "heavenly host" appeared where there had only been scrub brush moments before?
"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger'" (Luke 2:10-12, NIV).
It didn't take long for the shepherds to pull themselves together after the heavenly crew left. Knowing the "town of David" meant Bethlehem, the shepherds hurried there, and arrived in time to see Jesus in the stable. The Bible says after seeing the baby, " … they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them" (Luke 6:17b-18, NIV).
This is a familiar and well-loved story. We treasure images of the nativity, and the humble nature of Christ's birth. When I delve a bit deeper into who attended the birth, I have to admit I'm surprised God chose shepherds to reveal the truth about Jesus so quickly.
Shepherds were in the fields among smelly and not-so-bright sheep. They had no power or influence. They had nothing to bring the baby King. So why did God choose the lowest members of society to entrust the greatest truth of the ages?
Why didn't God choose the religious leaders? Surely they would have been excited after waiting for thousands of years to meet their Savior. Why not choose a king or a rich man whose testimony would have carried more weight? Why shepherds?
Two reasons come to mind when I ponder that question. First, shepherds had the capacity to be humbled and amazed that God chose them to hear the news. Imagine how unworthy they must have felt, but how honored. Based on Jesus' opinion of the religious leaders of that day, I don't think they would have had the same reaction.
You've probably heard about the Pharisees. They were religious people back when Jesus was born who thought highly of themselves. They loved religion more than they loved a relationship with God. They probably wouldn't have been very impressed that God chose to reveal the secret of the ages to them. In fact, they might have thought they deserved to hear the news first.
But not the shepherds. They were amazed God chose them and they couldn't keep it to themselves.
That leads me to the second reason I think God chose shepherds. After they had seen the baby Savior, they "spread the word" concerning what they knew. They weren't like too-cool teenagers, worried about what others thought of them. They didn't over-think the situation and talk themselves out of telling the news. They were exuberant, overflowing with joy and probably still reflected a bit of the glory of being with Jesus.
You know what happened when those uneducated, simple shepherds spread the word that a Savior had been born? People were amazed!
God is His infinite wisdom chose just the right group of people to entrust the greatest news of eternity. Those humble men took the Good News of Jesus and did just what God wanted them to do - told others, and their lives were never the same.
Dear Lord, today I rejoice with the shepherds in the Good News of Jesus' birth. Help me to set aside those traditions that have become commonplace and explore the amazement of Jesus' birth. Thank You for sending a Savior for me. I want to spend my life sharing this news. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
The Wonder of His Love: A Journey into the Heart of God by Nancy Stafford
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This Christmas, plan to do one thing that will cultivate amazement in your heart.
What are some reasons my amazement has dimmed at the true meaning of Christmas?
What can I change about myself so that others see/hear more of the amazing things of God through you?
Isaiah 9:6, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (NIV)
Mark 1:10-11, "As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'" (NIV)
© 2010 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
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Originally published Thursday, 23 December 2010.