Summary: We rejoice because the Shepherd King, the LORD our Righteousness has come.
A Reason to Rejoice
Take a quick Rorschach (Raw-shak) test with me: Consider the word Christmas. What is the first word that comes to your mind? For some, the word might be JOY. Joy is closely associated with Christmas. We wish each other a “Merry” Christmas. Signs say, “Happy” Holidays. We sing: Good Christian Men, “Rejoice.”
But around the Christmas time, JOY may be the last thing we’re feeling. Years back, Susan was driving our youngest daughter, Kimberly to church. Kimberly was about 3 and her cousin was riding in the car beside her. (Now, you have to think back to the old days. The kids were not sitting side-by-side, safely strapped in car seats. They were standing side-by-side in the front seat. If it makes you feel any better, the drive to church was only a couple of blocks.)
Anyway, it was that hectic time of the Christmas season, and everyone was tired and cranky. Kimberly, especially, was in whining mode! Susan told her several times to stop whining. Then Kimberly’s little 2-year-old cousin turned to her and said, “Rejoice, Kimmy!” A pretty big vocabulary for such a little child. And pretty important message for all of us.
The point of Christmas is to remind us that we have every reason to Rejoice. That’s why the Angel said to the Shepherds: "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.” Luke 2:10-11
It’s amazing that the greatest of all events was announced to some of the humblest of all people: shepherds. But the fact that this news was announced to shepherds is even more significant than that. You probably have noticed that sheep and shepherds are used a lot in scripture to illustrate our need for God and His care for us.
The good news of great joy was not just for the shepherds in the field that night. We can all rejoice --- because Jesus came to earth as the Good Shepherd. In fact, about 600 years before the birth of Christ, the Prophet Jeremiah prophesied the coming of our Shepherd King.
1. Jesus: The Shepherd King
Jeremiah knew that the coming of this Shepherd King was Good News ------ and it was also Bad News. It was good news for the Sheep. But bad news for Bad Shepherds. Look at how his prophecy starts in Jeremiah 23:
1 "Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!" declares the LORD. 2 Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: "Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done," declares the LORD. Jeremiah 23:1-2
Jeremiah knew the names and faces of these false shepherds. False prophets like Ahab, the son of Kiliah, and Zedekiah, the son of Maaseiah were following Jeremiah around the country, contradicting everything he said. These False Shepherds led the Israelites AWAY from God by assuring them that all was well and they had no need to repent. You can bet they knew Jeremiah was talking about them, and they weren’t happy about it.
As an interesting side note – these two False Prophets were later taken into captivity in Babylon. A few years later, King Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown in the same furnace Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego were thrown into. The difference was: Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego were rescued. The False Prophets were roasted.
God has promised punishment for False Shepherds who lead His sheep astray. I’ve heard it said that when sheep are taken to a slaughterhouse, they tend to mill about in confusion. To overcome the problem, some slaughterhouses use what they call a "Judas-goat." This diabolical creature will wander around with the sheep until he has gained their trust. Then he will walk boldly and confidently up the ramp to the slaughterhouse. The sheep fall in right behind him. At the last minute, the Judas-goat will turn a corner and push his way out through a hidden door --- while the unsuspecting sheep walk blindly into their own slaughter.
Over the centuries, our world has seen its share of "Judas-goats." Some come in the form of national leaders like Hitler or Stalin. With their well-polished speeches, they have led millions to follow godless philosophies and ruthless policies. Others come dressed in the robes of a preacher - like Jim Jones, who convinced hundreds of followers to voluntarily drink cool-aid laced with cyanide.
Many Judas-goats are not that infamous. They are relatively unknown teachers or preachers or politicians or celebrities who lead the innocent astray. They are False Shepherds because they lead the sheep away from God and toward ultimate death. They teach godless philosophies that label sin as “enlightenment.” Like the false prophets of Jeremiah’s day, they reassure people that all is well with their sinful lifestyles. There is no need to repent and seek God’s grace.