Summary: The story of the faithful shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth shows us how God in grace can give the greatest blessings to the humblest of servants.
THE GREATEST GIFT FOR THE LOWLIEST SERVANTS (Shepherds)
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Jesus Himself tells us in John 8:31-32:
31 "... If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;
32 and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. " NAS
In John 15:7, He also tells us:
7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. NAS
Let’s take a moment to quietly confess our sins to God, so that we are in fellowship with Him and led by the Holy Spirit when we study God’s word. 1 John 1:9 promises us, that if we name our known sins to God, He always forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness, even from the unknown sins we forgot, or didn’t even realize we committed. Let’s pray.
Thank you, Father, for always restoring your children when we admit our sins to you. May your Holy Spirit teach us your Word as we study it now. We ask these things in Jesus Name. Amen.
One of the things I like doing the most when I teach God’s word, is to take some familiar verses from the Bible that we think we already know, and to dig out some of the rich spiritual treasures buried there. I think that too often, we read the Bible casually, like we do the newspaper, or a novel, or the TV Guide. But if we slow down and re-read many of these same verses, if we take a few moments to meditate upon the words there, we can usually discover a lot more of the meaning that God has for us there.
Now I’m not talking about studying the verses in the original languages, or using Bible dictionaries or encyclopedias, or reading the commentaries of some famous Bible teachers. These are all study tools that responsible pastor-teachers are supposed to use, and which I normally utilize. But what I’m talking about right now, is how much more we can learn about God from the Bible, if we just slow down and spend more time reading and thinking about the words that are right there on the page in front of us. That’s what I want to do today with these verses about the shepherds.
We’ve all read and heard these Bible verses before, taught by pastors and Sunday School teachers at Christmas time. We can even hear these verses on TV each year if we watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Charlie Brown spends the show as so many people do today, looking in all the wrong places for the true meaning of Christmas. He thinks that maybe it’s putting on a Christmas play, or finding just the right tree to decorate. But the other kids all argue over the details of the play, and call him “stupid” for the scrawny little tree he buys. In the end, his friend Linus tells Charlie Brown the true meaning of Christmas by reciting the Bible verses about the shepherds, and about Jesus’ birth.
I usually get choked up at that part, and even more so when the kids stand around the Christmas tree at the end of the show and sing, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” That’s one of the few times that I think it’s OK for a guy to cry.
Most of what I’m going to highlight in this incident from Luke Chapter 2, other than some background about shepherding, is there in the verses themselves, and only requires some reflection upon the words in order to see. Let’s look at Luke 2:8.
8 And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night.
These humble shepherds were about to become the first people to hear the announcement of Jesus Christ’s birth, to go quickly to Bethlehem, and to be the first to see Him.
God came to them while they were in the most desolate of locations, doing the humblest of tasks. They were in the last place that human viewpoint would have expected God to be. However, these men were in God’s place, at God’s time. They were faithfully performing their duties as shepherds, using the talents that God had freely given to them. That’s what God wants all of us to do, to faithfully utilize the talents He’s given to us, in the places He puts us.
God didn’t appear to the self-righteous religious leaders, to the “celebrities” of that day. He appeared to humble men, in a despised profession, and in a dark and lonely location. These shepherds were symbolic of Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd, who would also humbly follow God’s will. Their sheep represent us as believers, in several ways: