Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"All Seated on the Ground"

Our last post had us thinking a bit deeper about the Angels and the Shepherds. Departing at this time from the Christmas story would have us miss a very crucial aspect of God’s plan in stepping into time and space in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ponder this in your heart: God chose shepherds.
So what? (I have grown to love the journey launched by these two words). We catch of glimpse of what sort of person Jesus would be by God’s selection of this first audience and God’s selection of the shepherds was not arbitrary, but very intentional.

First, “so what” is the very attitude most of the world has always had about shepherds; yet, shepherding is part of the structure of Israel’s history. Their work is tied to the integral part of worship in what we may now call “Old Testament life.” So, why are they so despised? One reason is the nomadic lifestyle of the ancient shepherd, preferring a home on the range instead of settling down under a roof. They had to move constantly to fresh food and water. Dr. Harold McManus indicated that, “the best grazing lands were in the central highlands, the hills of Syria, portions of the Negev, and the Transjordan plateau.” (“Biblical Illustrator,“ Fall 1986). Summertime necessitated larger forays as opposed to Winter grazing, when grass was not burned by the searing heat and was more readily available. The shepherd’s responsibility was to find food and water.
Reading the gospels we find Jesus ministering all over the countryside as the Good Shepherd to people who are like shepherd-less sheep (John 10:11; Matthew 9:36). We also find him being despised and rejected, giving up His own life as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Is. 53:3; John 1:29). Jesus, the Bread of Life (John 6:35) was born in Bethlehem (literally from the Hebrew “House of Bread) and the Living Water (John 4:10).

Sheep need protection and for the flock to feel safe, he must remain in sight at all time. Moreso, shepherds protect other shepherds, not just the sheep. Shepherds relate to one another and support each other in various ways.
Jesus moved around the land and among the people providing spiritual and physical deliverance from sickness, demons, death and sin. Just as the shepherd led his flock, so Jesus was followed everywhere He went. He trained others to do what He did and sent them out, each with responsibility for their portion of the flock. He gave them all necessary tools to do the work correctly—and they always came back and enjoyed fellowship with one another.

There is so much more to consider about God’s choice of the shepherds as the first of public ears to receive the news—I just wonder what caused their joy when they laid eyes on the manger baby.

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