On the night that Christ was born the Gospel of Luke tells us,
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.9And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.10And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.12And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:8-12)
Pretty familiar passage, right? Well, one thing I didn’t know was this: in the Ancient World, there were two jobs that were viewed as almost sub-human. The first was being a tax collector due to the shady business ethics that were used to literally swindle people out of money and property. The second was being a shepherd. That doesn’t jive too well with me because I hear the twenty-third psalm saying, “The Lord is my shepherd.” King David was also called the shepherd of Israel.
How could such a profession, used to describe the Great Jehovah be thought of in such a poor manner? Shepherds were viewed as dirty, uneducated, and poor-mannered. Even when Joseph brings his family to Egypt it says that they had to eat at a separate table because they were an “abomination” to the Egyptians (Gen. 46:32). Really, one can only speculate as to the disdain for this occupation, but nonetheless, prejudice and hate were there.
When we really dig into this we can learn some pretty astonishing things First off, we need to note that these sheep that were being watched that night were no ordinary sheep. Close by Bethlehem, on the road to Jerusalem, was a tower, called Migdal Eder: the “watchtower of the flock” (Gen. 35:21; Mic. 4:8). Here was the station where shepherds watched the flocks destined for sacrifices in the temple.
Micah 4:8 says this,“As for you, watchtower of the flock, (Migdal Eder) stronghold of Daughter Zion, the former dominion will be restored to you; kingship will come to Daughter Jerusalem.”
Secondly, as we established before, these shepherds were among the outcasts of society. They were nobody. They had no renown or high standing, no wealth or property. Yet, God chose to reveal the birth of Jesus not to the religious folk, not to the kings, not to the cosmopolitan society—but to shepherds. How did He do it?
“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:9-12).
Then, verses 13-15 tell us that the shepherds got the most spectacular performance by a choir of angels and a heavenly light show! At first, they were “terrified” but then, after these things happened they went to Bethlehem to see what was happening.
The shepherds, whose sole job was to watch the sheep—they left them. The went to Bethlehem and found Jesus and they told Mary, Joseph, and anyone who would listen about what just happened! People were amazed! Do you know what that means? That they were actually listening to these “shepherds” whom they so despised and were blown away by what they saw! After they had seen the infant they were told was the Messiah, they
“returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told” (Luke 2: 20).
The God of the Universe becomes an embryo—then born a baby, clothed in human flesh, – vulnerable and helpless, and revealing Himself to the most unlikely candidates—humble, poor, lowly, rejected shepherds. My challenge to you this week is this: have there been times where you think you’re not worth anything to God? That He doesn’t care? I’ve had those times—a lot. But the Scriptures are woven together with the stories of men and women just like us, who were rejected, cast aside and marginalized. Remember—from Abraham and Moses, to David and Samuel, to Micah and the shepherds—God loves to reveal himself to the underdogs—to us. To the helpless Remember Bethlehem’s shepherds, for they were the ones who announced the coming King and His Kingdom. Just something to think about. – Scott