Having spent a few days understanding Hanukkah, now is the time to turn our focus toward Christmas and ponder the birth of our Savior. Consider the setting and the characters of that day 2,000 years ago. Seek to know the significance of Bethlehem and the fulfillment of God’s Word. Settle in and allow your imagination to take you there!
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”~Luke 2:8-12
Have you ever wondered why God chose to reveal the good news of Jesus’s birth to lowly shepherds?
Shepherds at the time of Christ were the lowest social class imaginable, along with dung sweepers. However, that was not always the case. A look back through the Old Testament reveals wealthy aristocrats as shepherds. Isaac and Joseph had considerable wealth and status, and their sons were shepherds (Genesis 30:31-32, 37:12). Even a priest’s daughters were shepherdesses (Exodus 2:16).
That all changed when, in the land of Egypt, the Israelites ultimately adopted the agricultural lifestyle of the Egyptians, who considered shepherding low-class, reserved for their Arab enemies. Even after Joseph became high and mighty in the eyes of Pharaoh, he warned his brothers to report to Pharaoh that they were keepers of livestock rather than shepherds because “every shepherd is loathsome to the Egyptians.” (Genesis 46:34)
Upon return to Israel, shepherds no longer held respect or prominence. In fact, they were despised and considered incompetent, second-class citizens, and rabbis even prohibited shepherds from pasturing sheep anywhere other than in certain desert areas (such as Bethlehem). Shepherds were considered “sinners,” despised and forsaken by religious leaders.
Yet, those very people were handpicked by the God of the Universe to hear the good news of the Messiah’s birth, and the first to come worship Him! No aristocrat was present. No ruler or wise man. No rabbi or religious leader. Simply nearby shepherds who kept watch over flocks by night.
The very lambs those shepherds were watching were raised as sacrificial lambs in the Temple. Interestingly, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 36) was born in the very fields where sacrificial lambs were born and raised…by lowly shepherds.
But that’s not all! Not only was Jesus the sacrificial Lamb of God, He also became the Good Shepherd who cares for His flock!
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”~John 10:11
What an incredible picture: the Lamb of God appeared first to the lowly, not to the self-righteous. Ultimately, He would sacrifice His life for the lowly in heart…the repentant…while the self-righteous rejected Him. Yet, He also became the Good Shepherd to care for you and me!
For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.~Psalm 95:7
Sitting in that shepherd’s cave in Bethlehem, and seeing the shepherd’s field laid out before, one is drawn into the very picture Scripture reveals to us! Be blessed this Christmas season, dear lambs! Our Lord Jesus, born as the Lamb of God among the lowly, has also become our Good Shepherd!
PS: Our tour group visited Bethlehem about a month ago, so it is fascinating to picture it in our minds as we approach Christmas this year! Check back this afternoon when I share some archaeological evidence of what Jesus’ birthplace may have looked like. See you then!