“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
Shepherds were not the cool people of their day. In fact, they were the opposite. They smelled like sheep. They slept on the ground. They didn’t live in major cities. They were required to tend their flocks outside the city gates. They made little money. The work of shepherds was (and still is) extraordinarily difficult. They had to wrangle obstinate sheep. They had to ensure their flocks were well fed. And they had to fend off predators: wolves or even larger animals, like bears or lions. They were considered the lower rung of society. Moses and David were larger-than-life heroes, but they were not revered and remembered for their shepherding. Shepherds were so not cool in Jesus’ world.
Yet, heavenly messengers proclaimed the news about the Savior who had been born to the shepherds. (Luke 2:11). In their excitement, the shepherds hurried off to Bethlehem to see this miracle for themselves. These shepherds weren’t sent to just meet an emissary of God. They were invited to meet face to face with God Himself. What could be more important than that?
From man’s limited perspective, God was sending a group of outcasts to be the greeting party for His Son and to spread the good news of His birth to all who would listen. By today’s standards that might equate to an angelic choir appearing to a group of homeless people sleeping on the street in cardboard boxes or camped out under a highway overpass. Fortunately, God looks at the heart. It doesn’t matter to Him if someone is dressed in rags or royal robes.
The Bible says the shepherds ran to see the babe, so they didn’t have time to take a bath or change into some nicer clothes, which they most likely didn’t have anyway. They did not take detour or delay; they ran straight into the presence of the infant Messiah.
Why would God choose the shepherds? Why would He offer this priceless privilege to those who were so unworthy in man’s eyes? We can only speculate. We are being compared to sheep throughout Scripture: “Acknowledge that the LORD is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” (Psalm 100:3). We stubbornly go our own way because we think we can manage life without the Lord. But the truth is, we are lost without Him; we are like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36 says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Ezekiel beautifully described how the Sovereign Lord searches for His scattered sheep: “I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day.”
Who better to announce the Good Shepherd’s arrival than shepherds? The message given to the shepherds on that hillside is the same message for our world today. A Savior is born. After confirming this for themselves, the shepherds spread the message to all who would listen. The task is the same for us today.
- Do you think it makes a difference who brings the message of hope?
- What can we do this week to further the message of hope?