Why were shepherds chosen as the first on earth to hear the strange glorious news of the birth of the Savior of the world and experience the glorious song of Angels proclaiming God’s glory and peace?
Can you think of two groups more different than the angels and the shepherds? The angels belong to another world, but the shepherds belong to the lowest social class in this world. The angels are bright and glorious with heavenly light, but the shepherds are dirty and carry the stench of sheep. The angels knew what it was like to exist in the presence of God, but the shepherds were excluded from the very temple they provided sheep for sacrifice. The angels explode onto the scene with loud, dynamic shouts of praise and worship, but the poor shepherds are stunned and frightened into silence. (Ed Sasnett, Northeast Baptist Church)
1. To show that God cares for the overlooked or forgotten.
Shepherds in the Bible times, and even today, are considered the poor or of the lower class of society. They often lived out in the open field maybe in tents. They didn’t bathe very often and I am sure they smelled.
In the Pulpit Commentaries it states about the shepherds, “among the Jews at that period shepherds were held in low estimation among the people. In the Talmud, which is the Jewish civil and ceremonial law (treatise ‘Sanhedrin’) we read they were not to be allowed in the courts as witnesses. In the treatise ‘Avodah-Zarah’ no help must be given to the heathen or to shepherds. The Mishna (Talmud) tells us that the sheep intended for the daily sacrifices in the temple were fed in the Bethlehem pastures.”
This tells us that for sure the shepherds were the overlooked and forgotten. They were not even considered a citizen and probably didn’t have much of an education if any, and yet an angel came and shared the good news to these lowly people. They were extremely important in God’s eyes. They represented the humble and the meek. God uses all kinds of people and in all classes of society. He loves everyone the same. No one is more important to God then another.
1 Corinthians 1:26-28 Amplified Bible
For [ simply] consider your own call, brethren; not many [of you were considered to be] wise according to human estimates and standards, not many influential and powerful, not many of high and noble birth. [No] for God selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is foolish to put the wise to shame, and what the world calls weak to put the strong to shame. And God also selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is lowborn and insignificant and branded and treated with contempt, even the things that are nothing, that He might depose (remove) and bring to nothing the things that are.
I believe God does this to get rid of pride and to keep us humble. The shepherds were not wise by human standards, not powerful, and not born into a privileged position in life. God deliberately chooses those people who, in the world’s standards, don’t have much going for them so that He can raise them up for His glory.
I looked up the word “shepherds” in the Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Definitions and it literally means; “shepherd, or pastor.” It made me look at my own life and what God has called me to do. He has called me to tend His sheep. I can see how shepherds and pastors are so similar. One major thing they have in common is that they are both overlooked and often rejected. There are times when I share God’s word and people choose to listen and respond, but often they don’t. Sometimes people treat Pastors like they do their Doctors. The patient thinks they know better and do their own thing in stead of listening to and heeding their advise.
In today’s society being a pastor is not considered a job of esteem, especially when there have been many scandals and abuse in churches. But the bottom line is that pastors and shepherds all do the same thing; they tend for, protect, and feed the sheep.
God cared for the shepherds, the forgotten and overlooked, the lowest of humanity, and revealed His master plan of saving the world to them. I love it.
2. To show all are important in the presence of God.
Having the angel appear to the shepherds gives hope that salvation is not only for a chosen group of people, caste, class or a nation, but for everyone. We all need a savior. God sent His only Son to the World, not just to a select group in society.
Divine revelation was given to the lowly shepherds. God chose to share the great news with the shepherds and even gave them directions in how to get there. The wise men saw the star and went to inquire about it. But no angels were sent to them. In fact it was probably at least two years later when the wise men came upon Jesus to give Him gifts of respect.
This is interesting because the wise were seekers and the lowly were chosen. I have to commend the wise men because they didn’t give up. In seeking the Messiah their actions shouted, “All my wisdom is not enough, I need a savior. Their pride, if any, was gone. The wise were humbled and the lowly were exalted. This is God’s Kingdom economy which baffles the world’s knowledge.
God doesn’t determine potential for service by human standards. If humans were in charge of announcing the Birth of Christ I am sure they wouldn’t start with the lowly. They would begin with the important groups first. Presidents, Kings and the media would be told first. If the lowly heard about it they would probably have to find out on their own. But coming to the shepherds first indicates honor.
3. To show that God chooses any one who responds in faith.
Luke 2:13 – 14 NKJV
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
First the angel, possibly Gabriel, stood before the shepherds sharing with them that born to you this day a savior who is Christ the Lord and letting them know what the sign would be “You will find the Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger (feed trough).”
Then, as soon as those words were spoken, multitude of angels came together and praised God. My creative mind could visualize this event with the angels who joined. They couldn’t contain themselves and had to praise God for what just took place! All of heaven was at a stand still waiting for this moment of God’s plan to happen.
The Angel’s song has several elements to it.
a. “Glory to God in the highest,” Let God have all the honor of this wonderful work. Glory to God, whose kindness and love designed this amazing favor. Other works of God are for his glory, but the redemption of the world is for his glory in the highest.
Your salvation is God’s highest priority!
b. “And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Let men have the joy of it: On earth peace, good-will toward men. God’s good-will in sending the Messiah introduced peace to the world, it crushed the separation that sin had raised between God and man, and brought a peaceable communion.
The word peace, is translated “to join, prosperity; one, quietness, rest, set as one again. (Strongs G1515)
We are joined with God because of His Son. We find rest in our spirit.
If God be at peace with us, all peace results from it: peace of conscience, peace with angels, peace between Jew and Gentile. Peace is here put for all good, all that good which flows to us from the incarnation of Christ. All the good we have, or hope, is owing to God’s good-will; and, if we have the comfort of it, he must have the glory of it.
~ Matthew Henry Commentary
The word goodwill is translated “satisfaction, delight, kindness, wish, purpose, good pleasure, seem good.”
It was God’s kindness and delight to bring the world good pleasure through Jesus Christ. The shepherds responded in faith. They were eager to go and see this great event. I love their eagerness.
Luke 2:15 NKJV
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.
They were visited by not just one angel, but a choir of angels praising God and singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14 NKJV) Who can stand still after seeing and participating in that? Their faith was high! Listening to the revelation from the angels of who God is allowed their faith to arise in their hearts.
Luke 2:16 tells us that the shepherds came in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. They had an assignment and immediately wanted to fulfill it; To go and see what the angels told them. This is obedience in action. How would you respond to angels coming to you and singing the praises of God and letting you know the Savior of the world was born? Would you “go and see?” or would you stand back in disbelief? Let us be people who are quick to walk in faith and not by sight and follow the direction of the Lord’s leading.
4. To show God identifies with the meek and the lowly.
Matthew 11:28 – 30 NKJV
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light.
Jesus identifies with those who are gentle and lowly in heart. Often it is the gentle and lowly in heart who get abused and misunderstood. Jesus knows all too well of being abused and misunderstood. When He was in front of Pilot, before His crucifixion, He spoke no word in His defense. He had every right to tell Pilot that He was falsely accused and that the religious rulers were just power hungry. Yet, Jesus spoke not a word.
Jesus identifies with the unlearned and uneducated in the estimate of the world as we read in 1 Corinthians 1:26 – 28. You see if God were revealed in the wisdom of man, only wise men could know Him. If God were revealed in the strength of man, only strong men could know Him. If God were revealed in the accomplishments of man, only the proud could know Him. If God were revealed in the wealth of man, only the rich could know Him.
God chooses to reveal Himself in those who are despised in the world so that when the miracle of salvation is found in them, God alone receives the glory.
God identifies with the meek, the lowly, the humble. Self-sufficiency pushes us away from God when we rely on our own abilities and not cry out to Him. Pride separates us from God. It puts up a wall that God will not cross. He will give us many chances to change our heart but most often, because pride comes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18), we fall into a mess we have made and then blame it on God when in reality we did it all.
1 Peter 5:5 NKJV
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
How many of you need God’s grace today? Yes, we all do. Be aware of any pride in your life and be quick to get rid of it before it causes destruction. Do anything to protect your relationship with God.
5. It shows that God revealed Himself as the lowliest of humanity.
Luke 2:12 NKJV
And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.
The Shepherds understood a manger for animals. It is was in contrast to what the angel just stated about Him, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) The Messiah had finally come but in a feeding trough for animals? If the angel didn’t describe the Messiah coming this way, in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger, the Shepherds might not have found Him and they very well could have thought “This can’t be the Savior of the world in such a lowly place in humanity.”
Think about it; Jesus was born in a place reserved for animals. Perhaps this was fitting for the One who was the Lamb of God. An animal stall, smelling of old hay and manure, was a fitting picture of the world into which God had entered. Jesus came down to earth from His high place in heaven. What a difference in atmosphere, position, and comfort.
Jesus was born in the depths of poverty. He was born in poverty so that He could reach those who were poor in spirit. He was born in poverty so the poor would know they were welcome. He was born in poverty to show that salvation was not a privilege reserved only for the fortunate few. He was born in poverty to show that salvation could not be purchased at any price. It puts a simplicity to it all. No money can buy salvation. Nor can works purchase this precious gift.
Now we can see why Jesus came in such a low estate. No achievement on our part can bring salvation to our hearts, only believing in Jesus, and what He ultimately did on the cross, is the way of salvation. He came the first time in poverty, but He will come again as King of Kings.
Being One with infinite knowledge, I am sure that God had many reasons why He revealed Himself to shepherds. In my opinion, His primary purpose was to convey the message that the gospel is open to anyone who is willing to believe.
Do you fit the profile of a Shepherd? Or do you feel even worse. Maybe you feel you are a worm, worthless, looked down by society, and insignificant? Rejoice, for Jesus came to this world to save people like you and I.
God’s love doesn’t know any class, race, position or title. It freely reaches to everyone who believes. You must decide whether you want to accept this love or not.
The wise men brought expensive gifts when they visited Jesus. The Shepherds had nothing but their faith. There is only one thing you can give unto Jesus in exchange for His love and acceptance: simply believe that only He can save you and invite Him in to your life!
Let this Christmas change your life forever like it did for the shepherds that day. Be eager and make haste in your heart to “go and see” this wonderful Savior and receive Him in your heart as Lord and savior. Then, as the shepherds did that wonderful day, go and tell others of all the wonderful things He has done in your life!
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!
Pastor Kris Belfils