The Angel and the Shepherds
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:8-11)
SHEPHERDS ABIDING IN THE FIELD. The birth of Christ is an awesome story! The role of the shepherds is bigger than it looks at first glance. The shepherds have drawn the pens of many Bible writers because of their prominence while yet being clothed in obscurity.
Gill* writes one of the best summaries:
“To the shepherds, the first notice of Christ's birth was given; not to the princes and chief priests, and learned men at Jerusalem, but to weak, mean, and illiterate men; whom God is pleased to choose and call, and reveal his secrets to; when he hides them from the wise and prudent, to their confusion, and the glory of his grace: and this was a presage of what the kingdom of Christ would be, and by, and to whom, the Gospel would be preached” (Gill: 1697-1771. *Gill mastered the Latin Classics and learned Greek by age 11).
THE ANGEL OF THE LORD. God created many thousands of angels and organized them into hierarchies. It is a big subject but here we focus on “the angel.” This was an angel with a mission from God to suddenly appear to these backward shepherds whose knowledge was mostly about sheep. They were not leaders in their society and not particularly skilled with their hands such as carpentry or weaving. But without their skill with sheep, a lot of people would have been cold for lack of wool garments and perhaps without some milk and cheese and many would have had no lambs to offer to the Lord as a blood sacrifice. No one lacks importance. It would be hard to prove that God ever made anyone without a purpose in His sight.
And here, a special messenger honors these lowly shepherds. The angel scared them speechless, no doubt. They were “sore afraid.” The first thing the angel had to tell these men was “fear not:” There’s just one angel here. This angel knew how much to tell these men. They knew all about “the City of David.” It was as much a part of them as their own fingers. They had known nothing else but the City of David. So, the angel did not have to explain that part to them. They probably knew a good bit about the One promised by the Lord to be born, and probably knew the prophecy of Micah 5:2 that designated Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Promised One.
Now for the new part they did not know: And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. (Luke 2:12) Hang on to the word: “manger.”
What did this have to do with them? Why are they being asked to go see a new baby? Leave their sheep to go see a baby? Go where? A manger is not associated with sheep. A manger is associated with cattle and is usually in a covered place. Shepherds don’t look after cattle. Their sheep were out in the open, picking grass in the highlands above Bethlehem. Cattle and a manger may be above their pay grade.
As soon as the angel says the word: “manger,” this took place: 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, good will toward men. (Luke 2:13-14)
THAT WAS NEW! As if to underscore the weight of the angel’s message, when the word “manger” is uttered, the record shows that the very next words were: “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, good will toward men. And just as quickly as the angels had come, they were gone! Silence! It reminds me of a huge orchestra playing and the kettle drums roar to a climax and suddenly stop! The silence is deafening!
If the angels sang, the Bible does not mention it. The angels “said.” I like to think that they were singing because I certainly like to sing the Hallelujah Chorus and all the great Christmas carols. I love the Christmas carol: “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing!” And I intend to sing it as long as I live on this earth. But, the Bible just does not say that angels sang. To say that the angels sang is conjecture, but if we want to think the angels sing, I suppose the Lord won’t care. If they didn’t sing when they visited the shepherds, they sure missed out on a tremendous opportunity!
The multitude of the heavenly host have done their job and they’re gone into heaven. Out of sight. Not a sound. The shepherds quickly discussed it and left their sheep to go see the baby. Verse 17 says: “And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying that was told them concerning this child.” The shepherds are making known to everyone who will listen “the saying that was told them.” The shepherds don’t mention anything about any singing. In verse 20 it says: “And the shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” There’s still no mention of music.
We don’t have to sing in the choir or be a preacher behind a pulpit to tell a few simple, essential things about God’s gift to everyone who will listen. We don’t have to have a piano or organ playing in the background while we share the Gospel in the market place and the work place and at school.
These shepherds had not been to a college or seminary and apparently did not sing in anybody’s choir. But they sure did get hold of the message and spread it quickly. Maybe we should say: the message got hold of them!!! One more verse (18) And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.” The Lord knows a lot about who to work through to get His work done. What does He want to do through you? Ω
●This article has been edited and reprinted from Good Morning! December 22, 2007.
Read Through the Bible in a Year
DECEMBER 20, 2017 - WEDNESDAY
A.M. Micah 4-5 P.M. Revelation 11
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A Good Verse to Memorize:
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, good will toward men. (Luke 2:13-14)
Song for Today:
Until Then (3:40) (Janet Paschal and Gaither Group)
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