Tuesday, December 22, 2020
SHEPHERDS AND THE SIGN
SCRIPTURE READING: Today IN THE TOWN OF David sa Savior has been born; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you; you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Luke 2:11-12
The way it was in Bible times, sheep were very common in the Holy Land. A sheep could boast of no accomplishment. That’s why sheep needed a caretaker — a shepherd. A shepherd’s job was to find water and food for his sheep. A shepherd carried a rod used to protect them from predators and robbers. Shepherds would lay down their lives for their sheep — a foretelling of Jesus. Jesus was both The Shepherd and “The Lamb of God. (Isaiah 53). Sheep were used for meat, wool and sacrifices. The life of a shepherd was a lonely one. Shepherds were thought to be society’s outcasts, dirty and smelly.
After having read The Lord is my Shepherd by Robert J. Morgan and The Rock, The Road and The Robber by Kathie Lee Gifford during many months of COVID isolation, I studied the words shepherd, sheep and Lord from Scripture and numerous resources. Going into Advent, a time of devotion, I gathered up some Q’s — the 5 w’s — who, what, when, where, why and the how of the Christmas shepherd to ponder and wonder.
And there were shepherds, living out in the fields nearby keeping watch over their flocks at night. Luke 2:8 (nearby was Bethlehem)
Who were these shepherds? Was there anything unique about them?
The Christmas shepherds were Levitical shepherds from the tribe of Levi, trained and tasked with the responsibility of tending and guarding the flocks used for sacrifice in the Temple in Jerusalem. The place where the sacrificial lambs were raised was called The Tower of the Flock, Migdal Eder on the outskirts of Bethlemen. The Jewish people knew that Bethlehem was known for their sacrificial lambs. On the surrounding hillsides were caves kept pure for newborn lambs. A newborn lamb was wrapped in cloths for swaddling in order to protect it from harm or blemish and then placed in a manger. In Bible times a manger was defined as a feeding trough to hold fodder for livestock and made from clay mixed with straw, or from stones cemented with mud or a depression of limestone rock. The lamb had to be spotless and it was the shepherd’s job to inspect.
Right after Jesus was born, the Bible tells us that Mary wrapped Him in cloths and laid Him in a manger because there was no room for them in the Inn.
An Inn was a station for travelers. The Inn was not necessarily a building but it could be a building with rooms for travelers. Animal stalls were separate and erected outside.
Jesus was born in one of the birthing caves in a manger stall at the location Tower of the Flock for sacrificial lambs in order to fulfill prophecy because Himself would be the ultimate sacrificial Lamb. (Micah 4:8)
How did the shepherds know where to go?
They were given a sign. A sign by definition os any object, action, event etc., that conveys a meaning. The sign identifying the baby as the Messiah was that He would be wrapped in swaddling cloths to calm Him and to confine His arms, legs and c hin to keep Him healthy and safe from harm. The baby was also washed in salt as part of the swaddling process. (Information in Chapter 6, Bethlehem Church of the Nativity in Rock, Road, Rabbi).
Why were the shepherds first to experience Jesus the Messiah?
Because they were humble men and the message was for everyone. From notes of Billy Graham, “Jesus came for all people, rich, poor, male, female, uneducated, educated. By announcing Jesus’ birth to the shepherds God was demonstrating His love for everyone of us, no matter who we are.” The angel gave them a name — the Messiah — who came to forgive their sins (of the heart) not of their circumstances. He came to bring them back to God after the initial sin of Adam and Eve. The shepherds were amazed and felt awesome fear. The religious leaders of the day (people of pride) wouldn’t have had the same reaction. They loved religion more than they loved a relationship with God. There was no need for the angels to give the shepherds directions to the birthplace of the Savior — who is Christ the Lord — for the sign of the manger could only mean at the Tower of the Flock where they routinely raised and swaddled the sacrificial lambs. The shepherds knew exactly where the baby was and now they knew who the baby was. These shepherds experienced the reality of the Lamb to which their ministry had been pointing to for years. The Bible says, after seeing the baby...they spread the word concerning what had been told them. Luke 6:17b-18.
These humble men took the Good News of Jesus and did just what God wanted them to do — they told others and their lives were never the same. I think they can be referred to as the first evangelists.
Wonder is waiting...slow down...be still! Study the Scriptures with your Q’s and W’s this Advent Season. What would you do if you were there on that first Christmas? What would you think?
The Son of God, a mother’s love,
And lots of grace from above,
Would change a manger’s straw, instead
Into a Royal King-Size Bed
(Quote from David Jeremiah’s bookmark “The King-Size Bed”)