The Shepherds Were Wise Men
"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up."
-James 4:10, emphasis added
Before the Magi ever arrived, who came first to the birthplace of the King? The first to arrive were men who were wise in the eyes of God, but in man's eyes they were the humblest, lowliest, and most unworthy of all who lived around Bethlehem--the shepherds. These humble men were of the least likely profession to see a King, and yet the shepherds were the most honored of all Christ's greeters and seekers. You see, God really loves and responds to humility! That Truth has shaped my whole outlook on life, on worship, on Bible study and, most of all, prayer.
Shepherds of the first century lived in a world that made it hard to make a living. They struggled and scraped along on minimum wages. In fact someone has described the first century like this: "Taxes were high; wages were low, hypocrisy was rampant; honesty was rare. Freedom was gone; Roman occupation was hard. The rich were getting richer; the poor were always struggling. Morality was ebbing; rebellion was brewing; cruelty was reigning."
Life for shepherds was difficult at best. They experienced cold nights, long days, distant family, and rare friends. Also, sheep stank, and shepherds had to continually search for them because they wandered. Life was never restful and work was never done. But that was all part of what could be expected in a shepherd's life.
In the community at large, shepherds were at the low end of Jewish society. Away from the synagogue, absent from the temple, and defiled by dead animals, they were outcasts to the Jerusalem crowd. Unable to even be a witness to special events they seemed to almost be outside of the culture. But then everything changed.
God captivated the humble shepherds. On the hillsides of Bethlehem, under the stars, the angel's glorious announcement of Christ's birth left one band of shepherds stunned: "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. . . . You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.' 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!" (Luke 2:9-14).
That was an awesome, fearful moment! The first angel's glorious words would always echo in their hearts. And that blazing light of heaven, accompanied by the praises of those angelic multitudes, was captured forever in their minds. The shepherds rushed from the glowing skies over the fields and searched diligently until they found Jesus. I wonder this Christmas season: Will you allow God to captivate you?
God changed the humble shepherds. The scene they witnessed in the stable would forever change their lives-they had found Jesus, and they would never be the same again. In just a moment, everything they had ever heard about the Scriptures came alive: God, angels, heaven, Messiah, promises, and prophecies suddenly became real. I wonder this Christmas season: Will you allow God to forever change you?
God became near to the humble shepherds. Those endless sacrifices, countless lambs, myriads of offerings, innumerable sins, and promises of forgiveness became intensely personal. The ordinary sheep they watched and sold became the extraordinary pictures of God's mercy and grace. The temple they supplied now became the place where sacrifices for their sins were offered. At last all those mysteries, rites, and ceremonies made sense: they had found the promised Lamb of God! I wonder this Christmas season: Will you allow God to become personal, real, and near to you?
God started the humble shepherds down a new path. Up until that night of nights, their lives as shepherds had been monotonous and predictable. They were used to sheep which varied little in their habits. They had walked so often down the same path that it soon became a rutted canyon. But now, with the advent of Christ, life took on a whole new meaning! Nothing would ever be the same again-even though sheep would still be helpless, dumb, and dirty! Because of Jesus, the shepherds' whole perspective on life had changed, and they had fresh hope. I wonder this Christmas season: Will you allow God to start you down a new path, His pathway for your life?
So then, a group of wise and patient men, who sat on the same hills their grandfathers had sat upon, were watching the stars and talking that night--and then God came down to earth. Wow!
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