Something to think about. The first two professions mentioned in the Bible were those of being a gardener (farmer) and a shepherd. The first shepherd was Abel, who was also the first martyr mentioned in the Bible. Among the prominent shepherds were Abraham, Jacob and Moses.
As cultivated farming became more prevalent, shepherds were less famous. In time the job of being a shepherd was assigned to younger sons and hired help. From the time of Cain on, farmers didn't like shepherds; so not only was their job lonely by nature, it became a profession looked down upon by almost everyone.
Shepherds lived with their flocks. They guided them to good pasture and water. They protected them form predators. At night, if the flocks were in the open pasture, the shepherds had to stay vigilant all night to guard them from attacks by wild animals. If close to home, the shepherds would lead the sheep to sheepfolds where they counted the sheep as they entered. Of all the professions mentioned in the Bible, none is as self-sacrificing as that of a shepherd. A good shepherd literally devoted his entire life to feeding, protecting and caring for his flock of sheep.
The youngest son of Jesse was relegated to watching over the sheep due to his youth and physical lack of development. David was a good shepherd and he learned of his physical strength while guarding his sheep. No wild animal could get to one of his sheep on his watch. Being alone for long stretches of time, David learned all about prayer and developing a close relationship with God. He did not go to any school to learn this, but rather through living a life of solitude in the wilderness.
It is indeed very significant that God chose shepherds to become some of His greatest leaders. Abraham, Jacob, Moses and David were all trained by God in the wilderness as shepherds. Long before they became "famous", they were obscure men who were either on the run from others (Jacob and Moses), were simply living a vagabond life (Abraham) or were too young to be doing anything else (David). Regardless of why they were shepherds, what is significant is THAT they were shepherds.
A good shepherd knew his sheep by name and would lay down his life for his sheep. Now days people won't even lay down their lives for a family member let alone an animal. Shepherds were totally devoted to their flocks and could not afford to be distracted lest the enemy sneak in and destroy a precious lamb.
Jesus spoke quite a parable to the people in John 10 regarding sheep. As usual, verse 6 states that the people could not understand what Jesus was saying to them. Patiently, Jesus goes on to explain the parable. In verse 10 it says:
"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
It is very interesting that this well known verse sits squarely in the context of Jesus being the "good shepherd". The thief is being equated to the wolves and other predators determined to steal, kill and destroy the sheep. Of course in reality, we know the thief is the devil whose aim is to do these same things to God's people. In verse 11:
"I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep."
Jesus Christ is the good shepherd. He fulfills everything David wrote about in Psalm 23, which describes what a good shepherd does for his sheep. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for his sheep. He laid down his life to make sure the enemy could never again destroy them.
After the resurrection of Jesus Christ and directly before his ascension; he had a little talk with Peter in John 21. Three times Jesus told Peter to feed either his lambs or this sheep. To do this, Peter was being given the job description of a shepherd. He was no longer going to be a fisherman by trade, he was now going to be a shepherd. Peter did indeed become an excellent spiritual shepherd and he followed through on the commands Jesus gave him to feed and nurture the flock.
On a chilly evening a couple of thousand years ago there were some shepherds out in the open pasture watching over their flocks by night. These men were no doubt loners, vagabonds and for the most part looked down upon by just about everybody due to their profession. If a child told his parents he wanted to go be a shepherd it would be like a child today saying he wanted to join the circus. Shepherds were not only loners, they were generally despised by many of the elite people.
Of all the people God could have chosen to send Gabriel to, probably the least expected would be the shepherds. Isn't it interesting that God chooses the base things of this world to confound the wise and mighty. God seems to love picking people to see and do some of His greatest things who are absolutely unqualified by the world's standards. All the great shepherds in the Bible were humble people who led humble lives with few friends in chronic poverty.
Picture yourself out in the field watching over your sheep in the middle of the night. All was calm and nothing was out of the ordinary. Suddenly the angel of the Lord shows up shining with all of God's glory. Is it any wonder that Luke 2:9 says these poor humble shepherds were "sore afraid"? Wouldn't any of us be terribly afraid if we saw what they saw out in the open pasture in the middle of the night?
Please allow me to share Luke 2:10-20 with the preceding background on shepherds fresh in your mind:
"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.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph and the babe lying in the manger.
And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning the child.
And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them."
I pray we all strive to have the humility and meekness of the shepherds in our hearts. I pray we can all come to our Lord and humbly bow before him as King. I pray that we all can glorify and praise God for allowing us to see and hear all the wonderful works of God. I pray we never become so full of ourselves that we forget the true story of what happened the night Christ was born.
Humble men came to see a baby lying in a manger surrounded by farm animals. There was no room in the inn for the Son of God to be born in comfort. He was born in a barn and wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. All these things signified the humility through which the Son of God came into this world. The only living beings which witnessed the actual birth of Jesus were the cows and sheep and other animals in the barn. The only people who came to see the newborn baby were humble shepherds who were out in the fields watching over their flocks.
Christmas should be all about humility not pomp and fanfare. The birth of Jesus Christ should be celebrated with the utmost of tender appreciation for everything that humble birth signifies. When you get right down to it; Christmas is a time to ponder in OUR hearts all the wonderful things wrapped up in Jesus Christ. Just as Mary pondered in her heart everything she saw and heard the night her first son was born; so we should ponder in our hearts everything we have seen and heard about our Lord Jesus Christ.
Want a truly meaningful Christmas? Be a shepherd for one night and experience the incredible joy and peace true humility brings. Who knows, perhaps an angel might appear and bring glad tidings of great joy. You never know.
Again, a post filled with tremendous insight and with much for pondering.
In this day, many shepherds are needed for the flock is being led astray.
Yes, I do believe we can all benefit from being a shepherd for just one day.
So often when we think of modern-day shepherds, we have a tendency to think of pastors and rightly so. A pastor has a tremendous responsibility which should not be taken lightly by them. A good pastor has a shepherd's heart. I thank God that I have pastors with the hearts of shepherds.
However, when you think about it, as we grow in Christ we should be developing into shepherds by leading others to Christ, leading them to go deeper in their relationship with Him, caring for our brothers and sisters, etc.
Maybe if we would just start doing the jobs God has given us to do, we would impact our world for Christ. Lives would be changed as Christ-Followers would become even more like Jesus. What a "novel" idea!
Thanks for the great blog!
I have been pondering this same night when the Angel of the Lord appeared unto the shepherds tending thier sheep. What a wonder it must have been that the Lord God would send a Holy messenger to the feeding grounds of the sheep. Imagine the tremenous excitement by the Messenger to be the one to announce the most important birth to ever come to this earth. Not of a Kennedy, Mohammad, or Obama but of the only true King of Kings a mere baby boy in a small town. What a night that was when all the Angels joined together to sing before some unknown shepherd boys. As you said to the base of this world the most important birth announcement ever was made on dark night that totally blew the minds and hearts of those in attendance.
May the Lord of Lords shine on you this Christmas day.