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The Angels and the Shepherd
The Angels and the Shepherd
Have you ever wondered what it must have been like for the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem so many hundreds of years ago? Did you ever wish you could have sat with them by their fire that night as they watched their sheep? No doubt, you would have been just as frightened as they were when the angel suddenly appeared and announced the wonderful news of the Messiah’s birth. Have you ever wished you could have heard the magnificent choir of angels singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:13)?
Does it seem impossible for you to receive a new heart? Do you think you will never be saved? Maybe you think that you would believe more easily had you been present at the angel’s announcement or heard the singing of the heavenly messengers. Perhaps you think that you would be filled with such holy awe that your heart would be turned from sin to God right then and there.
What was the shepherds’ reaction to this news? Did they say, “Let’s wait until morning, so we will be sure the sheep are safe”? No, they didn’t even think about their sheep, but they “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 a manger” (Luke 2:15b-16). After they got over their initial fright, they were delighted by the news the angel told them, and hurried to see the Messiah. Why? Because they had been longing for the coming of the Messiah, knowing that only He could save them from their sin. They already loved Him, for He was foreshadowed in every sacrifice at the temple, and many of the Old Testament prophets foretold His arrival. The shepherds knew, however, that they needed more than the temple sacrifices to cover their sin. They needed a Saviour, a God-man, the perfect Lamb of God.
What did the shepherds see when they came to Bethlehem? What would you have seen, had you accompanied them? Think for a moment about the message of the angel: “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 Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). What would you expect to find? If you had been a Jewish child, you would have gone with your parents several times a year to the beautiful temple to make sacrifices to the Lord. There would have been lots of people, and the priests would have worn beautiful clothes. But, had you come to Bethlehem with the shepherds, you would have found none of this ceremonial beauty. Rather, you would have found a poor Jewish couple with a newborn baby in the poorest of shelters whether it was a cave or a stable or a crude shelter. What would you have thought? Had you listened to the rest of the angel’s message, you might have had a hint: “And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12). Lying in a what? “Did I hear that right?” you may have wondered. “This was the sign that He was the Messiah: He was lying in a manger? How puzzling!”
We do not read, however, that this caused the shepherds even a moment’s hesitation. They did not seem the least bit puzzled by the angel’s message, but hurried to Bethlehem, rejoicing that their Saviour had finally come. What would you have thought? Would you have run along with them, rejoicing, eager to worship this new baby? When you finally reached the place where He was born, would you kneel down to worship with the shepherds? Think of it, the King of kings lying in a feeding trough! We often see lovely pictures of this scene: smiling, clean animals, a cozy barn filled with hay, halos around a well-dressed Mary and Joseph, and a cute smiling baby. But this is not how it was! Had you been there, you couldn’t have avoided noticing the poverty all around you. It was the exact opposite of a royal palace or beautiful temple! Would you have been dreadfully disappointed? We do not read that the shepherds hesitated or questioned the truth of the angel’s words. “And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child” (Luke 2:1 7). They were so happy, they went and told everyone they met the wonderful news of the birth of the Messiah! “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them” (Luke 2:20). They went back to their daily job of caring for their sheep, but how their hearts rejoiced!
You see, children, it doesn’t matter whether we were actually there or whether we read of it in the Bible. It was not easier for the people then than it is for us. We do not read that anyone responded to the shepherds’ wonderful news. Nobody else came to see the Baby in
the manger. What really matters is whether or not we believe that this Baby in the manger is the Messiah, and for that we need faith. Only through faith did the shepherds see their Saviour in this Child; how else would they have believed that this little baby lying in a manger was the Son of God?
Only through faith will you, too, love and trust the Lord Jesus Christ. How can you do this? Only through the working of the Holy Spirit. Does this sound impossible? Should this discourage you? Not at all. It is the special, favourite task of the Holy Spirit to work faith in the hearts of His people. “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 10:11-13). It is not that God is stingy or unwilling to save us; it is that we are so unbelieving. We want glorious displays of God’s power. We want a King sitting on a golden throne surrounded by pomp and splendor and riches, or an ornate place of worship filled with beautiful art. We do not want a poor, little child lying in a feeding trough, attended only by penniless parents. That is why we need faith. Only by faith can we rejoice in the humble birth of Jesus, for it is this Child that has come to save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21).
Dear children, do not make the same tragic mistake that most people in Jesus’ day made: unbelief. They did not believe that such a lowly Man could be the Son of God, the Saviour of sinners. Earnestly seek the Lord, and ask Him to work faith and repentance in your heart, believing and trusting that He will keep His promises and fulfill His covenant with you. The longer you wait, the harder your heart becomes. Do not delay! There are so many invitations and encouragements in Scripture. We have no excuse for not coming to Him. Jesus Himself said, “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Luke 10:9, 10).
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