I read of shepherds and what I read does not match the images I have seen all my life. This illustration of a young lad is closer to what Bible scholars write (Shepherd LIfe; the care of sheep and goats, by Fred H. Wright in Manners and Customs of Bible Lands). Shepherds were the youngest boys in the family! The older sons served the family as farmers, lending their strength in the manual labor required to till, plant, and harvest. When I think of young boys out in the fields all night alone to fight off wolves, hyenas, jackals, and bears, it makes my mamma heart weak. Out in the elements and expected to protect the sheep even at the expense of their very lives. I see safety in companionship and I am thankful for shepherds tending flocks together through the long nights.
We read in Luke 2:8-14, “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 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.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Several shepherds watching their flocks. Shepherds tending together, but tending their own individual herds. The sheep know their shepherd’s voice. The shepherd calls each of his own sheep by name. The shepherd leads them to water, to green pastures, and insures the safety of each lamb. (Psalm 23, John 10:14, 27)
I read how at night when the shepherds were ready to sleep they “circled up the wagons” so to speak. They gathered the sheep close together and then the shepherds would lay around the perimeter of the sheep to “keep watch” and placed campfires between them to provide additional protection and warmth. Can you see this in your mind’s eye? Like a group of Boy or Girl Scouts camping, all the tents in a circle, doors facing inward, with a campfire in the center providing light, warmth, and security while they sleep.
On this one night, these shepherds see something spectacular. In addition to the brightest star, an angel appears to them and tells them the Messiah is come and to go find Him! They have been chosen as the first visitors to see this long awaited miracle of God. There is just one problem! Who will stay with the sheep. They cannot be left unattended. Would you want to be the one left behind? Did these young boys draw straws to see who had to stay? Did one gracious heart volunteer to stay? We are not told. Let us not miss the message of this child.
We know the sheep could not be left alone: To leave them alone would lead to injury or death.
Sheep are like babies in a nursery. They need supervision. Do we realize the beautiful souls who keep the nursery every week allow others to have the awesome opportunity to worship?
This one sweet, kind young man stepped up to the plate and hit a homerun with his fellow shepherds. His graciousness allowed them to see what few would see: The Christ child newly born and lying in a manger. They were allowed to go honor the Christ child with a song on a flute, the collective ooh’s and ah’s of children whom Jesus would later insist be allowed to come to Him. (Matthew 19:14) God loves children and how they worship and serve. The shepherd boys who went were able to go because of the selfless heart of another. I find this convicting. When was the last time I got up and went to the nursery and sent another to worship. When was the last time I went and sat with a shut in so a family member could go to participate in worship. Jesus said “whatever you do for the least of these, you have done it for me, to me!” (Matthew 25:40) This child understood a sacrifice was needed for entering into the Presence of the King. He sacrificed his opportunity to see with his own eyes the Christ. I wonder, was this poor shepherd boy one of the men who thirty three years later lined the streets as Jesus carried His cross to Calvary? Did this shepherd ever see The Shepherd during His earthly walk?
One fact is certain. He never forgot the night the sky exploded with angels. This child is not even mentioned in the Scripture. He is not singled out as a hero. He is not honored for his sacrifice. We too may never be singled out for accolades of service. This young life proves it is no less honorable to serve others than to go to worship the King. It is stated in the Mishnah (“an authoritative collection of exegetical material embodying the oral tradition of Jewish law and forming the first part of the Talmud”) these poor shepherds were actually tending the sheep bred and raised near Bethlehem for Temple sacrifices. If so, this makes this young lad’s gift to the Sacrificial Lamb all the more profound. HIs simple gift was the gift of TIME allowing the other shepherds the gift of going, a timeout for adoration of the “newborn king” by service to the King.
Oh What a Glorious Night/Mary Did You Know
by Sidewalk Prophets
In Worship of the King