The Four 'Firsts' For the Shepherds That Night

Glenn Addington By Glenn Addington, 14th Sep 2017 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Religion

There are 4 different ways in which the shepherds who were given the news of the birth of Jesus were the first.

Some background on shepherds

First, some background on shepherds. Shepherds are nomadic, having to keep sheep constantly moving to good pasture. If sheep are kept too long in one area, they will eat all the grass, then chew the roots out of the ground. Then, you won’t have pasture, you’ll have waste land. So, sheep have to be kept moving. When Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers, who later sold him to a Midianite caravan bound for Egypt, he had to travel 74 miles to get to where his brothers were tending their sheep. When Joseph’s brothers came the second time to Egypt to buy food, bringing their brother Benjamin with them, Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers. He then told them, “There are 5 more years of famine to come. Go back home, pack up Dad and all your stuff, and come back here. When you meet Pharaoh, tell him you are shepherds, and he’ll allow you to settle in the land of Goshen, because Egyptians despise shepherds. {Gen 46:34]}”.
Even in the time of Jesus, shepherds didn’t have a very good reputation. They reportedly had an attitude of, “What’s yours is mine, if I choose to take it.”
The testimony of a shepherd was not admissible in a court of law. And because of the constant need for caring for their sheep, shepherds weren’t the best attenders of synagogue or the 3 Feasts of the Jews that God expected the people to attend. The answer to the question of whether shepherds smelled like the campfires they cooked their food on, and used to keep warm when it was cold, or whether they smelled like the sheep they kept is up for grabs. Now, to our text.
Please read, in the New Testament in the Bible, Luke 2:8-20.

The shepherds were the first to hear the announcement that the Savior had been born.

Scripture tells us that an angel of the Lord suddenly stood in their midst, and the glory of the Lord shone all around them. And they were terrified. If it is night and you are sitting around a campfire, it is usually quiet, and you can hear if someone is walking into your campsite. Often, someone coming in will call out and announce that they are coming into your camping area. But this person – we know it was an angel, but they didn’t at first – this person was suddenly just there! And a light shone all around them. We don’t know how much area the light covered, or how intense it was, but these shepherds were at a loss to explain the sudden appearance of their visitor, and the source of this light shining around them. The angel then does 2 things. First, he offers a word of assurance, then tells them of the reason for his appearance. Not only does he give them the news of this great event, but he gives them instructions so that they can check this out for themselves.
“You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” But their experience isn’t over yet. Suddenly the angel speaking to them is joined by a huge number of angels, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace among men with whom He is pleased.” These shepherds were the first to hear the announcement that the Savior had been born.

They were the first outsiders to see the newborn Savior.

This would have been no small task. They had to decide who would watch over the sheep while the others went into town, unless they decided that, since God had made this announcement to them, He could watch over the sheep while they went to check this out. Since it was night, darkness would have made their journey a bit more difficult. And even though Bethlehem was a small town, it would have been quite crowded because of all the people who had to return because of the census, one reason why Mary and Joseph were there. How many doors did they bang on, and have to talk through, to try to get to the right place? And even when they got to the right place, the battle wasn’t over. Mary would have been exhausted, having gone through the birth of her firstborn. And Joseph was probably tired from the journey, and would certainly have been protective of Mary and the baby Jesus. We can imagine him talking through a closed door to the shepherds. “Who is it? What do you want? Don’t you realize how late it is? Go away!” But through the closed door, the shepherds would explain about what they had experienced. And when they told of the sign that the angel had given them – a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger, you can imagine Joseph’s shock, as he heard this, and then turned to look across to where the baby Jesus was in that manger. How could he keep from letting these shepherds in after hearing the exact description of Jesus in the manger? Along with Mary’s initial statement regarding the angel’s visit to her and her pregnancy, Joseph’s own dream from God telling him not to divorce Mary, but to take her as his wife, he had this to add to the miraculous events surrounding the birth of this child. Joseph let them in, and they were most likely the first outsiders to see the baby Jesus.

They were probably the first outsiders to worship the baby Jesus.

Verse 17 tells us that after they had seen the baby Jesus, they made known the statement which had been told them about this child. Savior Messiah Christ the Lord.
The term ‘savior’ probably was perceived by them as something similar to the judges of the Old Testament, men who helped deliver the nation from foreign oppressors. The nation was under Roman rule at this time, so this could easily have been the thought in their minds when they heard the term ‘savior’. Or is it possible that they might have actually had the right idea. Some believe that these shepherds were employed by the temple, and that the sheep they kept were always destined for the altar for the various sacrifices. Did it ever trouble them that everything they put their efforts and time into was destined for death? Was it possible that Someone could come along and put an end to the endless cycle of blood sacrifices, necessary because of the sins of men? The Messiah implied the specially sent One sent from Almighty God. But with the simple description of the child, the Lord, deity is implied, and worship would have been the appropriate response.

The were the first to share the news of the birth of the Savior.

This event that they were privileged to experience was one that surely made a mark on them.
Luke 2:17-8 tells us, “ When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.” Though shepherds were not the most well-thought of folks in that day, all who heard the testimony from these shepherds could tell that they had certainly experienced something incredible. No one could miss the excitement and joy in their voices, the smiles and looks of wonder on their faces, and the gleam in their eyes.

Why should this matter to me?

First of all, God is no respecter of persons, we’re told in the King James Version, Acts 10:34. The Jewish religious leaders would have expected something like this to be shown to them. But not so. In Galatians 3, the apostle Paul says, “Gal 3:27-8 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Neither Jew nor Greek tells us that God does not accept or reject on the basis of race. The lie that the black Muslims tell African Americans is that Christianity is the white man’s religion. If they understood and accepted this verse, they would realize that the black Muslim statement is a lie. Some of the American Indian tribes were told the same falsehood. There is neither slave nor free means that God is indifferent to our social status or our occupation. Are you a teacher, or an accountant? Or a doctor, lawyer or Indian chief? Or a stay-at-home mom? You are as every bit important in the eyes of God as any of these others I have mentioned. You matter to God. Just as these shepherds were as important to God as the religious leaders of that day, you are as important to God as anyone else, no matter what their social status or occupation, or yours.
Secondly, it is said God honors faith where He finds it. This was proved when He sent the angel to the house of Cornelius. "Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God” was the message given to Cornelius by the angel, who then told him what to do to get the apostle Peter to come to his house.
These shepherds were probably godly men; otherwise, God would not have given this privilege of hearing of and seeing the newborn savior. In II Peter 1, in his greeting to those who would read or hear the words of this epistle, Peter says, “ To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Can you imagine the thoughts of those who first heard these words? “God values my faith just as much as He does that of an apostle or a writer of His word!!” Are you a Bible college president or professor? Are you a preacher, or a teacher, or a youth worker? If you are not any of these things, it doesn’t matter to God so long as you are a faithful, committed Christian. Your faith is every bit as significant to God as that of a Bible college president or professor.

There are two proper responses to that statement. First, rejoice that your faith is recognized by God and important to Him. Secondly, since this is the case, do all you can to learn God’s word and will and be more effective in the kingdom of God.
Finally, these shepherds had a story to tell, an experience that made them changed men. YOU have a story to tell, one about a Savior whose love has redeemed you, and changed you, from someone deserving the wrath of God, to someone who has an eternal hope and someone who God is able to use to work in His kingdom and be a blessing to others.

All scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible or the English Standard Version.


Birth Of Jesus, Christmas, Jesus, Savior, Shepherds, Shepherds Came By Night

Meet the author

author avatar Glenn Addington
I am an American, former Viet Nam veteran, and a Christian, living in East Tennessee. I am now retired and am pursuing a writing career. I would welcome writing assignments.

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