And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. Luke 1:8
Have you ever thought about why the angels appeared to shepherds? I mean, why shepherds? There must be a reason.
Imagine those shepherds. Such a dirty job. Lonely. Nothing glorious about prodding a flock of stubborn, helpless animals around day after day, protecting them from harm, guiding them.
Yet, as the woolen clouds wafted over the moon, I wonder if the Bethlehem shepherds remembered their secret confidence, their royal lineage. Maybe a shepherd taught his son,
“Our father David, he tended sheep on this very hill.”
“King David, father?”
“Yes, the mighty shepherd king.”
Is that why the Holy Spirit included this bit about the shepherds in the Bible? To remind us of King David?
I think that may be. David was one of the most cherished biblical shepherds. How precious are his words:
“The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want, he leads me beside still waters…”
In Psalm 23, David, the shepherd. became a lamb, didn’t he? The Lord provided all his needs, guided him to still waters, kept him safe through the shadow of the valley of death, fed him at his table, and set goodness and mercy to follow him “all the days of his life.”
In shepherd-David, we discover the tender nature of that shepherd-born-in-the-stable.
But was David simply a gentle and passive ruler? No.
Even though we often think of shepherds as meek, lounging in grassy fields playing the lute (which David did), there’s more to the life of a sheep herder than chillin’. David’s shepherd skills also groomed him into a warrior.
But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. (1 Samuel 17:34-35, ESV)
He caught the beast by the beard? How wicked cool is that!
In addition, shepherding taught David even more than gently guiding lambs and gnarly sling-shot moves. He also learned how to discipline sheep by wielding the rod and staff.
Perfect training for a king, don’t you think? No wonder so many biblical characters are trained by shepherding.
And no wonder Jesus called himself a shepherd.
I can rest embraced in my shepherd’s tender, yet fierce, care of me. When the valley of death overshadows–literal death or other kinds of loss–I can stroll close to my guide, who knows the safe way through the darkness. When the grass in another field tempts me away, he doesn’t let me wander forever, but brings me back, even though it may hurt. He’s the perfect shepherd.
But Jesus’s own words go beyond even David’s description of a shepherd.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:11
I have a greater shepherd king, greater even than David. By laying down his life for me, Jesus slayed my enemies—sin and its deathly consequence—forever! And then, in keeping his Emmanuel promise, he gathers me into his arms.
He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom. Is. 40:11 ESV
The first to welcome the new king were shepherds because from the very beginning our great shepherd knew he would lay down his life for his sheep so he could be their forever shepherd king.
Dear friends, crawl into your shepherd’s arms, confident of his committed care for you that was bought at a high price. Remember this day how much he loves you, and as his love overflows in you, it will flow in life-giving streams to others.
Remember he loves you like there’s no tomorrow.
Shine Your Light: How has God shown you his love lately? I’d love to hear and I KNOW it would encourage others also!