Friday- Week 3
Angels Appear to the Shepherds
Annunciation to the Shepherds
by Unknown Flemish Artist (late 15th century)
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, Who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Why do you think the Lord made the big Birth Announcement to shepherds?*
[These shepherds were very special shepherds. They were rabbinical shepherds- trained in the law, the Old Testament scriptures and in lambing.They were responsible for the sacrificial lambs for the temple sacrifices in Jerusalem. By their very profession, they had been waiting for the Messiah and preparing for His coming. Jesus, the Lamb of God was, like the lambs these shepherds tended, born to be sacrificed. ]
Why were the shepherds in the fields at night?
[Usually, shepherds did not keep watch over their sheep at night. They would lock them up in pens at night-- as we read in several places in the scripture, sheep are kept in a pen for their protection, when not grazing. However, rabbinical shepherds watched their flock and stayed with them day and night.]
If shepherds were considered unreliable witnesses, why would God entrust His Holy proclamation to these men? And why would Jesus tell His listeners that He is the Good Shepherd, if shepherds were despised?
[There is actually little evidence that shepherds-- while considered unclean due to their work-- were considered unreliable witnesses. There is a shepherd motif throughout scripture: Abraham, Rachel, Moses and David to name a few. In the Old Testament it states that the "Lord is my shepherd,' and Jesus repeatedly refers to Himself as a shepherd. Even pastors/church leaders are referred to as shepherds. For more about where this misconception came from go here: Christian Urban Legends: Shepherds as Outcasts]
Why was the angel accompanied by light?
[The ‘glory of the Lord,’ or the Shekinah Glory of God comes from His presence. Angels stand in the presence of the Lord, and in this case allowed that glory to radiate all around the shepherds.]
What three titles does the angel give to Jesus? What does each mean?
[Savior- come to save the world from their sins (Matthew 1:21)
Messiah- or Christ, which means ‘the Anointed One’(Isaiah 61:1); this is His prophetic title as redeemer of Israel
The Lord- the Supreme eternal Being, ruler of heaven and earth (Colossians 1:17)]
What does ‘on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests’ mean?
[Though it is a popular thought, this was not about ‘peace on earth’ in a physical manner. A better rendering of ‘whom His favor rests’ is: ‘to those with whom He is pleased.’ He is pleased with those who accept His gift of eternal life.
Jesus said He did not come to bring peace in the traditional sense; He came to offer spiritual peace between God and man (Luke 12:51). For, man is at war with God in his every thought and every inclination of his heart.]
The angel did not give the shepherds an actual address, just the town, and the 'sign' that the baby would be wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. How was this enough information to find the family?
[One clue to them was 'town of David,' which the shepherds interpreted as Bethlehem right away:“Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened..." Luke here uses a specific word that means “until” or, “to the edge of”. They didn't say, “Let’s go in the town of David"; they said, “Let’s go to (the border of) Bethlehem and see Him!” The reason for this is that Migdal Eder (aka Tower of the Flock-- near Bethlehem where the sacrificial lambs were born and guarded from the tower) was located here.
Migdal Eder was part of a prophecy pronounced by Micah a few verses before he names Bethlehem Ephratah as Christ's birthplace. "As for you, O watchtower of the flock, [Hebrew: 'Migdal Eder'] O stronghold [fort, high place] of the Daughter of Zion, [Bethlehem] the former dominion [of King David] will be restored to you; kingship will come to the Daughter of Jerusalem" (Micah 4:8). Rabbinical shepherds had been taught to expect the Messiah to be announced at the Tower of the Flock--Migdal Eder because of the prophecy in Micah.
The second clue that they should find the baby at Migdal Eder, is the 'sign' which, as the angel proclaimed, would be just for them: the swaddling cloths and manger. When a sacrificial lamb was born, the rabbinical shepherd would wrap it in cloth and lay it in the confines of a manger (a stall or holding area for animals), to keep it calm, and to let it gain strength without blemishing itself. The shepherds knew exactly where the swaddled sacrificial Lamb would be kept in a manger.]
What did the shepherds do after the angels left? What did they do after seeing this wonderful sight?
[Left right away to find the baby. They spread the good news!]
What was Mary’s reaction to all that had happened? How do you think Luke knew this?
[She treasured these things in her heart and pondered them.]
Close in Prayer
Over and over, the scripture confirms that the Lord is not concerned with the things that man holds to be important. He does not care about our looks, our intelligence or our social standing. For, as He told Samuel about David, He looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Talk about getting to the heart of the matter-- it doesn't matter what others think about us, nor even what we think about ourselves. What matters is what we think about Jesus.
Do you believe He laid aside His heavenly splendor, arrived on earth in humility and lowly circumstance? He lived for thirty three years on this earth without sin, and died on the cross. He did not die because of any wrongdoing of His own. He died because He was the Lamb of God, sent to take away the sin of the world.
If you have never decided what to do about Jesus, now is the time (Isaiah 55:6). As demonstrated in yesterday's devotional, He was an actual historical figure. So that part of believing is easy, but do you believe He is God? If so, ask Him to forgive you of your sins, believe He died on the cross to save you from your sins (Romans 10:9-10) and commit your life to living for Him.**
Make a Joyful Sound!
Choose a song from Songs for Advent Week 3 or choose your own.
*There is some disagreement about when Jesus was born. But, it could not have been on December 25th (the date celebrated by Western Christian churches) or January (many Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate on the 6th or 7th). The shepherds in the field tending the sacrificial lambs for the temple sacrifices were rabbinical shepherds. They were specially trained in lambing. They were charged with assuring perfect, blemishless lambs for temple sacrifices in Jerusalem.
It is worth noting that Jesus was the Lamb of God and that He was meant to be a sacrificial lamb (John 1:29). This is foreshadowed in Exodus 12:1-6:the children of Israel are commanded to choose an unblemished lamb on the 10th of Nisan, care for it, then slaughter it on the 14th of Nisan. During the last week of His life on earth, Jesus entered the Holy City on the 10th of Nisan through the Sheep Gate, and then was sacrificed on the 14th of Nisan, Passover. This was to symbolize that He was THE Passover Lamb. The Sheep Gate is the gate through which all the sacrificial lambs were led to the temple to be slaughtered. After Jesus, there was no longer a need for these sacrifices.