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The Shepherd

What Child is This?  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  36:19
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What Child is This?

This advent season we will putting our study of the Gospel of John on hold, and begin an Advent Specific study. The theme of the study is, “What Child is This?”
Each Sunday, leading up to Christmas we will have a brief video reminding us of a portion of the account of Christ’s coming to earth. Then we will look at answering the question, “What Child is This?”
This week, we will be looking from the Shepherds perspective. Here is a creative skit relating the events of the birth from the shepherd’s perspective.
Luke 2:8–20 NIV
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 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.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 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 the shepherds?

Why did God send the angel/angels to the shepherds that night?
Quite possibly, because they were the ones that were awake! For the three children Jen, my wife, delivered naturally, they were born through the night into the early morning. The bible tells us that it was at night that Jesus was born.

The Shepherds were Awake

Could it be that the Shepherds were the only ones awake?
God the Son, who is eternally God, a mystery we cannot fathom—God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit each being revealed in scripture to be fully God, yet distinct from one another—God the Son was coming into the world to live as a man, being born of a woman as foretold back at the beginning of the world. Yet, no one knew. It was foretold by the prophets. Yet, while he was being born, the people slept. That is, all but the shepherds.
The shepherds were awake. Not necessarily because they were waiting for the one God promised would come, though they were likely waiting for him. No, they were simply awake because they had to watch the flocks. It was their job to care for the sheep and be awake. They needed to be awake to look out for danger, and protect the sheep. They had to be awake to watch for any sheep that might wander off. They had to be awake to help any sheep that needed help, maybe even with giving birth to a new lamb. Waiting for a lamb… Hmmm. And while they were awake and watching, the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world was born!
Only, they did not see that birth. They needed someone to tell them.
And so, the angel went to those who were awake. There was no waiting to give out this news! The angels had to tell someone! So, they told the shepherds who were awake, and ready to hear!
But was there possibly another reason?
I was thinking about that this week, and I think there may be another reason that God sent the angels to the shepherds that night.
Throughout the Old Testament portion of the Bible, that is the portion that relates what happened from the time God created this world, up through the times of the prophets before Jesus was born, Shepherd is a recurring theme. All the way from Abel, the son of Adam and Eve, being a shepherd, through then end of the Old Testament when shepherds were a big part of the culture of the Israelites. Even, Amos, one of the prophets was a shepherd.
Shepherds were a big part of the culture of Israel, who are the descendents of Abraham, who had many flocks and was a shepherd. Since it was a big part of their culture, God used this to help the people know Him better. He took something they knew, and used it to reveal Himself to them. God is often called ‘Shepherd’.

God is the Shepherd

The first reference to God as Shepherd that I could find was from Jacob, the son of Isaac, and grandson of Abraham. Jacob referred to God as his shepherd who took care of him all his life.
Genesis 48:15 NIV
Then he blessed Joseph and said, “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day,
Later, Jacob, also known as Israel referred to God as the one who was the shepherd to his son Joseph, when Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt.
Genesis 49:24 NIV
But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
God is the shepherd for his people, caring for them, providing for them. After God is the shephrd for Joseph, the Psalmist relates how God was the shepherd that led his people out of Egypt.
Psalm 78:52 NIV
But he brought his people out like a flock; he led them like sheep through the wilderness.
The Pharoah of Egypt was out to destroy the nation, and treating them harshly as slaves. However, God heard the cries of his people, saw their suffering and delivered them. This shows how God seeks his sheep and saves them from the ones out to destroy them.
When they left Egypt, they had to cross the wilderness to get back to the land God had promised to give them back when he made his covenant with Abraham.
Just like a shepherd leading his sheep in the wilderness, God led them to the springs, the places where they would find water. He provided food for them to sustain them. He showed them the way to go, leading them with a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night.
God showed himself to be the shepherd of Israel.

God used Under-shepherds

And, in caring for his sheep, God uses men that he appoints as undershepherds, like Moses.
Psalm 77:20 NIV
You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
Still later, God used the prophets, priests and Kings, like King David.
Psalm 78:71–72 NIV
from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.
Unfortunately, not all of the under-shepherds cared for the sheep of Israel. Many sought to take care of themselves at the expense of the people. And, they even led the people to worship other gods, forsaking their true shepherd who loved them, protected them, provided for them.
God describes the situation this way through his prophets who remained true.
Jeremiah 2:8 NIV
The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols.
Jeremiah 10:21 NIV
The shepherds are senseless and do not inquire of the Lord; so they do not prosper and all their flock is scattered.
When the under-shepherds mistreated, and misled the flock, the people of Israel, the nation was scattered. God first sent prophets to warn the people so they would repent and return to Him, their true shepherd. However, when they refused to listen and come, he allowed other nations to come in a conquer them, taking their land and leading them off into servitude in other nations.
However, God did not forget his flock, his people. He also gave promises through other prophets like Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 34:2–5 NIV
“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals.
He condemned the leaders who were not good shepherds, and then he continued to tell them that He, the True Shepherd would come and rescue his people.

The Shepherd Rescues

Ezekiel 34:10 NIV
This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.
God promised to come and rescue his people from those who only cared for themselves. He was going to rescue his people and
Ezekiel 34:11 NIV
“ ‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.

The Shepherd Looks After His Sheep

God promised that he was going to come and look after his sheep himself. He looks after them. He knows what is good for them, and will do what is best so they can grow up, healthy and strong. Providing exercise, food, water, care, protection, love.
Ezekiel 34:12 NIV
As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.

The Shepherd Gathers

The Shepherd, God, wants his sheep close so that he can be with them, and them with him. That is one of the great themes of all scripture. God wants to be with us. He is our God, and we are his people.
Ezekiel 34:13–14 NIV
I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.

The Shepherd Pastures

The Shepherd knows what is good nourishing food. Sheep will eat whatever they find that they can eat. But not all things are good for them. The shepherd knows what is a good source of food that will provide the nourishment the sheep need. God says he will pasture his flock. He will provide his people with the nourishment they need.
Ezekiel 34:15 NIV
I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord.

The Shepherd Provides Rest

Rest. The wilderness can be brutal. The heat and cold, the difficult paths which lead from one pasture to another. Sickness. Accidents along the way. Danger lurking from the enemies, the lions, bears, wolves that want to attack the flock. The Shepherd cares for the flock, and wants to provide rest. Make the sheep aware that he is caring so they can lie down in peace. He is caring for you.
Ezekiel 34:16 NIV
I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.

The Shepherd Seeks and Saves

The shepherd cares for his sheep, and seeks after those that wander away. He calls them. He looks for them, and brings them back to be with himself.
He splints the injured, and strengthens the weak. He truly cares for them.
He takes care of his flock with justice. There are some sheep that will push others away, or try to get the best for themselves. God will deal justly and fairly with his sheep.
These are great promises! For people that have been defeated by other nations, whose homes have been destroyed, whose loved ones died from famine, or sword, or sickness, for those who have been carried away as slaves, these are precious promises that God has not forgotten them. These are promises that bring great hope that God will again come and be their good shepherd.
But when? When will this happen?
Isaiah tells us that first, God will send a forerunner—someone who runs ahead to say, “He’s coming! Get ready!”
Isaiah 40:3 NIV
A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
This is a passage we have referred to in recent weeks, as we have been studying John. Who was the one who was this voice of one calling in the wilderness? John the Baptist.
But, have you noticed what comes after the forerunner in Isaiah 40?
Isaiah 40:9–11 NIV
You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
The one coming is none other than God Himself! And what is He going to do when he come? He will be the Shepherd to his people.
He will Gather, he will care for them and lead them!
Finally, God is coming to Shepherd his people!
Why did God appear to the Shepherds?
Because the Shepherds would understand better than anyone else what God was promising when he promised to come and Shepherd his people.
The Shepherds would know better than anyone else:
The Shepherd Rescues
The Shepherd Looks After
The Shepherd Gathers
The Shepherd Pastures
The Shepherd Provides Rest
The Shepherd Seeks and Saves
The question I have for you and I today is, “Are we awake?”
Many people want to be rescued. Many people want God to look after them. Many people want God to gather, to pasture, to provide rest. However, though they want it, they are not awake. They are not seeing what God has done, nor what God is doing in their lives day by day. They are missing it.
This Christmas season, be like the Shepherds. Be awake. Don’t miss what God has done and what God is doing.
Look into his word, the best pasture you can find. Study it, meditate on it. Lift up your eyes and see what God is doing as your Shepherd!
Read Luke 2:8-20. Ask God to reveal to you, just as He did to the Shepherds, how He has come to be your Shepherd. Rejoice that God has come to bring Peace on Earth.
Read Psalm 23 each day for the rest of this week. Try memorizing it. Meditate on it. Today, read Psalm 23:1 over again. What does he mean ‘lack nothing’? You may want to read Psalm 37 as well. God may not provide riches or worldly desires, but he will provide what we truly need. If we delight in Him, seeking first His kingdom and righteousness, He will provide all we need, and we will lack nothing. All righteousness is ours through Christ. Notice Psalm 37:3 “safe pasture”. Thank Him for being a good Shepherd.
Read Psalm 23, focusing on verse 2. What is the pasture? What is the best nourishment you need today? Find verses about God’s Word being our nourishment. How has God provided for you in His Word? What promises speak to the need of your hear? What promises provide refreshment like quiet spring waters?
Read Psalm 23. How does God guide us on righteous paths? Can you think of some verses related to this? Thank God for giving us direction, and not leaving us on our own.
Read Psalm 23. Consider how God has been with you through difficult times in the past. How has He been your comfort and protection? How has He helped in times of fear? Remember these, and thank Him. Ask Him to bring these to mind the next time you are afraid.
Read Psalm 23. How has God provided for you? Wake up! He provides each and every day. Have you ever gone hungry or without clothing? What all has He provided? Really. Make a list.
Read Psalm 23. Rejoice in his goodness and mercy. Rejoice that you will one day dwell in the house of the Lord forever! Write out your own prayer/praise of thanks for our future glory with Him.
Other verses:
Psalm 28:8-9 - David asking God to be shepherd.
Psalm 37:3; Eze 34:14; Jn 10:9 - safe pasture
Psalm 80:1; 78:52 - God is Shepherd
Psalm 77:20; Psalm 78:71-72 - God used others to lead his people like a flock
The prophecies of the coming Messiah pictured him as a shepherd
Isaiah 40:11 - after the voice of one calling in the wilderness. Here is your God! …
God appointed kings, priests and Levites to shepherd his people. However, they turned the people away from the Lord. Jeremiah 2:8; 10:21; 50:6; Ezekiel 34:2-5
But God promised to bring them back - Jeremiah 50:19
God promised to be the shepherd looking after his flock - Ezekiel 34:12-15
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