New Wine for New Wineskins December 2018

By , December 1, 2018 12:53 am

Good News for Shepherds

Luke 2: 1 – 20

1 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no room at the inn.
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Saviour—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognise him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, 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, goodwill toward men! [Peace to all men and women on earth who please him].” 15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

As we enter another Christmas season I would like to talk about “Good News for Shepherds.”

I believe that the Holy Spirit has shown me something that I had never really thought of before. What if the reason that Jesus was born in a stable is that there is a likelihood that the shepherds wouldn’t have been allowed into the inn. Some snotty-nosed and aggressively belligerent doorman would probably have turned them away because they smelled of sheep. After all, these guys spent a lot of nights under the stars and would possibly have looked a bit like a homeless person.

The kings from the east went knocking on the door of the palace because they assumed that was where a king would be born, and because they themselves were kings they got an audience with King Herod.

But God isn’t looking for more kings.  He is looking for more shepherds.

I also realised as I meditated on this message God actually identifies himself with the occupation of shepherd. In Psalm 23 he reveals that he is YHWH Rohi – the LORD our Shepherd. Surely that must dignify the role of a shepherd as one of the most noble of all occupations.

It is interesting that most of us want to be kings but we were actually created to be shepherds. God said that he would put someone on the throne of David forever. Jesus is called the Son of David and he was born in Bethlehem, the City of David.

David was the shepherd king – he reigned like a shepherd. David’s reign has been called the golden age of Israel. The people were best protected, best provided for, and judgement and justice
were administered righteously and mercifully during his reign more than under any other
king.

There has to be a powerful statement in the fact that the first people to hear the announcement of the birth of the Messiah and Saviour of the world, and the first people to be granted an audience with the newborn King were shepherds. That has to be good news for all shepherds.

The LORD is my shepherd. You’ve got to believe that shepherds in Israel had taken  the declaration of Psalm 23 very personally, and that they were the ones who could truly identify with its message more than anyone else. These shepherds on the hillside that night were the first to receive the good news that Jesus the Good Shepherd has come. It’s like the Lord was saying to these shepherds, “You’ve been believing the LORD is my Shepherd for years, and so I want to reward your faith by inviting you to be the first to meet him in the flesh.”

There is no doubt that Jesus is a king – in fact he is the King of kings – but he’s the Shepherd King of shepherd kings.

Isaiah 9: 6 – 7

6 For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

God’s role for the man he created and to whom he gave dominion in the earth was to tend, to keep, and to guard it. This became increasingly difficult after sin and death entered the picture. Remember what Cain said to the Lord after he had killed his brother and the Lord asked him of his brother’s whereabouts. His response was, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Of course, the only acceptable answer to that question is always yes. It is interesting that his brother Abel was a shepherd, and so the very first pastor was murdered because he was righteous.

We are here to love and to take care of each other – to tend, to keep, and to guard. We can do this in the fullest confidence that we ourselves are unconditionally loved and taken care of by the LORD our Shepherd.

As a preacher I have often made statements like, “God doesn’t care where you’ve been or what you’ve done,” or I’ve said things like, “I don’t care where you’ve been or what you’ve done.” But every time I say that I seem to experience a wee nudge of conviction because the truth is that God really does care and he has been watching over us all of our lives. He has seen the damage and the hurts and the wounds and the hardness we have picked up along the way in the places we have been and the things we have done. And he never stops caring because caring is what he does. Peter – who exchanged the role of fisherman for shepherd –  said that we can cast all of our cares upon the LORD because he cares for us.

The good news is you and I are never too young, and we’re never too old, to care. But caring takes its toll, and so that’s why every shepherd needs a Shepherd. That’s why knowing that the LORD is my Shepherd is such an awesome revelation of an even more awesome reality. It is no wonder that Psalm 23 is undoubtedly the most well known and most often sung and referred to of all the psalms.

A Shepherd is the occupation that God most identified with. He has been watching over his people for millennia – looking to do them good, to protect them, to provide for them – and weeping over the rebellious, searching for the lost, and carrying the wounded and the injured and the weak.

Matthew 9: 35 – 36

35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the
gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.

Let’s look at just a couple of the many characteristics of a good shepherd.

1. A good shepherd loves his sheep and develops a close, intimate relationship with them so that they know his voice and trust him.

Do we love people unconditionally and without prejudice? Do people know that they can trust us, and that we won’t give up on them. Do we genuinely care about others?

If we do then I have good news  – we can say, “the LORD is my Shepherd,” and we can say, “Jesus is my Good Shepherd.”

We all need to know that we are loved unconditionally and without prejudice and that there is someone we can trust with every part of your life, someone who will never leave, forsake,
abandon, or quit on us, someone who will not be offended by us and will always pursue our best interests.

2. A good shepherd often understands the needs of the sheep better than they do. He understands what threatens sheep and what makes them sick and works tirelessly to provide protection and security and to keep sheep from fighting and from hurting each other.

Do you sometimes get insights into people’s lives that see beyond the surface and the superficial, insights that don’t cause you to judge them but that release compassion in you to be more patient with them, and to pray for them to encounter and embrace the love of God that is the only hope for real change? Do you actively encourage others to believe and trust the Lord in all things, do you pray protection over people? Are you a peacemaker, and do you have a longing to see, and do you work to create and maintain unity between people? Are you a bridge-builder and do you introduce people to others that you know will be a blessing to them? Do you seek to honour others and to find something positive to say about them when they are being maligned? Do you genuinely care about others?

If so, then I have good news for you. You can say, “the LORD is my Shepherd” and you can say,  “Jesus is my Good Shepherd.”

You have someone who knows everything about you and he loves you unconditionally. He knows exactly why you are the way you are, why you sometimes react the way you react, why you sometimes feel the way you feel, and he is faithfully and patiently praying for the activation of your faith in response to his love that will help you to experience everything that is on his heart for you.

There are so many other characteristics of a shepherd that we could mention, but let’s remind ourselves today that we are never too young and we are never too old to care for others. And we can selflessly express and demonstrate our care in the sure knowledge that we can never out-care the one who cares for us.

This is good news for shepherds – it is good news for those who are committed to care, to tend, to keep, to guard and to protect those around them and within their sphere of influence.

As I was thinking about and meditating on this message I was reminded of an article I read some time ago.

A Pastor transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000-member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning. As he walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service, only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food but no one in the church gave him change.

He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit in the back. He greeted people only to be greeted back with stares, dirty looks, and people looking down on him.

As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation. “We would like to introduce to you our new Pastor.” The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation. The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle. The clapping stopped with all eyes on him.

He walked up the front and took the microphone from the elders and paused for a moment before he recited from Matthew 25, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

After he finished reading, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Many began to cry, and many heads were bowed in shame. He then said, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will YOU decide to become disciples?”

He then dismissed service until next week.

Psalm 23 is the shepherd’s psalm – it is written by a shepherd from the perspective of a sheep.
The shepherd knows everything that is in his heart in regards to his sheep, and so he acknowledges his need for Someone to care for him as he cares for his sheep. His joy is in knowing that “the LORD is my Shepherd.” His Psalm ends with his assurance that where the Shepherd is he will be.

Those shepherds on the hillside that night were the first to be introduced to the LORD their Shepherd, the Good Shepherd. Every sheep longs for a good shepherd.

Jesus said, “I am giving you a new commandment – love one another, care for one another, bear one another’s burdens, shepherd one another, lay down your lives for one another.”

We can do all these things with the full assurance that the LORD – his name is Jesus – is all of these things to us and so much more.

There is still good news for shepherds.

Luke 2: 10 – 11

10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.

The LORD is my Shepherd.  Jesus is my Good Shepherd.

 
Be superabundantly blessed with that assurance.

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