Monday, December 26, 2011

SHEPHERDS OF BETHLEHEM - THE FIRST PASTORS!

WHERE THE ANGELS LANDED IN BETHLEHEM!
We are all familiar with the story of that amazing birth night in Bethlehem! It was when God sent His holy angels to preach the first Gospel sermon. The landing of this Angelic Host on Shepherds Field (which is still around as you can see) is significant for many reasons!

These messengers from Heaven, could have announced the Birth of Jesus to kings and satraps and governors. They could have announced it to the priests in the temple, the teachers of the law and pharisees and the righteous (in their own eyes) religious folks in Jerusalem. But they didn't! Why?

Why did the Holy God of Heaven select dirty, poor and outcast men, who worked from March to November in hard scrabble (as you can see again, from this photo) land among animals, animal waste and more. These men were kept out of Jerusalem almost exclusively! They were banned from entering any Temple of God to worship, because they were ceremonially unclean, under the 613 Laws of Moses in the Torah/Pentateuch! They were around dead sheep at times and animal waste, all the time. So the priests and religious authorities banned them!

These are whom God chose! It is a symbol for what He would do in the Life of Christ, not just in the short three year ministry He had on earth, but ever since He died and rose again!

The first sermon of Christ started like this "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed...(Luke 4:18)....and you can add to that "the outcast, unwanted and those left behind by the world!!

The Lord also chose the Shepherds for a simple yet VERY CRUCIAL mission, even though these men were unaware of the reason! The word shepherd here in the Christmas passage from Luke 2, is "poimenes" or...get this - "Pastor" in the English!

In one fell swoop, God revealed Himself, the Gospel and the Heavens to lowly outcasts and then anointed them the Pastors of the First Worship service - right on the harsh Shepherd's field in Bethlehem.

PLEASE NOTE THE FOLLOWING PASSAGES AND THE WORDS IN BOLD BLUE:
LUKE 2:   
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 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 Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will bethe sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, 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!”

15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

IMPORTANT POINTS TO NOTE:
Verse 15 b (the shepherds said to each other, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass, WHICH THE LORD HAS MADE KNOWN TO US!!!"
Note here how obedient these newly minted 'pastors' became once they realized what God had just done for them! These men did not need to go to seminary to comprehend revelation and the revealed "RHEMA" word! They did not need a professor to tell them about hermaneutics and soteriology because they could not, like most shepherds, read a word of Hebrew! Yet they obeyed!

Secondly, look at verse 17 - "Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child". Now these men are supposed to be looking after their own flocks of sheep....so who did they tell??!! Joseph and Mary appeared 8 days later, after the birth, in the Temple for Jesus' circumcision where they met Simeon and the prophetess Anna.

They had to walk 6 miles north to get there and that would be a long walk with a newborn on dangerous roads. So the shepherds had not only to do some fast talking to villagers along the way, but to relay the word throughout their large herding community to those in both Bethlehem and Jerusalem! Remember these men were raising thousands of sheep for the annual Passover, so there was a large group of shepherds out there. Once the message was spread first throughout these men, it filtered out QUICKLY. These 'pastors' were literally proclaiming the "GOOD NEWS" - the true meaning of the Gospel!

Third, notice how stunned the people were at this Gospel truth! Verse 18 said "all who heard it MARVELED"!!! They were in completely blown away at what God had done - both in the Birth of the Savior to the most humble of parents in a dirty, cold smelly cave AND to whom He revealed the Event.

Finally, notice what happened in Verse 20 where it says "the shepherds (pastors) returned glorifying and praising God...."! That literally was the first Worship service after the Birth of Christ! The original language and meaning of "glorifying and praising" is singing worship songs (psalms etc) to each other, in a responsive manner! This means one group of men would sing the praise, and the other half would the sing the same praise phrase (or portion of the song), back to them! This would go on for hours as they walked back from their Proclaiming the Gospel to the entire region!

All I can say is WOW!

God is NO respecter of persons! God will choose whom He will chose. In this short passage of the Christmas story, we see so many things: 
Shepherds ordained the first pastors, therefore:
Ordination.
Proclamation. 
Evangelism. 
Wonder.
Worship!

Well, this sounds like church to me! How about that!

Many Christmas seasons will come and go, but the Church age goes on - for now! The goal in this message today, however, is to show what occurred after the Birth and how it applies directly not just to our daily lives as believers, but how it teaches us all these actions of God. It also shows us how finely detailed He is in the methodical way He first laid out the Standard Operating Procedure, of those whom He calls - us.

We are to proclaim and preach the word.
We are to evangelize and tell everyone who will listen about it.
We are to constantly live in Wonder and Awe of Him.
We are to constantly live in a state of Worship of and to Him.....you know....just like those shepherds of Shepherds Field in Bethlehem, almost 2000 years ago....the same shepherds who became the first pastors!
Amen!

UPDATE:
Please note this: as we marvel at the choice of these wonderful shepherds, let us not miss the symbolism of all of this. Remember I mentioned that these men raised the sheep for the Temple sacrifice in Jerusalem. Well, here are two things The Lord has impressed on me about this:
1. The Man Whom Micah 4:8 called the Tower of Flock, spoken off by these first preachers, became the ultimate Sacrificial Lamb- from the fields of Bethlehem to the Hills outside Jerusalem (where He gave His Life for us!)
2. All of us like sheep have gone astray and are in need of the Good Shepherd, the Shepherd of shepherds, that same Tower of Flock! Is He YOUR Shepherd too??!!!
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