Why not the shepherds?

The shepherds–have you ever wondered why God chose them to rush to the mangerside of the newborn Savior? Why they were the ones entrusted to spread the news?

Maybe they were swapping stories out there in the fields as they tended their sheep by starlight. Maybe their minds were drifting to their families snuggled up in warm beds. Either way, they were still watching, alert. And that’s why they were stunned to see the glory of the Lord.

Wolves? Sure. Thieves? Yah. But an angel? The glory filled them with “great fear,” the kind of fear of fallen man at the feet of a holy God. Maybe their wonder mixed with disbelief. “Can this really be happening? Am I dreaming?”

The angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 

And then the sky was filled with angels who were praising God, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

The light faded and the shepherds looked at each other, dazzled. Maybe they asked each other: “Did you just see what I saw?” 

But soon: “Let’s go check out what God told us!” And “with haste” they clattered into town. (Did the sheep follow them? I wonder. And what a ruckus they would have caused at the feet of their newborn Savior!)

But their journey didn’t stop at the stable. After worshiping Jesus, they went out and “made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.” 

The initial fear out there in the fields was not a paralyzing fear–not the kind that mutes tongues to silently deny our Savior. Their fear opened the door for faith. 

Sometimes I contemplate the shepherds, the humble set of messengers they were, and why God chose them to “make known the saying.” I mean, why not more wisemen or least the mayor of Bethlehem? I always thought that God was making a statement by having His birth announced by a herd of scruffy shepherds. Maybe He was. 

But today I’m wondering, “Why not the shepherds? Why do we assume the sidelined of society were less qualified?”

Sharing the news of Jesus isn’t the work of an elite few, those with charisma, power, or 5 million Facebook followers. It’s also for the shepherds–for me, for you. Our testimonies are neither more nor less valuable because, although we messengers have a role to play, the message has never been about the messenger, but about the Message Himself. 

(Luke 2:8-20)


Photo by Pawan Sharma on Unsplash

On a roll

If I would have been Elijah, 51 more people would have died.

When Ahaziah, King of Judah fell through a lattice and lay sick in his bed, he wanted to know if he would live. “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron,” he told his messengers.

But on the way, Elijah intercepted the messengers to give the king a word from the Lord: “You shall surely die.”

King Ahaziah wasn’t happy with this meddling in his affairs and he sent out a captain with his 50 men to fetch Elijah from where he sat on top of a hill. Elijah responded by calling down fire from heaven and consuming the 51 men.

But the king didn’t give up. He sent another captain and 50 men. These also were consumed by fire from heaven.

And still King Ahaziah didn’t give up.

If I had been Elijah and seen the third party of 51 men approaching me, I would have sighed, “Yes, Lord, I know the routine. Fire from heaven.”

But the third captain fell on his knees and pleaded, “O man of God, please let my life, and the life of these fifty servants of yours, be precious in your sight.”

Elijah had executed God’s will on the former two occasions. Why would God want anything different this time?

That’s why I say that if I had been Elijah, 51 more people would have died. Or at least I would have attempted to call down the same fire from heaven. I would have been on a roll.

I often think about this story when I’m tempted to make a “policy” on how to treat a certain category of people: persistent beggars, inappropriate men, meddling taxi drivers, aggressive women, etc. Yet, God showed Elijah the Tishbite how important it was to listen to His voice in every situation. Likewise, God may want me to say a certain thing to one aggressive woman and want me to keep silent with the next. The point isn’t to get energized by being “on a roll” but to listen in each situation.

Yes, always listening can be exhausting, especially when we hear commands we don’t want to obey. When Elijah heard the angel of the Lord say, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him” it may have crossed his mind that calling down fire from heaven would have been less of a hassle. But he still went. He still listened.

(2 Kings 1)


Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Learning to listen

I was yawning between pages of War and Peace. The train’s rumble of metal on metal was soothing after three hours.

As we had moved from city to city, passengers had changed so often that they became a blur of faceless humanity. Across the compartment, someone took a seat facing me, another faceless being. I yawned again.

But then I smelled him. Cigarette smoke. I tried not to wrinkle my nose as I looked at him. Our eyes locked. He blinked, and I looked away.

Him.

What?!

When I had started the trip, I had spent time in prayer. God,  I want to listen to Your voice today. Several times, women had sat down next to me, but most had avoided eye contact. All I had given or received was a smile or maybe a greeting. But now it was a man. I didn’t talk to men unless I had a reason.

Remember the woman at the well? Who talked to her? Was it a man or a woman?

But I can’t talk to him. And my Arabic is horrid. Besides, I will only get myself into trouble… Fine. Okay, but You have to make Your timing really clear.

More than an hour later, he stood up–was he leaving? No, he took the empty seat next to me. I continued to skim through a dry chapter of War and Peace.

Now? But what if I heard You wrong?

Then he stood again. “Can you save my seat for me?” he asked in perfect English.

Wait, he speaks English? 

It was only a few minutes before he drifted back to his reserved seat, bringing along a cloud of cigarette smoke. This time I did wrinkle my nose. “You’re killing yourself, you know?”

He turned to me. “Do you believe in destiny?” His voice was low and gentle.

A subconscious understanding of where the conversation was headed triggered words that I didn’t hear until they had sprung from my lips: “Are you a fatalist?”

From there, our conversation careened down a different path than he had intended. But it was exactly the path that God had intended.

I doubt I will ever see him again. But it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am learning to listen to God’s voice.