The Shepherds Speak
The spectacular angelic visitation to the shepherds the night of the Nativity is a familiar refrain of the Christmas season. We, as people of faith, grasp the implications of the angel’s message. But, how did the shepherds who first heard the angel chorus perceive the announcement?
“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they [the shepherds] were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.’”
TAKE A FRESH LOOK AT THE SHEPHERDS
The shepherds have been denigrated over the centuries as ignorant uneducated outcasts of society. Some bible scholars, however, suggest the shepherds watching the sheep on the hills around Bethlehem may have been part of the Levitical priesthood entrusted with the care of temple flocks. (1) These men were likely well-versed in the Hebrew Scriptures and were certainly familiar with Israel’s history including God’s covenant with King David.
There is a connection between Israel’s shepherd king and the angelic host’s appearance. A little over a thousand years before the Nativity, David was king of Israel. Under his leadership, the kingdom had been united and Jerusalem established as the capital.
Overwhelmed by gratitude for all God had done in his own experience, David determined to build a temple to house the Ark of the Covenant. Although he was denied that privilege, God consoled David through the prophet Nathan who delivered a message with the terms of what is known as the Davidic Covenant.
Nathan was straightforward. He told David, “your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” (2 Sam. 7:16). The Davidic Covenant is unconditional or unilateral and one of four in which God is the sole guarantor responsible for the fulfillment.
God Promised An Eternal Dynasty
The first provision of God’s covenant with David was “a house.” God was not promising to build David a place to eat, sleep and hang his hat. He already had a palace (2 Sam. 7:1). God declared:
“I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant, I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations” (Ps. 89:3-4) (2)
God guaranteed a dynasty, a royal line of descent, a posterity that would be eternal continuing into perpetuity.
God Promised An Everlasting Kingdom
Second, in addition to an eternal dynasty, God promised David an everlasting kingdom. Although not functioning at all times or in every period of subsequent history, the Davidic kingdom continues to be viable. Through the millennia of Gentile domination, the kingdom could have been restored at any time
God Promised An Established Throne Forever
Third, God promised David a throne, which like his posterity and kingdom, would be established forever (2 Sam. 7:16). Just as David’s kingdom has continued to have viability throughout history, the Davidic right to rule persists from David’s time into the future.
Despite periods when others have usurped the rule over Israel, God guarantees that the kingdom and the throne rightfully belong to David forever. God linked His Messianic program to King David assuring that the promised Messiah and Savior would descend through his family.
THE SHEPHERDS’ RESPONSE REVEALS THEIR KNOWLEDGE OF THE SCRIPTURES
The shepherds’ movements following the sensational angelic announcement confirm they grasped that Jesus was indeed Israel’s Messiah—the promised Redeemer. The Bible documents that the shepherds heard the angel’s message firsthand and immediately, “spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child” (Lk. 2:17, NIV).
If the shepherds could be teleported into the 21st century, they would urge us to join them in sharing the Good News of the Savior’s birth! The drama unfolding on the night of Jesus’ birth has captured the imagination of Christians through the centuries. By God’s grace, we share in the benefits of the awesome angelic announcement.
(1) Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah, (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.), 131.
(2) Even after Jehoram, a later king of Judah, married Ahab’s daughter and did, “evil in the eyes of the Lord,” God stood by His promise to David and would not, “destroy the house of David because of the covenant He had made with David” (2 Chron. 21:6-7).
1) The Adoration of the Shepherds. (Image used for illustrative purposes) (Photo credit: By Matthias Stom/Wikimedia/[Public domain]/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios)
2) “Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings,” as in Luke 2:8-20. (Image used for illustrative purposes) (Photo credit: Background and foreground images/Pixabay/Digital composition, MKM Portfolios)
Copyright © 2016 Charles E. McCracken, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author via Contact Form under ABOUT. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.