"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
December 24, 2008
In 1 Samuel we read where Israel was ruled by judges, but the time came when they began making demands for a king to judge them, so that they could become like the other nations. Samuel had been their judge for many years and it caused him much heartache when the people came to him desiring a king. But God spoke to Samuel and told him that the people were not rejecting him, but were instead rejecting God that He should not reign over them.
The people got their wish, and Samuel anointed Saul to became the first king of Israel. The Bible describes him as being the most handsome man in all of Israel. He stood head and shoulders above everyone else. Saul began his reign by seeking out Samuel's advice and heeding it. But over time he became very rash in his actions and began acting on his own, apart from God and Samuel. I'm sure that his power and authority went to his head and his ego became very inflated, making him think that he didn't need advice or help from anyone. The day came when Saul blatantly disobeyed God's commandments, and Samuel told him because of that, his kingdom over Israel would not last. Instead, God had chosen a man after His own heart to reign.
1 Samuel 15:35 says that God regretted that He had ever made Saul king over Israel. Because of Saul's total and complete disobedience against God, God rejected him as king.
In 1 Samuel chapter 16, God tells Samuel that it is time to stop mourning for Saul's actions, but to go anoint the one who was to reign as the next king. God told him to go to the house of Jesse, who lived in Bethlehem, and anoint the son whom God told him to. Jesse brought his son's before Samuel, and one of them looked strong and capable and Samuel thought, "Surely this is the one that God has chosen."
But God spoke to Samuel in verse 7 and said, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, for I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
Seven of Jesse's sons passed before Samuel, but none of them were the ones whom the Lord had chosen. Samuel asked if there were anymore sons. Jesse told him that this was all except the youngest, who was keeping watch over the sheep.
When David was brought before Samuel, the Lord spoke and said, "Arise, anoint him, for this is the one!" Verse 13 says that when Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers, the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.
When Samuel showed up in Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse's sons as king, I'm sure that Jesse thought that whomever was chosen would begin reigning within in a short amount of time. He therefore assumed that one of his older sons would be the chosen one. How could a young boy, who was out in the field watching sheep, possibly be the one whom God had chosen? Yet God saw David's heart and knew that he would follow His commandments, and be a great leader for Israel. Several years passed before Saul died and David took the throne as king of Israel. During that time, David had time to mature and prepare himself for the royal position in which God had specifically appointed and anointed him to fill.
There is a song that says, "While others see a shepherd boy, God may see a king." It's easy at times for us to judge by outward appearances and by what we see and think we know. Yet we cannot see the potential that is within the individual; only God knows what is within the heart of man.
In Matthew chapter one, we read about the lineage of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. In verse six, we read that King David was an ancestor of Joseph. That was why Joseph had to go to David's home town of Bethlehem, to register for tax purposes, right before Mary gave birth to Jesus.
David had a very humble beginning, but prospered to become the greatest king Israel ever had. When he was a boy running through the small town of Bethlehem, I doubt that anyone looked at him and thought, "Now there goes a future king!" When he was out in the fields watching over the sheep and was dirty and smelly, everyone probably assumed that he would grow up to be a shepherd. But God looked down and saw a young boy sitting out on the hillside, playing his harp and making up songs while watching his father's sheep, and saw David's full potential.
I believe that shepherds had, and still have, a special place in God's heart. He saw the whole picture and knew that this young shepherd would become a powerful leader. He also knew that the birth of His Son would first be announced to shepherds. Most importantly, God knew that He Himself was the Chief Shepherd and that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, would be likened unto a Lamb. Nothing happened by accident, but it was all part of God's overall plan. I believe that God orchestrated all these events in history regarding shepherds.
Last week I wrote about the shepherds being the first who received the announcement from the angel about the birth of Jesus. Being a shepherd was not a prestigious or glamorous job. They were just ordinary people who kept watch over a herd of sheep.
But in Luke chapter two, you will notice that when the angels arrived to announce the birth of the Messiah, the shepherds didn't debate about whether or not they should leave their sheep. They didn't argue over who had to stay and who could go. They didn't make excuses for why they couldn't make the journey into Bethlehem. They didn't say, "We need to go tell our families where we're going," or "We need to first go get provisions for our trip," or "We need to go ask permission from the owners of the sheep before we can go." No! They said, "Let's go see this thing which was told us by the angels." Then they took off towards Bethlehem. They immediately responded to the announcement given to them. Their hearts were open to receive the good news that the Savior had just made His appearance on earth.
When the star appeared unto the wise men, they had something to direct them. But the scripture doesn't say that the shepherds had anything to show them where Jesus was. They just knew that He was in a stable lying in a manger. So upon their arrival in Bethlehem, they more than likely began making inquiries of everyone they met; asking if anyone knew of any babies that had been born in a stable. Word may have begun to spread throughout Bethlehem that there were a group of shepherds scouring the village looking for a newborn baby, who was the promised Messiah.
Why did God choose shepherds to be the ones to receive the good news? I believe it's because of the significance that God is our Shepherd, and we are referred to as being His sheep. A few of these references are:
Psalms 23 begins, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures..."
John 10:11 says, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep." Verse 14 continues, "I am the good shepherd, and I know My sheep, and am know by My own."
Isaiah 40:11 says, "He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young."
1 Peter 5:4, "When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away."
When Jesus taught, He used stories and visual lessons so that people would understand. Since Jesus is our Great Shepherd and we are the sheep of His pasture, what better way to announce the birth of the Messiah than to a group of shepherds who were watching over their sheep. We can visually make the connection in our minds between the two, and it begins to make sense and become clear. When we mentally picture shepherds caring for their flocks, it makes it easier to make the connection of Jesus being our Shepherd and watching over and caring for us, the sheep within His pasture.
To go a step further, Jesus later gives a parable about the shepherd leaving his sheep to go after that one lost sheep. So what better picture is that than this group of shepherds being willing to leave their sheep that night, in order to go search for that One newborn Lamb.
We can also make the correlation that when Jesus was born, He was the Lamb of God; since God is the Chief Shepherd, and was the Father of the Holy Child.
In John 1:29, John saw Jesus walking towards him and proclaimed, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."
God, who is the Chief Shepherd, chose to have the good news of Christ birth proclaimed to a group of earthly shepherds. This band of dirty, smelly shepherd men made the trek to Bethlehem to bow down and worship Jesus, the Lamb of God. These earthly shepherds were the first visitors to come and honor the ultimate Shepherd of the world. How amazing it that?!
Does God orchestrate events, or do they just happen by accident? God causes things to happen the way that they're supposed to. The angels didn't make a mistake and appear before the wrong group of men, but God specifically sent them to announce the good news to the shepherds in the field. He wasn't looking down from His throne in heaven thinking, "Oh no! You angels were supposed to go to announce My Son's birth to royalty; not these common men!" It didn't catch Him by surprise that Joseph and Mary made the journey to Bethlehem and that His Son was born in a stable. Every single detail was a part of God's divine plan.
Jesus, the King of Kings who reigns over heaven and earth from His throne in heaven, humbled Himself to take on the form of a man. He was made of flesh and blood just as we are. He knew what it was to be tired, dirty, hated, abused and tormented. He knew what it was to have those closest to Him to deny knowing Him. He knew what it was to have someone turn traitor and betray Him. How can we possibly think that what we deal with in life is too difficult for Jesus to understand? He endured much more than any of us will ever have to.
I believe that God wanted the world to know that the gift of His Son was sent so that all mankind could have redemption; from those who had no home, to those who worked out in the fields, to the kings who lived in the palaces, and everyone in between. It doesn't matter how rich or poor we may be, or whether or not we have a title, or how well known we may or may not be. God's Son was sent for all mankind.
There are people who need Christ in their life, who seem to think that they have to clean themselves up before Jesus will accept them. If only mankind would realize that God accepts them just as they are. The shepherds came as they were, straight from the hills, in order to see the newborn King. David came straight from watching sheep to be presented before Samuel, when he was anointed as king. Each of us can come to God anytime we want, regardless of our circumstances, past, or where we are, or where we've been, or what we look like. Just as we are, we will be accepted.
Just as David ran from watching the sheep to be presented to Samuel and be anointed as king, and just as the shepherds immediately left the fields to go seek the Messiah, may we each be willing to leave whatever we may be doing and obey God. May we be willing to say, "Yes" to God, without question and without excuse.
Let's learn from the shepherds and run to worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords this Christmas. For a short time, may we be willing to forget our jobs and responsibilities and everything else in order to bow before the Great Shepherd. Let's celebrate our Redeemer and the Savior of the world!!
I've been reading in Revelation lately. Today, I read about Jesus' Glorious Return. He will reign in person for 1000 years after the tribulation. I don't really know what that will be like. But during the thousand years, Satan will be bound, the false prophet and antichrist will be out of the way. It sounds great.
But it won't come until after the Rapture and after the Tribulation. And it isn't offered to anyone who takes the sign of the beast. You've probably heard the mark is six hundred sixty six. That's clearly what Revelation says. But that has lulled many people into believing they know exactly what the mark of the beast will be. I want to make sure our readers know that it isn't quite that simple. What we read is the English version. We read the Arabic numerals (three 6s). But there are also Roman numerals, Greek numerals (two different kinds), and many other numbering systems. When the time comes, it's important for anyone still on Earth, please don't accept a symbol or mark of any kind on your palm or forehead.
1 stick oleo
1 small jar maraschino cherries, chopped (not drained)
1 can Eagle Brand milk
3 lb. Powdered Sugar
1 pkg. flake coconut
2 cups chopped nuts
Put all the ingredients into a bowl. Butter your hands and work the mixture with your hands. Chill, then roll into small balls; chill again.
Melt 3 (6 oz.) packages chocolate chips in double boiler; add 1 block paraffin. Using a toothpick, dip candy in chocolate. Lay on waxed paper. Makes approximately 100 balls, depending on size of balls.
A couple weeks ago, Jon and I met some of my family at Silver Dollar City for their Christmas festival. With the exception of having to deal with the crowds (if you ever go, don't go on a weekend!), this has to be one of my very favorite places to go during Christmas. All the lights and decorations are gorgeous and makes it look like a fairyland. I love walking around looking at the lights, drinking hot chocolate or eating a funnel cake, listening to the music and going to their shows, and feeling like a kid again.
When we last went, a couple of my nephews and their families joined us. One of them has a couple of little ones and it was fun seeing things through their eyes. Winston will be three on December 28th and Lillian is 19 months. It was so crowded there it would have been impossible to push a stroller through the streets, and the kids are small enough that you pretty much have to carry them around or they wouldn't be able to see anything.
Lillian is a mess! Her daddy said that she is much more of a handful than her big brother, Winston, is. She is fearless and curious and independent. We couldn't set her down or she was off like a flash. I was carrying her and there were lighted snowflakes hanging from the trees up above us. She laid back in my arms and was so enthralled with the lights.
The shops are completely covered in lights and when I was carrying Winston he would point at one ahead of us and say, "I want to go see that house", then once we passed it he would see another one and say, "Let's go see that house." He is at the age where he repeats things that he hears and doesn't really understand exactly what he's saying. He asked me, "Wanna know what I know?" I asked what he knows and his answer was, "I know everything!" His parents told me that he has started telling them, "I want everything that I want." At one time he had overheard someone say or had his daycare teacher say that something wasn't their business. His mom would ask him something and he would answer, "It's not your business, Mom... not your business."
It was fun being with family, but it was also fun seeing the lights through the eyes of a child. If you've lost your Christmas spirit and have become "Bah Humbug", perhaps you need to spend time with a child around the holidays and take them to see Christmas lights or Santa Claus or some other type of Christmas event. Give your Christmas spirit a jump-start.
Many years ago, a pastor at my church at that time wrote the following for the church bulletin. I don't decorate my tree like this (I have snowmen) but thought it was interesting to think about, and also could be used as a teaching tool for kids or as an object lesson.
"Everything about Christmas should point to Jesus, even your tree. The lights on your tree testify that Jesus is the light (John 1:4). Different colored lights testify that He is the light of the nations. (John 8:12) Blue ornaments represent heaven from which Jesus came (1 Corinthians 15:47), and red ornaments signify the blood He shed on the cross (Hebrews 9:22). Silver and gold ornaments or garland represent the riches that are now ours through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:8). As you consider how the decorations on you tree can testify of Jesus, step back and take a good look at it. In which direction does your tree point? That's right, it points up! Everything about your tree points to Him."
Today is Christmas Eve! We hope this Christmas is a wonderful time for each of you. Sit back, relax, enjoy time with family and friends and have a great Christmas. We pray that each of you are abundantly blessed and filled with joy.
We love you!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read our newsletter. We appreciate you very much.
Loretta & Jon