Devotional

God Uses Ordinary People

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior–yes, the Messiah, the Lord–has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” – Luke 2:9-11 NLT

I love decorating for Christmas. Every year I set up the nativity set. In the stable are Mary and Joseph with Jesus in the manger. Among scattered sheep and other animals are shepherds. They’re dressed ruggedly in wool. One shepherd stands, gazing at Jesus in wonder. Another shepherd kneels before the newborn Savior.

Imagine how the shepherds felt that first Christmas. It probably seemed like an ordinary night watching the sheep. Suddenly an angel appeared, terrifying them! The angel tells them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior–yes, the Messiah, the Lord–has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!”

How amazed the shepherds must have been that they were the ones told the news of Messiah’s birth. They were workers of the pasture, caretakers of sheep. They weren’t the religious leaders, the rulers of society, or even considered popular or important. They were ordinary people. Why would God choose to announce the birth of His Son, the Savior and Messiah to them? God’s choice reveals His love for everyone. God accepted the shepherds – and He accepts us, too!

God’s good news was of joy! The long awaited Savior was born. The news was for all people. The angel was joined by a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men.”

The shepherds heard the news. Did the shepherds understand what that peace would mean? Did they know that their Savior would save them from the penalty of sin? Or did they think He was a political Savior? Many people expected that the Messiah, or Christ, would come in power and free them from the Roman occupation. Regardless of how much they understood, they heard the angels praise God.

Shepherds meet Jesus, the newborn Savior – image by Kathryn Hughes

The shepherds investigated. They didn’t sit back on the ground and count it as an interesting event. They acted on what they heard. The shepherds hurried into Bethlehem to find the Messiah. They found the Baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger, just as the angel told them.

The shepherds told people about Jesus. “They made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning the Child.” (Luke 2:17). God uses ordinary people for His purposes. He used shepherds to share the joyful news to share the news that Jesus, the Savior, was born. God still uses ordinary people today.

Who will you tell about Jesus? Think of someone, and commit to sharing the Good news with them this week.                                                                                                   

Dear God, thank you for the Good News that brings joy to all who will listen. Thank you for Jesus, my Savior. Please help me to be bold in sharing about you like the shepherds were after they heard and investigated. Amen.

###


Top photo of Tunisia sheep and shepherdess by Olga Ozik from Pixabay

Did You Know?

How were shepherds viewed in Jesus’ day?

Some scholars claim that in Christ’s day, shepherds were at the bottom of the Palestinian social ladder. Randy Alcorn writes “Smug religious leaders maintained a strict caste system at the expense of shepherds and other common folk. Shepherds were officially labeled “sinners”—a technical term for a class of despised people.”[1]

Other scholars disagree that shepherds were the downcast. David Croteau reviews some of the claims of shepherds as outcasts  in Christmas Urban Legends: Shepherds as Outcasts. Finding the claims from outside of Jesus’ time on earth or from other cultures, Croteau states he “was unable to find even one source from first-century Israel used to support the view that shepherds were societal outcasts. Therefore, this viewpoint is dated after the events being studied in Luke 2. It is unreliable information and should be discarded when interpreting the Gospels.” Croteau continues with examples of shepherds throughout the Old and New Testaments, including Jesus as the Good Shepherd. “There is better evidence for the idea that shepherds were not viewed as societal outcasts: the overarching biblical portrayal of shepherds. The description of shepherds in the Old and New Testaments would be formative for the minds of first-century Jews and Christians.”[2]


[1] Shepherd’s Status by Randy Alcorn May 11, 2008. https://www.epm.org/resources/2008/Mar/11/shepherds-status/

[2] Christmas Urban Legends: Shepherds as Outcasts by David Croteau, Lifeway Research Dec 17, 2015. https://lifewayresearch.com/2015/12/17/christmas-urban-legends-shepherds-as-outcasts/

Thank you for joining me and for reading my devotional blogs.  Blogs post every other Thursday. Past devotionals are archived for your convenience.

Devotional

What did Joseph Know?

By Kathryn J. Hughes

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream…When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. (Matthew 1: 18, 19, 20a, 24 NIV)

In my last devotional I considered what Mary knew that convinced her to agree to become the mother of Jesus. Mary had great trust in God that led her to submit to the changes of her plans and to her willingness to face the problems she would encounter giving birth to God’s only Son.

What about Joseph? What did Joseph know that caused him believe this seemly outlandish claim that his virgin promised wife carried the Son of God in her womb? Joseph knew the baby was not his. Her pregnancy gave him reason to break their betrothal contract to get married. Even though the wedding had not yet occurred, it was binding as if married, and a betrothed couple was often referred to as husband and wife.

Photo by JINU JOSEPH on Pexels.com

We know from Scripture that Joseph did not believe Mary at first. Joseph was a just man, but also a compassionate one. Matthew chapter one tells us that Joseph being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. Mary could have been stoned for immorality. If Joseph wanted to maintain his own claim of moral purity, Mary’s punishment may have stopped people questioning his own actions.

Joseph received visits from the angel of the Lord. While he was thinking of breaking their betrothal, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call his name JESUS, for He will save his people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet, saying, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:18-25 NKJV)

Joseph was obedient to God. He followed the angel’s instructions to take Mary as his wife. Obedience to the Lord God was more important to Joseph than his reputation or the fact that the Child was not his own and that he would have the responsibility for raising Jesus. He exhibited patience and self-control. He did not have marital relations with Mary until after Jesus was born. He followed whatever the Lord directed him to do.

Later, when an angel warned Joseph to flee from Bethlehem to Egypt because Herod sought to destroy the young child, Joseph immediately moved his small family to that foreign culture. His other angelic dreams told him to return to Israel after Herod’s death, and then to settle in the region of Galilee. Joseph could have argued that he had his carpentry trade established in the various places they lived. Instead, Joseph was quick to act as he is directed. Joseph couldn’t know everything the future held any better than any of us. He and Mary both marveled at the things that were spoken of Jesus by Simeon. (Luke 2:25-33) He obeyed anyway.

* * *

May we be like Joseph, righteous, just, and obedient to God. We may not have angelic instructions, but we have the Holy Spirit who guides us. What is He directing you to do? What are some steps you can follow so you will do it?

Dear Holy Spirit, Thank you that my righteousness comes from Jesus Christ because of His sacrifice for me. Please help me to hear your directions and to obey. Please help me to be just in my dealings with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.