Rev. Kenneth Fellenbaum

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Milford, Connecticut, United States

Bible Verse of the Day

Monday, December 20, 2010

Why Shepherds

Have you ever wondered why the announcement of the birth of Jesus Christ was made by the angels to shepherds? Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a small village six miles southwest of Jerusalem. Bethlehem is known as the "Town of David" but it was not to royalty that the announcement of the new King's birth was made. Herod, the King of the Jews, learned about the birth through the Wise Men who were visitors from the East.

Bethlehem means "House of Bread." Nearby the village is the fields where Boaz, Ruth and others raised wheat and barley. However, it was not to farmers that the announcement was made of the birth of the One who would be known as "The Bread of Life" (John 6:35). Even a small hamlet like Bethlehem must have had some merchants who made a living through trade. There are certainly plenty of such shops today for pilgrims and tourists to frequent. The announcement of Jesus' birth was not made to merchants, farmers, or royalty but instead to several lowly shepherds. Why? I believe the answer is found in the prophecy of Micah 5:2-4 (also recorded in Matthew 2:6). "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel." The announcement of Jesus Christ's birth was made to the shepherds because the One who was going to be the Shepherd of Israel had come. (Isaiah 40:10-11 and Matthew 9:36).

Psalm 23 beautifully describes the work of a shepherd. Jesus also elaborated on the shepherd and his flock in John 10. A shepherd or pastor cares for his flock. He sees that the sheep have plenty of green grass and clean water. He leads them from one place to another. From time to time he has to retrieve a sheep that has strayed from the rest. Sometimes they need to have their wounds bound up and to be carried. The shepherd also protects his sheep from wild animals and thieves--anything that might harm the sheep. Jesus Christ is the "Great Shepherd of the sheep" (Hebrews 13:20) and he is the "Chief Shepherd" (1 Peter 5:4) who has come and will in the end reappear. God, our Creator, who knows us and our needs has sent us a Shepherd--One who has laid down His life for us (John 10:11).

Monday, December 6, 2010

Why Bethlehem?

Why did God choose Bethlehem to be the birthplace of Messiah? Most people answer by saying that because of the prophecy Messiah would be born there (see Matthew 2:4-6). This leads us to ask, "Why did God say that through the prophet Micah?" (5:2) One of the answers to this question is that Bethlehem was the "Town of David." This raises yet another question that I will attempt to answer below, "Why David?"

The Lord sent Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint a King to replace Saul (see 1 Samuel 16:1-3). God indicated that he had chosen one of Jesse's sons to be the next king of Israel. "When Samuel saw Eliab and thought, 'Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.'But the LORD said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart'” (1 Samuel 16:6-7). Then Jesse called his other sons to pass before Samuel, but he said, "'The LORD has not chosen these. So he asked Jesse, 'Are these all the sons you have?' 'There is still the youngest,' Jesse answered. 'He is tending the sheep.' Samuel said, 'Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.'So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the LORD said, 'Rise and anoint him; this is the one.'So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah" (1 Samuel 16:11-13).

This passage provides some insight into why God chose David. It was not because he was the youngest and had handsome features! The fact that he was a shepherd might have had something to do with it (see Micah 5:4-5). When the Lord first told Samuel that he was going to have him anoint a new king, this is what he had Samuel say to Saul, "'But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command'" (1 Samuel 13:14). God chose David because of his heart. We can see the heart of David in his fight with Goliath; also in his Psalms, and in his desire to build the Temple. While David had a great heart--it was not a perfect one. But that's what Christmas is all about--the birth of a Savior (see Acts 13:22 and Luke 2:10-11).

Lastly, Bethlehem means "House of Bread." Surrounding the town are many grain fields (see Ruth 1). It is of no surprise then that the One who would be the "Bread of Life" was born there (see John 6:35-51).