The Shepherds and the Shepherd King

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The Shepherds and the Angels

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 2 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.–Luke 2 ESV

The Shepherds and the Shepherd King

The angel Gabriel told Mary, “you…will bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He…will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David….”–David, the shepherd Psalmist, who was chosen by God as king of Israel.

In Genesis, God himself is called “the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel”(49:24).

The Patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—were all shepherds. Moses, the shepherd, shepherded God’s people for over forty years.

The shepherd David’s most famous Psalm begins, “The LORD is my shepherd.”

The shepherd Amos ended his prophecy of terrible judgments with the promise that, “In that day I will restore the fallen house of David….”

How wondrous, then, that an angel declared this to Shepherds of Bethlehem, “…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 Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

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Still, today, in struggling with the existential conundrum of God vis a vis the Jewish people, a rabbi denotes ‘shepherd’ as “a root metaphor” standing behind the “community’s beliefs, values and behavior.”*

Modern attempts to dismiss the story of the shepherds as legendary propose motives such as this:

“God’s grace is revealed to a group of people held in low regard (e.g. as thieves) by the Jews. But the evidence for this [low regard] is late…” (Luke, I. Howard Marshall).

Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel notes: “In a Midrash to the Book of Psalms, the third century [A.D.] Rabbi Yosi bar Hanina noted that there is no occupation more degrading than that of a shepherd who walks around like a beggar holding a staff and bag in hand.”*

Taking this later situation which followed the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of Israel and applying it to the time of Jesus, the Good Shepherd (John 10), creates an anachronism{–” an error in chronology; especially : a chronological misplacing of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other.” The status of shepherds in the third century A.D. is not the same as that of the shepherds in the first century B.C., the time of Jesus birth.}

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Making Christ Known

May we be mindful that we are called to respond to the Angel’s message just as the Shepherds did–sharing the Good News with others. For all who have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb….the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to fountains of the waters of life”(Rev. 7:17).

*Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel, A Shepherd’s Song: Psalm 23 and the Shepherd Metaphor in Jewish Thought (New York: Kodesh Press, 2014).

Fr. Ted’s Blog: Parable of the Sower

sower

“A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell along the path, and was trodden under foot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew, and yielded a hundredfold.”

As he said this, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Fr. Ted’s Blog Post Here

 

 

Of Lawyers, Language, and Learning

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And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” Luke 10 ESV

From the Kings James Version till today’s English Standard Version, the common translation of “lawyer” has been used for nomikos (“according to the law” Kittel). In King James’ day, Christians understood what that meant. Today, most Christians are clueless. We must not neglect the details.

Other versions, like the NIV, have helped some with “expert in the law.” But the unknown in most minds today, is: ‘to what does “law” [nomos] refer?’ “It normally denotes the Pentateuch.”–Kittel

Thus, Jesus’ interrogator was one “learned in the Law” of Moses. Then, we come to two of the major characters of the parable, the priest and the Levite. We are, now, set up for the shock (in Jesus’ day) of the despised Samaritan (LINK).

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Babylon

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Revelation 14

Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people— saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”

And another angel followed, saying, “Babylon[f] is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”

Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”

12 Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.

13 Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’”

“Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”

Good Friday–Dying for the Ungodly

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Romans 5

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, . . . the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

We, as Christians, need to hold onto a keen awareness of the facts to which Paul points us in Romans 5.

Christ died for the ungodly (v. 6).

While we were sinners, Christ died for us (v. 8).

Even while we were enemies, . . . (v. 10)!

Accepting this sharpens our hearing as we listen to the words of our Lord:  “ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”–Matthew 5

Christ tells us to imitate our Father.

 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. . . .  and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”–Luke 6

What resources do we have to obey? The gift given when we were reconciled. Romans 5 tells us that   “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Adolf Schlatter writes, “The ungodly were loved by the one who did the will of God.  The act of love by which he unites the ungodly with himself, at the same time is the act of obedience by which he does the will of God. Hence his love originates from God’s love. He has demonstrated the extent to which God values the person and intently unites him with himself, in that Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans, p. 123f)

Thus, we (who were loved even as enemies) trust and obey and praise God for Good Friday! You might like to read Charles Spurgeon’s reflections on this day. See April 10 in his Morning and Evening book and read some of the days before and after. (You can find this to read on-line.) Spurgeon truly understood the effects and implications of Good Friday, both in what Christ did for us, and what He calls us to do for others.  Spurgeon Quotes Here

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Holy Week–Hosanna!

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Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.
–Zechariah 9

Jerusalem and The Passover Feast

The ISBE sets the scene:

Pilgrimage was made annually to Jerusalem for the Passover sacrifice…
Passover in NT temple days was a spectacle of excitement and devotion. Pilgrims near and far ascended to the holy city…
Days before Passover began, Jerusalem was a hubbub…Many pilgrims…arrived early to sell or barter their wares…

And numbers? Josephus’ assessment of 3 million Jews (including the city residents) is considered an “extreme exaggeration” or symbolic. But the throngs of pilgrims would have swelled to well over one hundred thousand.

Jesus and the Crowds

John tells us that “six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus was…” (John 12:1), and dined with him and his sisters. This event attracted its own crowd of disciples and others.
“Now [on the next day] when they drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples” (Mat. 21), to fetch a donkey.
And then, “a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him…” (John 12:12).

So, here is the scene. With crowds of pilgrims converging on Jerusalem from every direction, some pilgrims who have heard of his approach meet Jesus, accompanied by a crowd of disciples, on the road outside of Jerusalem.

[Looking Ahead: As an important side note, let us not overlook the unfounded equating, that we may hear, of the “crowds” accompanying Jesus outside the city, shouting, “Hosanna” with the “crowd” in the city before Pilate’s seat, shouting “crucify.” Though a popular refrain, it is poor speculation, which pays no attention to the setting and has no foundation in the text itself.]

Hosanna

Hosanna is a transliteration [“to represent or spell in the characters of another alphabet” a word from a different language in one’s own language] of the Hebrew word from Psalm 118:25 which is translated, “Save now, I pray, O LORD;…”

W.F. Albright notes, in Matthew (AB) that it “is a prayer for deliverance (“Save now!”); it is not in any way a cry of praise….The meaning of the vocative [“a grammatical case in certain inflected languages to indicate the person…being addressed.”] la was misunderstood quite early, and the Greek translation therefore rendered the vocative O son of David as “to the son of David,”…[italic mine] What we have here, therefore, is an ancient liturgical text, a cry to the anointed king for deliverance”.

We see the same picture in the episode immediately preceding the Triumphal Entry, in the plea of the Two Blind Men (Mat. 20:29-34): “Take pity on us, son of David!”

“Sir, let our eyes be opened.”

[This is the first post with which I began this blog on 1 April 2012 #Palm Sunday]

 

On Earth Peace . . .

PeacedoveGlory to God

in the highest,

and on earth peace

to men on whom

his favor rests.

Luke 2:14 (NIV)

We may pause amid this season’s bustle and reflect on familiar words–yet a bit unfamiliar in recent versions which bring out the Christmas message.  Peace is rooted in God’s favor, in his grace.  Peace comes through God’s act of sending the Christ for the purpose of bringing salvation to many.  Peace dwells in the household of faith.  For all this, we with the angels may truly utter praise, “Glory to God . . .”

The clear note of the gospel is muffled by the phrase “‘men of goodwill’ [which] ought to disappear entirely from Bible translations and Christmas meditations!” (NIDNT).  And we ought not to muffle the message.  For multitudes, there is no peace, only dread.  Many long to hear tidings of comfort and joy, and to partake of that peace that passes understanding, singing with the redeemed, “peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”

The Faithful (O Come, All Ye . . .) will declare these tidings to their neighbor. God’s gift of peace is intimately joined with obedience to all that our Lord Jesus Christ commands (Isaiah 48:18), including his call to us to be his witnesses.  At Christmas, opportunities abound for sharing with those in darkness tidings of the Prince of Peace.

For those in darkness, George Fox was clear about the first step to peace:

I directed them to the Divine Light of Christ . . . by which Light they might see their sin and also their Saviour Christ Jesus to save them from their sins.  This I told them was their first step to peace . . .

We, too, must be clear about this.  Where “the whole world is in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), and where peddlers abound selling panaceas for peace, we must declare:

Peace is not bought but brought;

not gotten but given;

not  “hyped” but hidden.

And for them that have faith,

faith in the only Son begotten of

the Father,

the promise is fulfilled–

Salvation comes.

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you” (1 Peter 1:2), and through you this Christmas.

–First published in Quaker Life, December, 1985.  Here is one way to share the Christmas story with others.

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Devotion for Advent: The Word Became Flesh

word became flesh“. . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1

An excellent devotion for Advent, is Athanasius On The Incarnation.

C. S. Lewis wrote the Preface for this edition(Link), advising us to not read another new book until we have read an old one. And if we have not time for both, to read the old.

Or

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Athanasius