Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1
Thesis: Joy arrives on the wings of a real confidence in the Shepherd.
Introduction: If we could see things the way God sees them, one of the first things we would notice is just how absolutely crucial our attitude is. This "cruciality" is made manifest by the overwhelming and inescapable focus in the Scriptures upon the necessity of "faith"... beginning with Genesis 3 and coming to a head with the doctrine of "salvation by grace through faith".
If we could see with clarity, one of the most shocking things we would discover is how much of our lives we have turned over to the tyranny of our circumstances -- those people, places, events, and things with which we invest the control over our attitudes. Two things can be said without debate: 1) that the absence of joy is one of the "feeder roots" of all of the evil that is in the world; and 2) that one of the greatest contributions to godly behavior is the dominating presence of joy in the heart. It was this fundamental truth that sponsored Yahweh's call in Isaiah 45:22 -- "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I AM 'EL' and there IS NONE ELSE" (AV). Every time someone gripes about anything, they are announcing to the world how great is their unbelief. To turn one's emotional state over to the tyranny of circumstances is one of the greatest mistakes that believers can make: it is the surrender of life.
It is to these truths that Luke turns his attention as he writes his Gospel of Jesus, the Christ. And, it is for the development of these truths that Luke pushes the doctrine of "Yahweh's grace". And, it is also for the development of these truths that Luke told of the shepherds in the pastures of Bethlehem on the night of the birth of the Son of El Most High.
February 6, 2005
- I. Luke's Choice of the Shepherd Record.
- A. If not for Luke, we would know absolutely nothing about the angelic announcement to the shepherds.
- 1. There are tons of things which God has done about which we know nothing (note John 21:25).
- 2. It is likely that God did many special things in the lives of many people at the time of the birth of His Only Begotten, but we know for sure only what Matthew and Luke decided to tell us.
- B. Because of Luke, we have the opportunity to ask a pertinent question: what was it that Yahweh, EL MOST HIGH wished to accomplish by "moving" Luke to record what happened in the pastures of Bethlehem on the night when Jesus was born?
- 1. The question is pertinent because of Matthew's highly contrastive record.
- 2. The question's answer is to be found in comparing Matthew and Luke in respect to their Christologies.
- a. Matthew clearly has a "Lion King" thesis as its necessity is found in the problematic inclusion of people in the Eternal Kingdom of God.
- b. Luke, just as clearly, has a "Shepherd King" thesis as its necessity is found in the problematic inclusion of people in the Eternal Kingdom of God.
- c. When we compare Matthew and Luke, we find...
- 1) That the visit of the Magi sets the tone of his entire record of Jesus as the "greater than Solomon" (Matthew 12:42) Whose wise guidance of the people will issue forth in the practice of personal, interactive righteousness by those people.
- a) The Magi were echoes of 1 Kings 4:34.
- b) The Magi were harbingers of Isaiah 2:3.
- 2) That the visit of the angel to the shepherds likewise sets the tone of Luke's record of Jesus as the Shepherd of Israel (Psalm 80) Whose careful watch over the flock of God will issue forth in the practice of personal, interactive righteousness by that flock.
- a) The shepherds were echoes of the Shepherd King of Bethlehem (Psalm 78: 70-72).
- b) The shepherds were harbingers of Revelation 7:17 and 21:4.
- 3) That the chief difference between Matthew and Luke is that Matthew focuses upon the demands which healthy relationships make upon people and Luke focuses upon the contributions which "true health" makes in developing those healthy relationships.
- a) For Luke, "true health" is rooted in the attitudes one takes.
- b) For Luke, the attitudes one takes are heavily dependent upon WHO the Shepherd really is, and WHAT He is like ("name him John").
- i. Shepherds determine the circumstances of their sheep.
- ii. Sheep who trust their shepherd don't spend much time "stressed out over their circumstances".
- II. Luke's Selectivity in His Shepherd Record.
- A. He deliberately links the shepherds to the "Bethlehem" thesis of 2:1-7 ("And shepherds were in that same region...").
- B. He deliberately focuses upon the shepherds' own personal discomfort (except for the birth pangs, a setting worse than Joseph's and Mary's).
- C. He deliberately focuses upon the sheep's need for the provision of protection for peace of mind.
- 1. The word "keeping" has overtones of "guarding".
- 2. The word "watch" has overtones of "prison"...indicating a "pen".
- 3. The word "by night" has overtones of "the greater time of danger".
- 4. The words can all be twisted into negatives by those who do not wish to be sheep, but are all conducive to joy for those who don't mind being what they are.
- D. He deliberately uses these opening comments to introduce the overall issue of the paragraph: a Message of Great Joy to all People.
- 1. The greatest destroyer of joy is the agitation of mind that comes from being dissatisfied with the Shepherd of Israel.
- 2. The provision of joy must, therefore, address that agitation of mind with a better understanding of the Shepherd.
- III. Conclusions...
- A. At the outset we said that true faith is absolutely crucial to life.
- B. And we said that we would be shocked at how much of our lives we have turned over to those who are far less shepherds than the Good, Chief, and Great Shepherd.
- C. Joy returns when we turn -- back to the only EL there is.