Friday, December 17, 2010

12 Days of Christmas - Day 9: Shepherds

Sally deFord has a lovely SATB arrangement with flute obligato of  "While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night."
 Our choir sang it yesterday in church and I think it was lovely.  You can click on the mP3 links on  the lower right of that page to hear this arrangement sung.  If you are not acquainted with Sally deFord's site, she has hundreds of FREE arrangements for musicians to print out and use and there are often Mp3 links for everyone to listen to.  Enjoy yourself listening to the heavenly choir.

YouTube has many different versions of "While Shepherds watched their Flocks."  This one sounds to me like it might be sung by actual shepherds.

Luke 2:8-20

There are a LOT of shepherds in the scriptures.  This commentary on them is taken from the Holman Bible Dictionary, written by Elmer Gray


A keeper of sheep. The first keeper of sheep in the Bible was Adam's son Abel (Genesis 4:2 ). Shepherding was the chief occupation of the Israelites in the early days of the patriarchs: Abraham (Genesis 12:16 ); Rachel (Genesis 29:9 ); Jacob (Genesis 30:31-40 ); Moses (Exodus 3:1).
As cultivation of crops increased, shepherding fell from favor and was assigned to younger sons, hirelings, and slaves (compare David in1 Samuel 16:11-13 ). Farmers such as in Egypt even hated shepherds (Genesis 46:34 ).
The Bible mentions shepherds and shepherding over 200 times. However, the Hebrew word for shepherding is often translated, “feeding.” Shepherds led sheep to pasture and water (Psalm 23:1 ) and protected them from wild animals (1 Samuel 17:34-35 ). Shepherds guarded their flocks at night whether in the open (Luke 2:8 ) or in sheepfolds (Zephaniah 2:6 ) where they counted the sheep as they entered (Jeremiah 33:13 ). They took care of the sheep and even carried weak lambs in their arms (Isaiah 40:11 ).
Shepherd came to designate not only persons who herded sheep but also kings (2 Samuel 5:2 ) and God Himself (Psalm 23:1 ; Isaiah 40:11 ). Later prophets referred to Israel's leaders as shepherds (Jeremiah 23:1 ;Ezekiel 34:1 ).
In Bible times the sheep cared for by shepherds represented wealth. They provided food (1 Samuel 14:32 ), milk to drink (Isaiah 7:21-22 ), wool for clothing (Job 31:20 ), hides for rough clothing (Matthew 7:15 ), and leather for tents (Exodus 26:14 ). Furthermore, sheep were major offerings in the sacrificial system (Exodus 20:24 ). They were offered as burnt offerings (Leviticus 1:10 ), sin offerings (Leviticus 4:32 ), guilt offerings (Leviticus 5:15 ), and peace offerings (Leviticus 22:21 ).
The New Testament mentions shepherds 16 times. They were among the first to visit Jesus at His birth (Luke 2:8-20 ). Some New Testament references used a shepherd and the sheep to illustrate Christ's relationship to His followers who referred to Him as “our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrews 13:20 ). Jesus spoke of Himself as “the good shepherd” who knew His sheep and would lay down His life for them (John 10:7-18 ). Jesus commissioned Peter to feed His sheep (John 21:1 ). Paul likened the church and its leaders to a flock with shepherds (Acts 20:28 ). The Latin word transliterated “pastor” means shepherd.

Now, this is from me: Did you ever wonder why shepherds were given the great opportunity to be the first to go see the baby Jesus?

Why not the bakers in town? This was Bethlehem (Hebrew for "house of bread"). [I once had a rabbi tell me there must have been famous bakery there.] I say/go read John 6, esp. 35.

Or maybe blacksmiths: there would be one or two around the local stables, surely.

But instead God sent the angelic message and choir to the shepherds. They were out on the hills, watching the sheep by night because this was spring, the lambing season, and they would need to witness the births of the lambs in order to separate out and mark - perhaps with a scarlet cord tied around the neck - all the firstborn lambs, which would then all belong to the Lord and His temple (Ex. 13:2).

So, this was their job: to witness the birth of the Lamb of God, His Firstborn who was slain before the foundation of the earth.

Oh, and did you know that ra'ah, the Hebrew word for shepherd, also means friend? Who better than His friends to witness to the rest of the world of the birth and rebirth of the Lamb?

No comments: