Astonished

I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:9

The message to the shepherd boys was clear: the long-awaited Messiah was about to be born. Having been taught in the synagogues for the past several years, the boys probably had a good idea what that message meant, though not to the fullest extent (even Jesus’ followers 30 years later didn’t fully understand the significance).

At this point, the boys were probably just staring in astonishment at the message and the angel of the Lord delivering it.

It was an awesome task they were now assigned. It would mean they would have to leave their sheep behind, and of course endure the consequences of their fathers’ wrath when the fathers were sure to find out.

Their lives would forever be changed. Their fathers probably would not believe their story…at first, but they had to do go.

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Interruption of the Keepers of the Sheep

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid…” Luke 2:8

In the few days leading up to Christmas, I’d like to focus on what the angel of the Lord said to various people in the Christmas story.

Shepherd boys were watching their flocks. The work wasn’t particularly difficult but the responsibilities were great for mere boys. They were the Keeper of the Sheep. Typical night. Watching the sheep below and the stars above, horsing around with one another, dreaming. Typical boy stuff. This is where it gets interesting. An angel of the Lord appeared AND the glory of the Lord shone around them. I don’t know what the glory of the Lord looked like back then but it got them all shook up.

Then the angel said, “don’t be afraid.”

Oh, ok. Just like that. No problem. Wait, what? You do realize what just happened and what we just saw, and you’re telling us not to be afraid?

It’s probably how it went down in their minds. The angel of the Lord must have been sooo comforting that they hung on his every word. They might not have realized it right away but they were privy to a history-changing event. In fact, THEY played a small part in the history-changing event. Millions of people a year would read of their account.

Mere shepherd boys on an ordinary night?

Don’t be surprised if at some point and somewhere in your life God uses you for something much larger than your own life.

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Standing in the Gap

The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock!
    Exalted be God my Savior!
He is the God who avenges me,
    who subdues nations under me,
who saves me from my enemies.
You exalted me above my foes;
    from a violent man you rescued me.
Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing the praises of your name.
He gives his king great victories;
    he shows unfailing love to his anointed,
    to David and to his descendants forever. Psalm 18:46-50

As King David concluded this psalm, he gives praise to the One who made it all happen. “I will praise you, Lord, among the nations” is something we read a lot from David.

There are two nations in our times I’d love to see the Lord exalted in: Syria and South Sudan. Christians in both of these nations are being persecuted and slaughtered. Would you pray for the Believers in Syria and South Sudan right now? They are on the front lines of enemy strongholds, namely Islam. But God is greater and mightier than the swords, guns, and mortar fire of Islam.

But He also desire His people to “stand in the gap” (Ezekiel 22:30) for those who cannot. The prayers do not need to be elaborate or wordy, just passionate.

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The Ruthlessness of Running

I pursued my enemies and overtook them;
    I did not turn back till they were destroyed.
I crushed them so that they could not rise;
    they fell beneath my feet.
You armed me with strength for battle;
    you humbled my adversaries before me.
You made my enemies turn their backs in flight,
    and I destroyed my foes.
They cried for help, but there was no one to save them—
    to the Lord, but he did not answer.
I beat them as fine as windblown dust;
    I trampled them like mud in the streets.
You have delivered me from the attacks of the people;
    you have made me the head of nations.
People I did not know now serve me,
foreigners cower before me;
    as soon as they hear of me, they obey me.
They all lose heart;
    they come trembling from their strongholds. Psalm 18:37-45

Here we find David listing some of his conquests and how he was ruthless when he set out to destroy his enemies. He had no mercy with his enemies, none whatsoever. Why? Probably because they would would have had even less mercy with David.

We also have an adversary, who has no mercy with us. He “dogs us” wherever we go, whatever we say, and whatever we do. He is a roaring lion who tried to intimidate and humiliate. He spares no expense for us to sin and succumb to his ways. We know some of his tactics and methods that would seek to trip us up and have us fall flat on our faces.

Sometimes, though, we think we can outmaneuver or outflank him. We think we can outsmart him and beat him at his own game. It rarely if ever ends that way.

If we were truly wise, every time we recognize the adversary’s tactics, we’d call on God and run as far from Satan as we could. In fact, 1 Corinthians 10:13 teaches that very tactic:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

There’s a way out every time. We don’t walk towards the temptation but run away from it. And we need to be ruthless about that tactic.

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Our Strength

He trains my hands for battle;
    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You make your saving help my shield,
    and your right hand sustains me;
    your help has made me great.
You provide a broad path for my feet,
    so that my ankles do not give way. Psalm 18:34-36

David seems to be taking an inventory of his skills. These are the skills that the Lord himself has helped David with. He knows that he didn’t earn any of his skills but was endowed with them. He was strong because the Lord trained him. He was protected because God has been his shield. And he had sure footing because the Lord gave it to him.

Yes, David still had to work out to build up his strength, learn how to protect himself in hand-to-hand combat, and practice maneuvers that would keep him agile and mobile, but that’s not the point.

Ultimately King David knew where his strength lay: in God Almighty. He couldn’t rely on his strength, defense, or agility in the same way we might try to rely on ours. We know very well whet happens when we rely on our own abilities. But when they are turned over to the Lord for his purposes, we can certainly have the confidence that King David had when he wrote these verses.

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