December 23, 2017
TEXT: "And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd My people Israel." (Matthew 2:6)
When Herod asked the chief priests and scribes where Jesus was to be born, they quoted this passage above which comes originally from Micah 5. They were mainly concerned with the place specified-Bethlehem-but they should have taken notice of another word as well: "shepherd."
What does it mean to shepherd people? It means to do the kinds of things shepherds does for their animals-to meet their basic needs such as food and water, to protect them from danger, and to help them when they become sick or lost. A good shepherd puts the welfare of the sheep above his own. He will gladly stay up all night if it's necessary to save a sheep's life, or walk for hours over rough ground looking for a lost one. A good shepherd loves his sheep and is willing to sacrifice much for them.
Now this is no good description of Herod, the ruler of Judea at that time. He was more likely to harm his subjects than to help them. The same is true for many rulers throughout human history. But a new king of Israel was coming, one who would be, not an exploiter, but a shepherd. Jesus, that baby laid in an animal's feedbox to sleep, would grow up to be the Good Shepherd for everyone who trusts in Him.
That's a strange kind of ruler. What kind of a king would spend His time with the poor and the sick and the homeless, caring for their needs? What kind of king touches people with skin diseases and eats with the outcasts of society, the people no one else wants? What kind of a king suffers and dies for the good of His people, laying down His own life so that they will live forever and not be destroyed?
This is Jesus, the Shepherd-King of Israel. This is Jesus, my shepherd and yours.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, watch over me always and keep me close to You. Amen.