I never noticed or thought it important who the angels chose to tell about Jesus' birth. They didn't go to the ones with influence: the kings, the governors, the warriors, or the religious leaders of the day. They went to the shepherds: the ones with the menial jobs and the ones doing it well. Along with this story in Luke 2, I've been reading the story of Moses and the Israelites. Moses’ whole life was spent shepherding; first, flocks of sheep, then, the nation of Israel. As I’ve dwelt on these two stories, God has continued to speak to me about how He is the good shepherd and how seeing more deeply into His shepherd’s heart equips me to live a lifestyle of shepherding.
John 10 records Jesus talking about Himself as the good shepherd and His sheep as hearing and knowing His voice. There's an awesome video of people trying to gather a flock that isn't theirs. The sheep don't even look up from their grazing when the people call, but, when their real shepherd calls, the sheep come running. Check it out. This passage in John is packed, but what moved me the most was how Jesus says the good shepherd calls each sheep by name, (v. 3) "He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out."
If we understand ourselves as sheep and Jesus as the shepherd, we can see that Jesus calls us by name and leads us. He renames us, leads us out of deserts, leads us into His love, and into our callings. Thinking back to the story of Moses, Moses was once named a Hebrew newborn sentenced to death under Pharaoh's command. But God renamed him and lead him out of danger and into Pharaoh's palace. Moses was once named a murderer and a man with conflicted identities. God renamed him, lead him out of sin and told him he would be the instrument of rescue for the Israelite people. Moses was once named a shepherd of sheep but God renamed him and lead him to his purpose of shepherding God's favored nation.
God spends His time shepherding us. He spends His time leading us to green pastures, rescuing us from danger, and giving us names. He loves being alone with us and He doesn't flinch at the journey of seeking out a lost lamb. We all start named "sheep" and can be renamed into "shepherds." But, to be a good shepherd, we first need to know how to be a good sheep. I think it’s simple: humility that comes from gazing on Jesus’ face and seeing Him clearly.
Much of Moses’ story is in Numbers. Numbers 12:3 is a sweet verse, "Now Moses was very humble--more humble than any other person on earth." In the next verses, God defends and honors Moses in front of Aaron and Miriam who had become jealous of him. The more I read the Word and get to know God, the more I see the adventure of falling in love with humility. Humility breaks down any barrier I might have to walking in my calling and true intimacy with God because humility is an emptying of me and a filling up of Him. When we are humble, we are creating space for God to use and move through us. Humility is a beacon signaling to God that He is more important and attractive to us than our own life or dreams. Humility speaks to God that we are sold out in love with Him and that's the point. God has been relentlessly chasing us every moment of our lives, and when we reciprocate, we get a Moses-like relationship with God. A relationship bound in covenant. A relationship where we are aware of His presence moment by moment. A relationship of trust, of partnership, and love. Moses and David both began as shepherds, and, to me, have the sweetest and fullest relationships with God laid out in The Word. David was called a man after God’s own heart and Moses was called God’s servant and the one God trusted (Numbers 12:7). Humility is a strong through line in each of their stories signaling they never lost sight of their first names as sheep under the Good Shepherd’s protection.
As we grow into shepherds, we don’t (or shouldn’t) leave our “sheepness” because we never grow out of needing God to guide us and fill us or needing His presence. I think the only way to be a good shepherd here on earth and to fulfill our callings is to stay a sheep to God: to stay hungry for His presence and stay responsive to His voice.
As we step into this shepherding call, we start shepherding sheep, then, God can lead us into shepherding nations. Our "sheep" can look different. For me, my sheep are my friends, the girls I mentor, my writing, my job, my classes, and my ministry leadership roles at college. My job is to faithfully steward what's in front of me until God gives me a new assignment to steward. Maybe it will be a literal nation, maybe it won't. But, if I'm called to shepherd, I am expectant for my flock to grow and my humility and dependence on Him to overflow.
I think it’s important that the angels went to shepherds first because there’s something about the heart of a shepherd that God trusts and is wild about. I think God saw the same Moses-like humility and the same fixation on God’s face in these shepherds. We don't get their names, but, God trusted them with the most important news for the world at that time. How these shepherds responded to the host of angels is exactly how we should respond to revelations from God and everything He entrusts us with. Luke 2:9, 15, 17-18, "An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified...when the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about'...when they had seen him [Jesus], they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them."
The shepherds were terrified; they were in godly fear and awe from being in the presence of angels. They trusted the angels’ message and immediately investigated what had been revealed to them. I love how although the angels didn't command the shepherds to do anything, the shepherds received the message joyfully and went to see it for themselves. Then, once the shepherds found Jesus, they spread the news to everyone they met which became an overflow of awe and joy in the people.
This is also the pattern for shepherds today: receive from God, trust it, investigate it, then tell people the good news you have. These shepherds began shepherding sheep, then God gave them the honor to be the first preachers that started the movement of The Kingdom.
For the past two months, my life was in California. It's over now and God was gracious to show me a glimpse of why I made that grand adventure. From feeling childish because I wasn't making money, to completely doubting my decision to go to California, my perspective was doing push-ups the whole time. But, in the last week God spoke to me and said, "You're too big for the things you dream about, Taylor. The revelations you have of Me are important to share. Here are some shepherds in the Word and this is what you are made for." God renamed me shepherd, He is leading me into my calling, and I’m in the process of emptying myself of my plans and trusting that His plan is much more magnificent and suited for me than what I could dream of for myself.
God calls us by name and gives us new names if we will humble ourselves and listen for His voice. We will know His voice because we are His sheep and we will know it because it is the voice that calls out our deepest, most meaningful names, hopes, and purposes. God is eager to give us an abundance of Himself like He did for Moses, David, and the shepherds watching their flocks by night. God watches for those whose hearts have decided to seek His face and His face alone as they shepherd the world God’s given them. Their prize and portion is Himself and their lives emanate Christ’s light with a brilliance. Surrendering to humility is sweet, and the intimacy with our Good Shepherd is sweeter. Let us not be surprised by the joy will we find and by the flocks He will give us when our every breath confesses our sole desire is Him.
What I've learned about what it means to be transformed into the image of Christ, be reconciled to Him, myself, & others, and how to be His disciple.