Wednesday, October 28, 2009

10/29- Luke 2:15-21 Praise of shepherds

(circumcision of Jesus by Tintoretto of Venice)
10/29 Luke 2:15-21

15 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." 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. 21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
Calvin abridged: “15- “When the angels had left them”- The obedience of the shepherds is described here. The Lord had made them witnesses of his Son to the whole world. They were not commanded to come see the Christ, but aware of God’s purposes, they hasten to see him. In the same way, Christ is held out to us, in order that we may approach him by faith; our delay in coming to him is inexcusable. The shepherds left after the angels departed, to remind us that when we receive a word from God, we should respond and not forget it. The shepherds leave us an example by exhorting one another to action. “The Lord has told us about”- They had only heard it from an angel, but they intentionally and correctly say that it was from the Lord; for they considered that the messenger of God had the same authority as if the Lord himself had addressed them. Our attention is not focused on the messenger, but on the Word. All of us, like the shepherds, should follow wherever God calls. 16- “Found Mary” This was a revolting sight, that the King of the whole people should be lower than most and in a stable. But these things did not prevent the shepherds from admiring and praising God. The only reason why our faith is slowed or detoured is that we do not look steadfastly enough on God. 17- “They spread the word” In spreading the word they were a type of secondary angel. The Lord, who called them to spread the word, made it fruitful, though their low rank diminished their credibility. Though many were astonished, no one moved a step to come to Christ.
19- “Mary pondered them in her heart”- If we are wise, it will be our chief business, and the great object of our life, to consider carefully those works of God which build up our faith. 20 “glorifying and praising God” – The shepherds knew with certainty this was a work of God. Their gratitude implies our ingratitude. If the stable had that effect upon them, why doesn’t the death and resurrection have greater effect upon us? 21- :it was time to circumcise the child” – God appointed that his son should be circumcised to be under the law (Gal. 4:4,5). By circumcision, Christ became a slave of the law that he might procure our freedom. The custom at that time was to give names to their children at circumcision, just as we now do at baptism. Two things are mentioned here: First, Jesus was not given accidently but was the name given by the angel. Second, Joseph and Mary obeyed the command of God. The relationship between faith and the word of God is that when he speaks, we follow- so that our faith answers his promises. Salvation by Christ had been promised by God through the angel, and then proclaimed by the voice of others.

Thought: Unlike Zechariah the priest on duty, these lowly-untrained shepherds responded to God’s word. It doesn’t take an expert to respond to God. Sometimes experts in their pride, keep us from belief. Experts are trained to doubt, to criticize, to be skeptical. It takes an unusual scholar who will also believe. In our times of humility, we are more apt to believe than our proud times. It is worrisome when in our humility we turn to shear skepticism which has no hope, or turn to other gods. If we really believe, we will be witnesses of what God has done. If we are really skeptical we will hold back, and remain silent- even thinking our truth is on the same par as another’s differing truth. So today, many Christians have so much doubt combined with pride, that we won’t speak. The shepherds were not proud- but were willing to leave their flocks, their welfare in response, and to risk everyone thinking they were crazy in order to tell what they had seen. Our pride keeps us silent. Our skepticism keeps us quiet. So we leave nothing to go and see. Our religion has become convenient, and powerless. We have a form of godliness without the power. We have no room for the improbable or for people doing foolish things motivated by their faith (as the shepherds did). Mary remembered the foolish shepherds, and the angel stories- and maybe she told Luke what had happened later. Mary and Joseph were practicing their faith when they circumcised Jesus. God honors us for being faithful to what we know we should do. This whole section is about proclaiming the name of Jesus- our Savior.

Prayer: Lord, help us to not only hear your Word, but to believe it and respond to it with the praise of our lives.

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