2014 has been a restless year in the political spheres of the world. But Christian people are the most blessed and happy people, because the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ has brought about the fulfillment of Isaiah 9:1-7 : “But there will be will be no gloom for her who was in anguish … the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined… for unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting father, Prince of Peace…”
He is God’s answer to this sad world so much filled with pride, self- centeredness , envy and jealousy, lying, pharisaical and cruel religious bigotry (as seen in religious groups like Boko Haram and ISIS) . Absence of Christ is the reason why we see all the cold blooded killings whether that of a mother killing her 8 children in Australia, or senseless high school killings in America , or abductions of school girls and cold blooded assassinations in Africa, or ramming your vehicle into an unsuspecting crowd in Europe , as happened this past week in France – Jeremiah called this: “terror on every side!”
God’s answer for this sin-sick and mad world is the provision of a good shepherd of whom Isaiah says : “Turn to me and be saved , all the ends of the earth! For I am God and there is no other!” (Isa 45:22) .
Life in this fallen world desperately needs a shepherd. Isaiah says : “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way ; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isa 53:6) . Our world cries out for leadership. We all cry “deliver us from evil!” , but unfortunately our hearts seek solutions that are not rooted in Christ’s leadership . Satan knows this and he fills this void with false shepherds in the forms of political dictators (such as Hitler, Stalin and Lenin etc.) and also with false prophets and with false , self- serving priests. Sooner or later people regret their endorsements of these cruel leaders and they cry out for deliverance as did the Israelites of old in the day of the Judges. In the meantime God has given us a Good Shepherd of whom He said … “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased…” (Matt 3:17) Oh how the world needs to hear the gospel of the kind and good shepherd in these days of political turmoil!
Our text (particularly Matt 2:6), which is built on a prophetic word from Micah 5: 1-6 , tells us that God has provided the world with an answer to the tyrannical reign of Satan, and his anti-christ and the false prophet , that cause so much trouble and lack of peace in this world. The message of the angels was therefore significant: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” (Luke 2:14) In the provision of a true shepherd in whom the roles of prophet , priest and king would be uniquely combined, God ushers in an age in which the gospel of the kingdom of God which Christ came to announce drives out fear , and lack of hope and darkness. Wherever and whenever Christ takes possession of the hearts of people there the kingdom of God comes on earth.
“Out of you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel “ - Matt 2:6
Let us take note of the historical context in which this announcement was first made to king Herod by the chief priests. Jesus was born before King Herod died in 4 B.C. Incidentally it was in the year AD 533 that a monk called Dionysius Exiguus (c. 470 – c. 544) invented the Anno Domini (AD) era, which was calculated from the birth of Christ. With so many years having past since the Lord’s birth, it was easy to make mistakes with respect to the exact date of the Lord’s birth and this in fact, was what happened.
The wise men from the east refer to members of a Persian priestly caste. These were steeped in the study of astrology and of the magic arts. We see such people frequently as court officials and advisors / prophets to the kings of the Middle east . Since there were many Jews in Babylon (Persia) during the exile, these wise men from the east would have had a thorough acquaintance about the Jewish faith and the expectation of a Messiah, and even more significantly , they had begun to place their hope in the Jewish Messiah. So in v.2 when they had seen the star rising , this was the sign for these three wise men to get going . Several astronomical possibilities have been suggested as an explanation of this star, but there is no satisfactory explanation. It is best to leave this as a supernatural occurrence. The point is that these wise men from Persia saw this as a sign from God indicating that the Jewish Messiah – King had been born. They thought that the king was to be born in Jerusalem, and that is why they landed on Herod’s doorsteps . Herod in turn (v.3) was a man who was troubled by any report of a possible successor to his throne. He was no Jew and he must have been aware that he had no right of succession to David’s throne. He had in fact been appointed by the Roman government. Aware of his status and aware of the expectations of the Jewish nation with respect to a Messiah he consults the Jewish priests and the scribes (v.5). It was actually common knowledge among the people that the Messiah was going to be born in Bethlehem , the city of David’s birth (e.g. John 7:42,52). Jesus was providentially and circumstantially born in Bethlehem (2:1 à see v. 6 ), but relocated to Nazareth in Galilee immediately after this. The circumstances of the birth of the Lord Jesus were prophesied in the Scriptures, and particularly here in Micah 5:1-6 . Herod of course had no intention of worshipping the child. He wanted to kill him and remove the perceived threat to his throne.
Jesus our Shepherd King
Against the background of our introductory comments on the present state of the world and also the historical background as it is reflected in the Scriptures , we consider the Lord Jesus the promised shepherd of the people of Israel. The shepherd motif runs through the scriptures. Israel in her history has been governed by good and bad shepherds. In Ezekiel 34 against the background of abusive shepherding , God promises to be a shepherd to His people. And, significantly , David from whom Jesus’ earthly lineage is traced was a shepherd (1 Samuel 16:11) . And according to Luke’s account (Lk 2:8-18) shepherds were among the first to be privileged to see the newborn King in Bethlehem. Coincidence ? Hardly! All this is part of God’s plan and purpose.
God provided the Lord Jesus Christ as our Shepherd. The amazing truth here is that God made His eternal Son, who is equal to Him in substance , to become a shepherd for His people. In John’s gospel Jesus makes it very clear that this is so (I AM the good Shepherd- see John 10 :1-16). In this passage we learn of the work of the Lord Jesus, the good Shepherd for us :
1. The sheep hear His voice and they follow Him (10:3-5). They know Him (10:14)
2. He is the door of the sheep. He protects them (10:7)
3. He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (10:11, 15)
4. He is the Universal Shepherd. He will bring in His sheep from among Jew and gentile (10: 16) There will be one flock – one church comprised of OT and NT saints .
5. Although He will lay down His life for the sheep, He will take His life up again (10:17,18). He is the Shepherd that triumphs over all that is evil for the flock (Satan, false shepherds), and even over death itself.
All this is implied in Micah’s prophecy , here repeated in Matthew 2:6. So , the revelation given to us by Micah and Matthew helps us to see who Christ is for us. It is absolutely important that we need to know who this babe of Bethlehem is.
We have said it so often, and we say it again, that Christ is absolutely trivialized and sentimentalized by our culture. We focus on the baby – but we forget that this baby is called at once “King of the Jews” (2:2) and “the shepherd of Israel“ (2:6). This is Satan’s plot of to keep us in darkness regarding the person and purpose of Christ. The Bible tells us that Christ was born to shepherd believers living in a world that is full of physical and spiritual danger. The Bible teaches us that if we abide in Him and if we remain close to Him and under His protection we will be safe. Our good Shepherd will guide us home through treacherous territory – even in the midst of our own sinfulness , and even through our worst experiences and even through the portals of sickness and death itself (Psalm 23- the Lord is my Shepherd).
The Bible pleads with us not to be as blind as Herod, and the chief priests and the scribes of the people were with regard to Christ .
The Bible pleads with us not to be pretense worshippers and Christ killers like Herod and the scribes and the Pharisees were .
The Bible pleads with us today to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and to trust Him with all our hearts, even at great expense and inconvenience , as was no doubt the case of the wise men from the east.
Do you know the Good Shepherd?
The story is told of a contest in which Psalm 23 - the Shepherd Psalm was to be recited. Two men took part in this contest . The one man was an orator trained in speech technique and drama. He repeated the Psalm in a powerful and dramatic way, and the audience was captivated by his polished performance. Then the other man who was older but not nearly as polished recited Psalm 23. This man had seen the reality of Psalm 23 in his life , as he was carried by the good Shepherd through many ,many valleys and trials. As he began “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want...” the congregation fell silent. People just sat there in devotion and prayer. Then the first man, the orator got up and said: “I have a confession to make. The difference between what you have just heard from my older friend, and what you heard from me is this: I know the Psalm, my friend knows the Shepherd...”
Well dear people, it is my prayer that this Christmas babe whom you celebrate today is not simply someone whom you admire and about whom you can speak well. I trust that He lives in you and that He moves you as you KNOW that he IS YOUR Good Shepherd. Amen !
 Jer. 6:25; 20:10; 46:5; 49:29
 See our recent exposition in the book of Revelation
 His name could be translated as Dennis the dwarf , or Dennis the small . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dionysius_Exiguus
 E.g. 2 Chronicles 18:5 ; Jer 29:2,34:19; 41:16
 E.g. the convergence of Jupiter and Saturn in 7-6 B.C. ; Halley’s Comet in 12-11 B.C.