As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. Ezekiel 34:12 (NRSV)
I don’t say this from experience, as I have never lived on a farm, and have spent most of my life living and working in the city, but I have been told that sheep are stupid. They wander off. They get confused easily. If left to their own devices they will follow anyone or go anywhere without regard for their own safety.
It seems ironic that God refers to us as His sheep then, and to Jesus as the good Shepherd. The sad part of that is that apart from God we can behave just like sheep- wandering off, getting confused, and following anything and everything. If we are following the wrong shepherd, or none at all, we are asking for trouble.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. –Luke 2:8-20 (NRSV)
In Biblical times shepherds were considered low level manual laborers. Being a shepherd was not a job that commanded respect. It’s easy to see why. Sheep are dirty and stupid, and it takes a lot of work to keep them healthy and staying together. A shepherd would end up smelling like sheep. Shepherding is a thankless and dirty job that commands long hours of staying up and watching.
But God considered the shepherds- before the kings and rulers and “important” people. God sent His angel to the shepherds early on to announce the coming of the Good Shepherd to encourage them, to lift them up, to let them know that His Kingdom was at hand.
I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. Ezekiel 34:23 (NRSV)
That thing about shepherds. God doesn’t have a problem with getting into the not so nice and the dirty, mundane parts of life on this earth. How does God look at who and what are important to Him? Are our priorities the same as His?