Baptist Press Archive

Friday, December 21, 2012

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  • About those shepherds ...

    by Stephen Douglas Wilson, posted Friday, December 21, 2012 (5 years ago)

    MAYFIELD, Ky. (BP) -- The account of the shepherds in Luke's nativity passage (Luke 2:8-20) continues to fascinate modern readers. Receiving an angelic message that the Messiah was born in nearby Bethlehem, these shepherds left their closely guarded flocks of sheep to seek the good news themselves.

    Theologians tell us that the angel's message represented God's annunciation of his Son's birth to the common people of Israel, but who were these shepherds?

    The shepherds of Bethlehem persisted in an honorable occupation that also claimed various Old Testament figures, including Abel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rachel, Moses, David, Job and Amos -- just to name a few.

    They largely kept flocks of the broad-tailed sheep (ovis laticaudata) that can still be found in the Holy Land today. Allusions to the highly prized "fat tail" of these sheep can be found in Exodus 29:22 and Leviticus 3:9.

    In terms of their daily and nightly chores, shepherds were responsible for grazing and watering their charges, protecting them from human theft and animal predation, shearing the sheep at the appropriate time, milking them for dairy products and providing them for ritual sacrifices and/or human consumption during important feasts. As a general rule, dairy-producing and wool-producing sheep were too valuable to be a daily menu item.

    Although the Old and New Testaments ascribe great personal honor to the men and women of this occupation, the shepherds of the era of Christ's birth appeared to be less honored in the Jewish tradition.

    The rabbis who produced the Talmudic literature (written around A.D. 200-500 but containing oral traditions from before, during and after the earthly lifetime of Jesus) often regarded shepherds as dishonest and prone to violating Jewish law.

    Likewise, Philo, a Jewish sage in Egypt and a contemporary of Jesus, wrote that shepherds "are held to be mean and inglorious" (On Husbandry, 61).

    Nevertheless, God often uses unlikely vessels to further His will. According to the Jewish Mishnah (A.D. 200 but also containing longstanding oral traditions of previous ages), animals in the vicinity of Bethlehem (specifically Migdal Eder -- "Tower of the Flock") could be offered for Temple sacrifices (Shekalim 7:4).

    According to Eusebius, a Palestinian Christian leader of the fourth century in his work, "Concerning the Place-names in Sacred Scriptures" (Section B, 196), Migdal Eder was located one Roman mile east of Bethlehem (a Roman mile of 1,000 paces is a little short of our mile by 143 yards).

    If the shepherds of Luke's account were those who kept flocks potentially destined for the Temple at Migdal Eder, they especially would have been receptive to the angel's message.

    Both the geographical locations of Bethlehem and nearby Migdal Eder are mentioned in Micah's prophecy of the Messiah (Micah 5:2 and 4:8). In regard to Migdal Eder, this locale too is linked to the coming of the King.

    If the shepherds tending the flocks for the Temple stationed at Migdal Eder constitute the shepherds of the Luke account, then the annunciation to the shepherds would fulfill that aspect of messianic prophecy.

    When the angel of the Lord appeared to these shepherds, accompanied by a great light (Luke 2:9), their first reaction was sheer terror. Nevertheless, the angel calmed them and told them that the Messiah had just been born in nearby Bethlehem.

    While not revealing the exact location in the city for the child, the angel related that the child was the one swaddled in binding cloths and lying in a manger (v. 12). After the angel was briefly joined by a heavenly host that praised God, they left the shepherds.

    The befuddled shepherds, however, decided to view the Christ child. They could not pass up the opportunity to view the "Lamb of God." After a short walk to the city (only about one mile if Eusebius is correct), they found the child with his parents.

    They not only praised God for both the angelic message and visit with the child, they shared this news with others (v. 17-20). Those hearing this account by the shepherds also were amazed.

    The annunciation to the shepherds of Bethlehem demonstrated God's love for the common people. Previous annunciations of the Lord's birth had occurred only to family members like Mary, Joseph, Zechariah and Elizabeth.

    The first annunciation to those outside of the family were not to the priestly establishment in Jerusalem or those of Herod's royal house or to the rich landowners of Judea but rather to these common shepherds whom the rabbinic tradition had tarnished.

    Indeed, the good news was not to be a respecter of persons. Simple shepherds, like the later fishermen and farmers among the disciples of Jesus, would be both the recipients and purveyors of the Gospel.

    Today many shepherds in the Bethlehem area and in other parts of Israel/Palestine still seek and profess Christianity, and their stories can be located on the Internet and in the popular press. In the 20th and 21st centuries, many of them achieved some recognition from the evangelical Christian community in the United States. Read More

  • Modern shepherds corral nativity animals

    by Rachel Ortego/Baptist Message, posted Friday, December 21, 2012 (5 years ago)

    MANDEVILLE, La. (BP) -- Pat Hayden, a deacon at Mandeville Baptist Church in Louisiana, is a shepherd of sorts. It is his job to round up sheep, donkeys, goats and maybe a calf or two for the church's annual Christmas live nativity. Read More

  • Vietnam vet treasures church's Christmas card

    by Joe Westbury/The Christian Index, posted Friday, December 21, 2012 (5 years ago)

    COLEMAN, Ga. (BP) -- It was a Christmas season that the 18-year-old Marine would rather not experience. Slogging through the mud in the drizzling, never-ending rain was beginning to wear on the enlisted man's spirit. Read More

  • Church's efforts went a long way in Vietnam

    by Joe Westbury/The Christian Index, posted Friday, December 21, 2012 (5 years ago)

    COLEMAN, Ga. (BP) -- For 145 years, Vilulah Baptist Church in Coleman, Ga., has served as the backbone of its small community about 60 miles west of Albany. Read More

  • WEEK OF PRAYER: Antique globe spurs seminary to heightened LMCO giving

    by Laura Fielding, posted Friday, December 21, 2012 (5 years ago)

    Photo by Kelly Hunter
    WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) -- It all started with an antique globe-shaped bank. The tattered grapefruit-sized trinket helped spur students, faculty and staff of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., to give generously to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. Read More

  • Fox News highlights Baptist student relief efforts

    by Mike Ebert, posted Friday, December 21, 2012 (5 years ago)

    NEW YORK (BP) -- Southern Baptist college students from Missouri were featured on the Dec. 21 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News' morning program, for the work they are doing in New York City to help survivors of Hurricane Sandy. Read More

  • Baptist Press' most-read stories of 2012

    by Michael Foust, posted Friday, December 21, 2012 (5 years ago)

    NASHVILLE (BP) -- A story that put Chick-fil-A in the national spotlight and led to hundreds of thousands of customers showing their support is Baptist Press' most-read story of 2012. Read More

  • Call to 'harvest fields' among top IMB stories

    by Staff, posted Friday, December 21, 2012 (5 years ago)

    EDITOR'S NOTE: Baptist Press asked the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board to select 10 of their key news and feature stories from 2012 to be posted afresh as the year comes to a close and 2013 begins. This story contains the selections by IMB.

    RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- "The harvest is now," a Christian worker and strategist based in the Middle East recently said about the effects of sweeping change that continue to unfold across the region. "We're not preparing the... Read More

  • Send North America among top NAMB stories

    by Mike Ebert, posted Friday, December 21, 2012 (5 years ago)

    EDITOR'S NOTE: Baptist Press asked the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board to select 10 of their key news and feature stories from 2012 to be posted afresh as the year comes to a close and 2013 begins. This story contains the selections by NAMB.

    ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) -- Celebrating Christmas reminds us that God sent Jesus into a world plagued by chaos and darkness. The hope and light He brings is what motivates us to give everyone in North America and throughout ... Read More

  • Gospel Project, CP among LifeWay stories

    by Carol Pipes, posted Friday, December 21, 2012 (5 years ago)

    NASHVILLE (BP) -- As one year ends and another begins, LifeWay Christian Resources is reminded of how God used its efforts to undergird individuals, families and churches as well as to connect unbelievers to God's Word in the past year. 2012 was a year filled with new initiatives designed to further the advancement of the Gospel throughout the world and to offer even more biblical solutions for life.

    As 2013 begins, pray for Southern Baptist churches that will be teaching God's Word and mak... Read More

  • CULTURE DIGEST: Archbishop says society 'can't wait' for elderly to die

    by Staff, posted Friday, December 21, 2012 (5 years ago)

    EDITOR'S NOTE: Culture Digest will not be published Dec. 28 and Jan. 5, resuming publication Friday, Jan. 12.

    NASHVILLE (BP) -- Britain's Archbishop of Canterbury warned his country that society is devaluing the elderly and can't wait for them to die.

    In his last speech to the House of Lords before he resigns from his position, Rowan Williams said elderly people are being merely tolerated rather than valued, according to the Telegraph, a British newspaper.

    "We tolerate a very... Read More

  • PRIMERA PERSONA: Acerca de esos pastores ...

    Por Stephen Douglas Wilson, posted Friday, December 21, 2012 (5 years ago)

    MAYFIELD, Ky. (BP) -- El relato de los pastores en el pasaje de Navidad de Lucas (Lucas 2:8-20) continúa fascinando a los lectores modernos. Al recibir el angélico mensaje de que el Mesías había nacido en la cercana Belén, estos pastores dejaron su bien protegido rebaño de ovejas para buscar las buenas nuevas.

    Los teólogos nos dicen que el mensaje de los ángeles representaba la anunciación de Dios del nacimiento de su Hijo a la gente común de Israel, pero ¿quiénes eran esos pastores?

    Los pastores de Belén persistían una honorable ocupación que también se preciaron de tener varios personajes del Antiguo Testamento, incluyendo a Abel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Raquel, Moisés, David, Job y Amós -- solamente para mencionar a algunos.

    Ellos mayormente cuidaban rebaños de ovejas de cola ancha (ovis laticaudata) que todavía pueden ser encontrados en Tierra Santa hoy en día. Alusiones a la altamente preciada "grasa de la cola" de esas ovejas pueden ser encontradas en Éxodo 29:22 y Levítico 3:9.

    En términos de los quehaceres diurnos y nocturnos, los pastores eran responsables de apacentar y abrevar las que estaban a su cargo, protegerlas del robo por parte de los humanos y de la depredación, y de trasquilarlas a su debido tiempo, ordeñarlas para obtener los productos lácteos y proveerlas para los sacrificios rituales o el consumo humano durante las festividades importantes. Como regla general, las ovejas de producción de leche o de producción de lana eran muy valiosas para ser parte del menú diario. Read More

  • Frank Page hace un llamado a la oración para toda la CBS

    Por Roger S. Oldham, posted Friday, December 21, 2012 (5 years ago)

    NASHVILLE (BP) -- Frank S. Page, presidente y "oficial en jefe de ánimo" del Comité Ejecutivo de la Convención Bautista del Sur, está pidiendo a los bautistas del sur que se unan en el 2013 para tener un año de énfasis en la oración "como nunca lo hemos visto anteriormente." Read More

  • LLAMADO A LA ORACIÓN: Individuos, iglesias, entidades de la CBS -- oren 'como nunca antes'

    Por Frank Page, posted Friday, December 21, 2012 (5 years ago)

    NASHVILLE (BP) -- Ya hace tiempo, Dios ha estado poniendo una carga en mi corazón acerca de la oración y el despertar espiritual. Hablé mucho sobre esto cuando fui presidente de la Convención Bautista del Sur (2006-08). Entonces vi lo que estaba pasando en nuestra nación, en nuestras iglesias y nuestra convención. Ese profundo sentir de la necesidad de un reavivamiento en nuestra tierra solamente se ha fortalecido en los últimos seis años. Read More

  • EDITORIAL: Dos Preguntas Importante para Navidad

    Por Gustavo Suárez, posted Friday, December 21, 2012 (5 years ago)

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) -- Él dijo, ¿Quién eres, Señor? Y le dijo: Yo soy Jesús, a quien tú persigues; dura cosa te es dar coces contra el aguijón. ... Read More