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    Antidote to the Western Disease

    Sabbath Day Sermon: Saturday 26 August 2000

      "The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising Elohim (God) for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told" (Lk.2:20, NIV).

    These words were penned by Luke to tell us of the circumstances of the humble shepherds following the appearance of the angelic hosts and their visit to the Christ-child. The writer of scripture is, like the other Besorah (Gospel) writers, mostly concerned about giving an account of the life and ministry of Yah'shua (Jesus). You don't, for example, find too much information in the Gospels about the daily life of people except within the context of Yah'shua's (Jesus') preaching. Writers must be selective and focus on the events that concern their main message.

    My theme today has nothing whatsoever to do with the birth of the Christ-child as I am sure you will have guessed since this is the wrong season for a nativity sermon! I want instead to zoom in on the first three words in the scripture passage I opened with because for us mortals they are of great significance. The words are: "The shepherds returned..."

    To what did they return? To their duties as shepherds. Now you might have thought that after so fantastic an experience out in the fields that night that they would have been given a calling to preach the Besorah (Gospel) in some way as the apostles were. However, there are only ever a limited number of apostles at any one time (12 to be precise) and they have to have rather special qualifications to enter into that ministry. These shepherds, though given this extraordinary privilege - nay, two extraordinarty privileges - had, as their primary duty, to return to their flocks in the fields. We never hear of these men again.

    Now someone privileged enough to see and hear a malak (angel) choir has got something to talk about. But someone who has not only experienced this but next is led to see the infant Messiah after centuries of waiting by their nation, and especially at a time of cruel oppression by an occupying army, most certainly has great deal to talk about. You can imagine their excitement. Indeed, we know how they felt, because Luke tells us that they went "glorifying and praising Elohim (God) for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told". Fantastic a story though they had to tell - a story they probably told again and again throughout their lives, they did not, however, abandon their duties. They returned to their flocks.

    Now Yahweh is not, as we know, wasteful. Nothing He does is purposeless. He could have chosen anyone to relate this story of the malak (angel) choirs and the birth of the infant Messiah. He could have chosen someone who had time on their hands, someone who was rich and could have gone around town telling everyone what had happened. But He didn't. Apart from the fact that a general announcement of this kind might have put the child in great danger, Yahweh had another message to convey to people.

    To begin with, as we have discussed before, the Messiah's birth in poverty was not accidental. Neither was it an accident that Yahweh chose the first witnesses outside the qadosh (holy, set-apart) family to be poor and lowly shepherds. The King of kings purposefully came to earth in humble circumstances in order to reflect the message that He carried, which was that one of the gates to the heveanly kingdom was through humility.

    On the one hand a born-again believer is a king or a queen, because he or she is a child of the Most High, but the emblems he wears in this world are not crowns or royal robes. True believers are kings and queens in exile who have menial duties to perform. They are poor carpenters like Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself, or poor shepherds like the first witnesses out in that field, or poor fishermen as most of the apostles were. Those who go seeking for the Messiah amongst riches, pomp and ceremony will never find Him because He is not to be found there. And the only kings - the only rich and worldly-wise people who did find Him - had to make a fantastically long journey, risking their lives and no doubt having to heavily invest financially in their journey. Messiah is for rich and poor alike, to be sure, but note the difference between them. To the poor shepherds they were required to do nothing more than to be about their daily duties out in the fields. They had to make no fantastic journey. The fact that they were doing their duty was what actually qualified them! But what of the three wise men -- men of wealth, power, prestige, and knowledge? Did malakim (angels) appear to them while they were at work? Was the Christ-child just a few fields away down the road? Not at all. They had to make a long journey to get them to the home of the Christ-child. Though wealth and power may have been served to them on a plate, the Besorah (Gospel) was not. But for the humble shepherds, who knew many of the Besorah (Gospel) principles of humility and self-sacrifice already, the Christ-child was already near at hand.

    Moreover, these shepherds had what may well be termed dull work. It wasn't exciting at all. It's not the kind of job you'd advertise in the newspapers: "Wanted! A shepherd for exciting outdoor work in all weathers defending sheep against wolves, lions, snakes, scorpions, robbers, etc.!" This is not a glamorous job for people who want to be in the limelight. Yet Yahweh chose these people to reveal His first advent. Why? Could there be any other reasons?

    Yes, there most certainly are. You see, when people get excited about something they do not usually feel particularly inclined to return to so-called dull, monotonous and uninteresting work like shepherding or carpentry. They are riding on a crest of excitement and they want to stay there for ever. But that is impossible. Moreover, it is highly undesirable because riding on the crest of excitement does not refine the character. It does not form a man or woman into a spiritual person. People who are eternally in search of the next "high" miss the path that leads to eternal chayim (life) because it is to be found in the low places. Rich people are always looking for new ways to spend their money with which to give them a new "high" and that is why most of them miss the Kingdom of the Humble Shepherd. That is why it is to be disadvantaged to be born rich. Admittedly, grinding poverty isn't much of an advantage either, but 'grinding' poverty never afflicts those who are truly trusting in Yahweh.

    When Peter, James and John were standing on the Mount of Transfiguration and saw Yah'shua (Jesus) in His glory as well as Elijah and Moses, do you think they wanted to return to a mundane way of life? This was one of the most exciting experiences of their life and they were never to experience anything quite like this again in their lives except for the resurrection. Earthly life, with its toils and struggles, Peter thought, wasn't nearly enough for him after so fantastic an experience. But he was wrong. It was just what he needed. There was to be no glory for him for the rest of his life, only problems to solve and difficulties to overcome. Those shepherds saw a vision the likes of which no other shepherd ever saw or will ever likely see in mortality, and yet they were required to return to their daily toils and to do what they had been doing before.

    This is the message of Christianity. If you are seeking for fame or 'health and wealth' you are seeking a way that will take you way off the path that belongs to the true kings and queens of heaven. You will be travelling in a direction that is exactly opposite to the one that would lead you to eternal riches and to all that has any worth. And yet our culture - our society - teaches us that we should constantly be looking for carnal highs and to "make it big" in the world.

    The Carpenter of Nazareth, however, has an entriely different message. He is telling us: "You are already big. You have already acquired riches in abundance by trusting in Me and living a life of holiness (set-apartness). But those riches are not to be enjoyed down here because while you are here you have another calling, and that is to lead people to Me. And to do that, you must learn to do the things that will develop your character into a godly one."

    The simple, humble, menial tasks are those which build up character and make a person complete because these are the tasks of service and self-abdegnation. Moreover, they should never been seen as something demeaning or beneath us because in truth they are the tasks that turn men and women into kings and queens. If you look throughout history you will learn that the greatest kings were not those who were born with silver spoons in their mouths but those who began from humble beginnings, like King David, who spent most of his early life as a fugivite living in simplicity. It was this experience as an ordinary person that qualified him to become the ordinary people's king. His son Solomon started life in wealth and died in spiritual poverty, an apostate and, for one who was briefly wise, a complete and utter fool.

    To be alive in the Ruach Mashiach (Spirit of Christ) is to actually to be drawn towards and not away from our daily duties and menial tasks. Indeed, we should at once stop calling them "menial tasks" because they are not: they are the tasks of kings and of queens. The closer we draw to Messiah the better we should do our work - not just a career, if that is what we have, but our humble domestic duties as well. Because as the apostles said time and time again, whatever honourable work we do, it is ultimately for the Master, because He is our employer.

    And so this fact remains: our ahavah (love) for Elohim (God) and for His people should never make us negligent of our common daily tasks or cause us to forget our daily duties. As soon as we have finished our Sabbath devotions and enjoyed our Sabbath rest, we should return to our daily duties with gladness, knowing that they are, in fact, a part of our worship. We should do our menial taks with simcha (joy) and satisfaction in our hearts with the one thought of desiring to please others and our Elohim (God). Yahweh gives us our spiritual raptures as he did to the shepherds, He allows us to occasionally glimpse into His face, but it is a great mistake to think that we should be having access to this kind of experience all the time, because such would never perfect us. That blessing is for the next life, not this one. Our fragments of heavenly visions must remain only fragments otherwise the whole purpose of this life - which is to walk by emunah (faith) - would entirely lose its meaning. The fragments of glory that we do receive have only one purpose, and that is to strengthen us in those very daily tasks that the unspiritual and carnal are continually trying to escape from. That is what heavenly visions are for - they are not designed to be consumed upon our lusts but to empower the ordinary life. I wager those shepherds became better shepherds after their heavenly vision and encounter with the Christ-child. If our new birth in Messiah - if the visions of glory He gives us - causes us to run away from daily cares, chores and duties, then we will have entirely missed the mark and instead thrown Elohim's (God's) blessings to the proverbial pigs. What we should be doing with our salvation and communion with Messiah is to incarnate them in our daily lives so that when someone sees us cheerfully singing while we are cleaning a toilet, or cooking a meal, or sawing up firewood or some other menial task, they will see the light of Messiah shining through us and yearn to possess it themselves. If they see a Christian or Messianic miserable or complaining about his daily tasks, what then will they conclude? Worse, what may we then conclude about ourselves as believers?

    If you are on a glory trip I urge you to come down to earth before you lose the way. Learn to find contentment in the simple things of life. Selfish ambition is one of the worst spiritual killers of all. Our ambition should always be to serve Elohim (God) first and then our neighbour and then let Yahweh determine the way we are to go in life. If we would but employ our energies to that end we would encounter nothing but showers of blessings.

    So remember those shepherds and the place that Elohim (God) had for them. They are typical of the average Christian or Messianic. Perhaps you are called to be an apostle but bear in mind that not many are, and that the great majority of those who are called never make it. May Yahweh be exalted in all that we do is my prayer in Yah'shua's Name. Amen.

    This page was created on 16 February 2001
    Last updated on 24 January 2017

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