I was going to present this in a series of video blogs, but Carolyn was hospitalized before that could happen so we will see if it can be done in type; however, if anyone feels that they would like to get me one of these, don’t let me stand in your way.
The commonly held view on the presence of shepherds at the birth of Christ is that their low position in society, in contrast to the presence of the kings of the east, showed that Christ came for all men. I think there may be merit in this, but I don’t think that it really strikes at the heart of the reason. So, as a shepherd, let me give you a little sheep insight.
Sheep are prey, and therefore have been given a wide field of vision of about 270º; they can see way around the back of their heads. Unfortunately this comes with a subsequent loss of depth perception; that’s in a predator’s bag of tricks. Sheep perceive a thrown shadow as a hole. Run sheep down a hall with a thrown shadow and they will jump over it. This lack of depth also makes them very skittish around changes in light, and as a result they are quite difficult to move from a light to a dark area.
Many people call sheep stupid. I find it strange that we demand animals be required to learn our language, our mannerisms, our natures, our lifestyles, and then we call them stupid if they fail to perform perfectly. If we’re so smart why don’t we learn how to bark and bleat?
Naturally, as a species of brain surgeons, we arrange things so that when you unload your sheep at an auction house, etc., they will inevitably need to be moved from a light area to a dark area. We then chase the sheep around and curse their stupidity.
Why does this matter? Take David’s statement,
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…
It is important to view it as a sheep. First, it is difficult to get the sheep into this valley; they don’t want to move from light to dark. Second, death may only be a shadow, but to sheep it is corporeal. It appears to have substance. And, if you’ve read The Glory of Kings you will understand this statement speaks about the church age. About this church age Paul declares,
Death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory?
This is why you must walk by faith. Sight is deceptive. We lack the correct depth perspective, which I have called the vantage point of truth. A little sheep knowledge goes a long way when interpreting scripture.
Let me also say that if you find yourself wandering around through a flock of pregnant ewes at 3:30 am, you want to know what you’re doing. Do you have a nose bulb, iodine, a string and a warm towel with you? What if you come across an improper presentation (lamb coming out wrong), or a newborn that is not breathing, or a ewe who is trying to lamb out but hasn’t dilated properly? And at what point do you let a veterinarian take over?
I think it behooves us to take seriously the declaration of John the Baptist upon seeing Christ, “Behold! The Lamb of God who washes away the sins of the world!” If we see Christ as a lamb, then it only makes sense that there were shepherds present. Shepherds would come prepared and would know what to do!
But this is all by the bye. The pattern, we are told, is first the natural, then the spiritual. We read the account of the first birth, the natural birth, but what of the second? What of the inevitable spiritual birthing that must follow?
Generally, Revelation is viewed as a series of judgments. This is because shepherds do not generally comment on it. So let us take a shepherds view.
First, though, a short sheep physiology lesson. A ewe has very complicated plumbing, which is why artificial insemination of a ewe is so difficult (I have a rant on this subject, but it will have to wait for later). The cervix, which joins the uterus to the birth canal, is sealed with rings. These rings have to dilate (open) before a lamb can be born.
Most interestingly, there are seven rings. The birth of a lamb is prevented by seven seals, and these seals must be opened before a lamb can be born. This is why we read in the 5th chapter of Revelation (paraphrased):
The lamb took the scroll from the right hand of the one seated upon the throne; and the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders sang a song, saying: Worthy is the lamb to take the scroll and open its seven seals.
If you are to rightly interpret the book of Revelation, you have to realize that it is speaking about a spiritual birth, one that inevitably follows the natural birth of Christ. This scroll is that complicated plumbing, the seals are the seven rings, and it is through the opening of those seals by the lamb who is worthy to do so that this birthing happens. This is why Christ speaks of these days as suffering the beginning of birth pangs. This isn’t merely some convenient analogy that popped into his head, but the perfect description of the time in which we have entered.
I encourage you to re-read Revelation, but this time through don’t think judgment, think spiritual birth. And we will carry on next posting.