That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terribly frightened, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior — yes, the Messiah, the Lord — has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David!”
…They ran to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. Then the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished. Luke 2:8–11, 16–18 NLT
God will never lead us in a journey that does not bring glory to His Name. He has purposed to draw all men, all tongues, all tribes and all peoples to Himself that we might glorify Him. He sent Jesus to pay the price and make the way. And He has sent us, that through us He will make a global impact. As we saw in the first chapter the journey began with Jesus stepping from heaven to earth. If we would walk with the Master, we must in turn step from where we are to journey with Him.
The first men to take that step were the shepherds. A recurring theme we see throughout Scripture is that God’s invitation to them came to them right where they were. They were in the fields. That’s what shepherds do; they watch over their sheep while they are grazing in the fields. The men were not in the synagogue. They were not already at the stable. They weren’t even inside of Bethlehem. They were in the fields outside the village. Now that’s not to say that God couldn’t have spoken to them in the synagogue, at the stable or inside of Bethlehem; rather, it is to say that God will invite us right where we are to come to Him from right where we are.
I believe that some of us miss out on walking with Jesus because we have a mindset that says, “One day I’ll get dressed up and go to the synagogue at Bethlehem, and then I’ll be ready for God to invite me to come to the stable.” As if God couldn’t possibly speak to me right where I am! Or some of us have an urge to go to Bethlehem, but we’re delaying our departure because we’re too busy — “there is no way I can go; I’m too busy guarding the sheep.” Well that urging that you sense, that voice that you hear, is God inviting you to come from right where you are.
How do we know that it is God’s invitation? How do we know that it is His voice? Well, look at the shepherds. We read, “the radiance of God’s glory surrounded them.” Everything that God does radiates His glory! They saw His glory and they knew! What’s that you say — you’ve never seen the radiance of God’s glory? God knew their hearts. He knew before he invited them that they would respond. He knew that they had ears to hear and eyes to see. He knew that as He revealed His glory they would respond to His glory. Could it be that God knows our heart as well? Of course He does! And He knows how we will respond. If you have not seen the radiance of His glory it is because you have not been prepared to respond to His glory. The Lord didn’t come to them that night because they were watching for Him — they didn’t have a clue that the angel would appear that night or any night. But they had hearts that were willing to respond. Jesus said,
“Anyone who is willing to hear should listen and understand” Matthew 11:15
We don’t set the time or the place that He comes to us — He does; but we must have hearts that are willing to respond.
How did they at first respond when the Lord revealed His glory through the angel? With fear — they were “terribly frightened”. Now, I’m going to categorize fear in three ways — one that I will call “unhealthy fear”, one that I will call “healthy fear” and the other that I will call “reverent fear”. “Unhealthy fear” is that apprehension, anxiety, dread or despair that we allow to paralyze us or plague us — the fear of what other people will think or do or say, or how a possible or probable situation or event will unfold. “Healthy fear” is that emotion that is responding to evil or the expectation of it, or the apprehension of impending danger or wrongdoing or the consequence of it, that then in turn causes us to avoid that evil or danger, or confront it in an appropriate manner. “Reverent fear” is that reverence and awe that overshadows us when we come into the presence of the Sovereign and Almighty God, and having encountered His holiness and majesty we are now confronted with our own sinfulness and unworthiness. We are then compelled to walk in the awareness that our every thought, attitude and action is being observed by Him. Abraham and Moses, the only two men recorded in Scripture to be the “friends” of God, walked in that kind of fear before Him. It is that kind of fear, the writer of Proverbs says, that leads to knowledge of Him, and wisdom and understanding. The angel declared to the shepherds to not be paralyzed by “unhealthy fear” but to be propelled by “reverent fear”.
And I love how Scripture records their response — “they RAN to the village”. When the Lord has invited us to join Him on the journey, we are to go without hesitation — to go “full out” — not allowing anything to detract us or distract us in or from the journey.
And after having seen Jesus they “told everyone what had happened”. As we go, we will tell — we will tell everyone we encounter of the One we have seen and heard and the One with Whom we have walked.
Are you ready for an evening run? He’s invited us to go. Let’s not just walk; let’s run to Jesus — and let’s run with Jesus.