Purpose: To see and understand the impact of personal salvation come down to mankind and the world through the birth of Jesus Christ.
OUTLINE FOR LUKE 2:1-20 –
I. THESE EVENTS WERE IN THE HANDS OF OUR SOVEREIGN GOD (vv. 1-5; Micah 5:2).
II. THE BIRTH OF JESUS WAS IN THE RIGHT TIME, RIGHT PLACE AND INVOLVED THE RIGHT PEOPLE (vv. 6-7; Galations 4:4).
III. THROUGH THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST THE LOWLY ARE EXALTED, AND THE HAUGHTY MADE LOW (vv. 8-16; 1:52).
IV. THE BIRTH OF JESUS IS SPREAD AROUND BROADLY, AND BY THE LOWLY (vv. 17-18),
V. THE JOY OF THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST (vv. 19-20).
There are many times we do not understand why things happen or are happening as they do. One of those times could be the present day events in the United States and the world; economically, politically, religiously, medically, or in our families. Though things seem to be messed up, and wickedness seems out of control we, as Christians, can rest assured that God has it all in His hands, and is working it all out for our good and His glory. There is no better example of that than the times before the birth of Jesus, the birth of Jesus, and up until now.
God has the good of the world in His hands and heart. We can trust Him. The world should trust Him. He has provided salvation for all who will believe Him, and trust their eternal lives to His care and love. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him would not perish, but would have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).
Let us never think that the people previous to the birth of Jesus believed they had it all figured out; they didn’t. They did however trust that the Lord was working, and accomplishing His purposes and will. We have seen men like Zachariah hearing the message of God from the angel Gabriel concerning the birth of John, and his reception of that message, along with Elisabeth his wife. Then, we have seen the virgin Mary hearing the message of the birth of her Son, and without a human father; yet she believed. Even during that 430 years of darkness God was working, moving in the hearts of men, but in silence; waiting for that right time, place, and for the right people to fulfill His Word.
WE CAN TRUST THAT THE EVENTS ARE IN THE HANDS OF OUR SOVEREIGN GOD (vv. 1-5). None of us like taxes or to take part in census taking. Both of these may have been the purpose of Caesar’s decree; but the real decree came from God Himself, to fulfill His Word that His Son would be born in Bethlehem, the city of David’s heritage (1 Samuel 16:1-4ff). The Old Testament passage for that is,
“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Micah 5:2 (KJV)
We must understand that while God created us with what has been called “Free will”, that this does not thwart the will of God, nor hinder His will in any way, but works with His sovereignty fulfilling His will.
If the god the Open Theists believe in is what we have, then we are all without hope. The god of the Open Theists does not know the future any better than you or I; does not direct the affairs of mankind; has no control over what happens tomorrow.
Look at these events with Joseph and Mary. They receive a decree from the ruler of Rome to go to the place of their heritage, which is Bethlehem, and the child that is within the womb of Mary is that Son of Promise who is to be born in Bethlehem, fulfilling the Scriptures. Only God who reigns on high could accomplish such a thing. As Mary was told by Gabriel, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” 1:37 (KJV)
ONLY A SOVEREIGN GOD COULD HAVE HIS SON BORN IN THE RIGHT PLACE, AT THE RIGHT TIME, AND TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE (vv. 6-7). Paul the apostle wrote,
“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law…” Galations 4:4 (KJV)
The right place, of course, was the city of David’s heritage and birth; the right time was when there was darkness in the earth, so that the Light might be more clearly seen, heard and received; the right people was a young couple who were awaiting the coming of their Messiah (Though we are not told this specifically, it does seem quite likely, and they received this gift by grace.) And they were faithful to serving the Lord.
I have no idea what the likelihood is of these things all just happening without divine direction, but I am sure the numbers would be astronomical. I do not understand why some people find it so hard to believe that it takes the hands of the Devine to direct the affairs of the Devine, and the birth of His Son is certainly a Devine work.
You can try and explain some things only so many ways, but the obvious, until it becomes so very foolish to make circles around the obvious. In doing so you miss the obvious.
It was the right time and place for the time of our Lord’s life and death. His crucifixion some 33 years later, and in His own country, by the words of His own people, and by the hands of Gentiles, could not have happened any other time.
It is fascinating to think that the Ark of the covenant had been taken away at least 430 years before the birth of Jesus. The Ark represented the presence of God, and His glory; now the presence and glory of God came into their midst in Person. It was the right time, in the right place with the right woman, that the glory of God was revealed to fallen mankind, hated, despised, and laid on the cross by the people who so needed Him.
BY THE SOEREIGN HAND OF GOD, THROUGH THE BIRTH OF HIS SON THE LOWLY ARE EXALTED AND THE HAUGHTY MADE LOW(vv. 8-16; 1:52). Shepherds were the most lowly and despised of Jewish people; yet these were the first to be notified of the birth of their King and Lord.
We are not told how many shepherds there were, but just know that there was more than one because of the plural usage of “shepherds”. Whether there was two, or more makes little difference; the more the merrier I would say. That they were despised by many people only shows that God has in His mind to demonstrate His love to the lonely, the outcasts, and the helpless and hurting.
However many there was we see shepherds “In the field watching their flocks at night”. If it would have been Winter it does not seem likely that they would be in the field, but in their mangers, caves, keeping their sheep warm, and protected. At night they needed to good shepherds guarding the sheep from wolves, and thieves.
As they were guarding their sheep an great, awe-inspiring event happened, unlike anything which they had ever experienced. The angel of the Lord appeared to them, making an announcement of the birth of of the Savior, in the city of David. Along with the announcement came instructions on where to find him. There was also a “heavenly host” which joined with the angel, “praising God” and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
The shepherds heard the angels and found the manger where our Lord lay following His birth. They left the fields “with haste – in a hurry. Probably even to the point of leaving their flocks behind. The joy of seeing the new born King, Son of God was more weighty, personal, costly than the sheep in their folds. The long awaited King was born.
There is no mention of any king who was told. We know the history of Herod and his hatred for even his own sons, and killing them out of jealousy, and fear of their taking the throne from him. Herod was finally brought down. Those who know Jesus and follow Him are exalted.
THE SOVEREIGN BIRTH OF JESUS HAS BEEN SPREAD ABROAD BY THOSE WHO WERE WITNESSES OF HIS BIRTH (vv. 17-18). It does seem like an almost automatic response to tell of something you know that has happened which has excited you and others who were with you. We are not told who they told or how long they spent in telling, just that they scattered the news abroad.
This was such wonderful news that others “wondered” about it. The following is John Gill’s commentary on part of verse 18:
“…wondered at those things that were told them by the shepherds: for though they expected the Messiah, and that he would be born at Bethlehem, yet they did not imagine that he would be born of such mean parents, and appear in such mean circumstances, and in so contemptible a place; and that shepherds, and not the princes of Israel, should have the first notice of it; and yet the account which these shepherd, who were plain hearted men, and could never be thought to invent such a story, and spread it, and impose on men, without any interest in it, was very surprising; so that they knew not what to say to it, neither to deny, nor believe it; accordingly, the Persic version renders the whole thus, “and whoever heard, wondering, stuck at it”; hesitated about it, and yet astonished at the particulars of it; just as Christ’s hearers were in Luk 4:22 who wondered at his ministry, and the manner of it, and yet objected the meanness of his parentage and education.”
From the e-Sword Commentaries.
THE JOY OF THE SOVEREIGN BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST (vv. 19-20). Mary was enamored by the things she heard and seen concerning the events of her Son’s birth. Shepherds coming in from the fields, to see this new born child; a “star” shining over the stable where He lay (Matthew 2:1-2ff); and many other events which include the many fulfillments of the prophetic word of God.
The shepherds after going to see Jesus the new born King returned to their sheepfolds to shepherd their flocks, but with a whole new outlook on things. They were singing, rejoicing in all the things they had seen and heard. Though we are not told that they did; I kind believe the shepherds sat down and visited with Mary and Joseph, then Mary told her story, that of Zachariah and Elisabeth, her story of virgin conception, the virgin birth. Joseph probably told them of how he had about divorced Mary (secretly), except that an angel revealed to Him the unique specialty of this birth and child that would be born (Matthew 1:18-21ff).
Joy, peace, love, gentleness, patience, kindness, self-control, meekness and faith are fruits which follow those who are witnesses, empowered by the presence of this King (Galations 5:22-24). This King was born as Savior to take away our sins by paying the price that was ours to pay.
Without the birth of this King there would be no Savior, no salvation, no Peace or Joy. That is why the shepherds returned praising and glorifying God.
Anyone putting their faith and trust in Jesus the King will live and reign with Him forever. All sins forgiven; the price fully paid by the death of Jesus on the cross, carrying the guilt and shame of sin away in His burial, then His rising for our justification – being made right with God for all eternity, and living for Him, waiting for His return.
-Tim A. Blankenship