How did the shepherds know where to look for baby Jesus? More specifically which stable?
Last night at church my daughter was so excited to see the Christmas decorations up. She was especially excited to see a beautiful nativity scene set up on a large side table. Beautiful, almost Victorian figures with real gold threads in the fabrics. The sheep had touchable fur on them. Just beautiful. We couldn't pull her away.
This reminds me of the shepherds. A couple of years ago one of Daniel's friends came home with us after church for the afternoon. Sometime during the ride home, the subject of the nativity came up and one of the kids (or me?) asked:
"How did the shepherds know which stable to find the baby in?"
One of the kids said "Because there was a star over it".
Hmmmm... I don't remember reading that. The scriptures say that the angels came to the shepherds and told them the news but it doesn't mention that they gave specifics.
Luke 2:8-18 (contemporary english version)
That night in the fields near Bethlehem some shepherds were guarding their sheep. All at once an angel came down to them from the Lord, and the brightness of the Lord's glory flashed around them. The shepherds were frightened. But the angel said, "Don't be afraid! I have good news for you, which will make everyone happy. This very day in King David's hometown a Savior was born for you. He is Christ the Lord. You will know who he is, because you will find him dressed in baby clothes and lying on a bed of hay."
Suddenly many other angels came down from heaven and joined in praising God. They said:
"Praise God in heaven! Peace on earth to everyone who pleases God."
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
I really didn't want to tell the kids "no, there wasn't a star over the stable". I always thought that, but I needed to make sure not to tell them something incorrect. I remember when I was little I would draw manger scenes with my crayons and put a big star centered right over the manger. I used to look in the sky at Christmas and look for the biggest star and imagine the shepherds following it to find the baby. So, when we got home for church - I googled the question I asked previously. I was amazed at what I found and think of it every time I see the nativity scene.
The answer to this is found in Micah 4:8:
“And thou, O tower of the flock, the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.”
The "tower of the flock" is the Hebrew phrase Migdal Edar and means "watch tower of the flock". This tower was not the watchtower for the ordinary flocks that pastured on the barren sheep ground beyond Bethlehem, but it lay close to the town, on the road to Jerusalem. Jewish writings lead to the conclusion that the flocks which pastured there were destined for Temple sacrifices. The shepherds who kept them were men who were specifically trained for raising sacrificial lambs. They were educated in what it took to keep these lambs spotless and unharmed. These lambs were apparently wrapped in "swaddling cloths" to protect them from injury.
And these shepherds knew what the scriptures prophesied.
Micah 5:2 foretells what city the Messiah would be born in.
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
this website states:
Thus, the fields outside of Bethlehem became the place where a special group of shepherds raised the lambs that were sacrificed in the Temple. Being themselves under special Rabbinical care, they would strictly maintain a ceremonially clean stable for a birthing place. The Tower of the Flock was used for birthing ewes, and the surround fields were where these shepherds grazed their flocks. These shepherds customarily kept their flocks outdoors twenty-four hours a day every day of the year, but brought the ewes in to deliver their lambs where they could be carefully cared for. It was to this place that Joseph took Mary. It was in this special stable at “Migdal Edar” that Christ was born! How do we know? The Micah 4:8 tells us so.
So - think about it (if you haven't already arrived there). The shepherds that kept the special flock in Bethlehem (or near Bethlehem) knew the prophesies. They knew that the Messiah would be born there. They were always waiting for it. And they knew exactly where to would happen - it says so in Micah 4:8 "the tower of the flock".
So, who else would the angels have told but the ones who attended to the care of this special flock. The ones who understood it the most. It was to the shepherds that tended these special flocks that the angels appeared to and first proclaimed the birth of the Messiah, Jesus. Luke does not record that the angels told the shepherds where the manger was, because they already knew where the lambs were born! (how cool is that!) It was in the “tower of the flock”, where there were ceremonially clean stalls, carefully maintained by Temple priests who oversaw the birth of each lamb. This was a special sheep birthing place where Jesus, “the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world” was born. (John 1:29, 36). God in His plan could not have choosen a more appropriate place for the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I hope this blessed you. I'm always amazed that the simplest things, the ever-so childlike questions, can lead to such treasured discoveries. If this was new revelation for you, you'll probably be like me when you see the nativity scene and think about the "tower of the flock" and all it means. Be blessed!
I want to credit THIS SITE as a source for most of this information and encourage you to go there for even more info.
And just because I haven't shared a project on my blog in weeks, here is an angel ornament me and my little miss made over the Thanksgiving break. This is one of the projects made with the November Self-Addressed Kit.