And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. – Luke 2:8-9
On the same night that Jesus was born, there were some shepherds keeping their flocks in possibly the very same field where David tended his father’s sheep as a young boy. These men, no doubt, were veterans of their trade and had faced many dangers from storms to wild animals. But what they were about to face caused them to be sore afraid.
One of the best tactics of a small military unit making a surprise attack is to sneak in during the darkest part of the night, set off a flash grenade to blind their enemies, and surround them before they have a chance to defend themselves. What is about to happen to these shepherds is the same thing, but on a much larger scale!
Without any warning, an angel of God suddenly appeared in the middle of the shepherds and was towering over them. Contrary to many art depictions, the angels of the Bible are not “Precious Moments Cupids,” but mighty warriors in the Lord’s army. Each one is capable of destroying tens of thousands of men singlehandedly! And now, one has instantly appeared like a surprise attack. As if that was not enough, there was also a glorious light haloed around the angel and the shepherds. The deep dark of the night was suddenly replaced by an almost blinding light.
The reaction of the shepherds is translated from three Greek words into two English words – “sore afraid.” Basically what this means is “having been made afraid, they were almost in terror.” Seeing such a powerful being from God, mixed with their own sense of sin in the presence of the glory of God, the shepherds were helpless and more frightened than any time in their lives.
If we are true to ourselves, and to the Bible, we should have the same sense of fear when we compare ourselves to the holiness and majesty of God. Were it not for grace, this fear would consume us even before the righteous hand of God would judge us.
So what is the answer to this fear? Are we able to overcome such power ourselves? The shepherds certainly could not.
With the Lord’s help, we will look at the glorious way in which God drives away our fears in the next blog.