When Joseph settled Jacob’s family in Egypt, he advised them to tell Pharaoh that they were shepherds and to ask for the good grazing land at Goshen, separated from the agrarian society of Egypt where shepherding was regarded as a loathsome occupation. At that time, Jacob’s family had a high regard for the keeping of livestock but, while in Egypt, attitudes changed, and by the time of Jesus’ birth, shepherds were on the bottom rung of the social ladder in Palestine.
How wonderful that God chose such as these to be the first to know, through an extraordinary angelic visitation, the truth of the Messiah’s birth. God regards us in just the same way today, for human status is of no consequence to Him. He simply looks for a heart attitude of humility and obedience. Just as the Egyptians despised the shepherds of Jacob’s family, the world may well reject us as being of little value on account of our occupation, our ethnicity, our intellect, our age, our housing, or our poverty, but God’s acceptance of our personhood is unconditional.
Even worse than shepherding, in the Jewish order of social status at the time of Jesus, would have been the keeping of pigs, which of course is a significant part of the story of the prodigal son. Despite his coming home half-naked and reeking of pigs, the father focusses on the return, not the condition, of his son. God is more than able to restore us from the damage that this world has caused in our lives, but only we can make the choice to come to Him.
Prayer: Father, Your unconditional love for every human being is so precious. As we look towards the year ahead, may we know that love in a deeper place through a simple and obedient response to Your direction for our lives. Amen.
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