And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby,
keeping watch over their flocks at night.
I remember watching a herdsman driving his little flock of goats along the side of a grassy slope on the coast of South Africa, watching how with precision he would gather the strays, all while keep the herd together. I marveled at how he could direct this group of flighty animals all in the direction he willed while not letting a single one fall behind. Growing up on a farm and later having goats of our own, I remember nights where we would be watching over a sick goat or cow through the night, trying to make sure it would see the light of the next day.
I do not find it very complimentary when God compares us to sheep — needy and helpless. But when you think about the way that those shepherds watched over their flock on the hills of Israel, giving special attention to the sick and also looking ahead and planning the next place to go to sustain the flock. Every action the shepherd makes is with the good of the flock in mind. He knows the state of the flock.
Our heavenly Father has done the same for us through the history of the world and when often all we can think about is our own needs. As Christ’s people, we are his concern, just like the flock is the shepherd’s concern. God sent his Son to earth for his glory, for the redemption of his flock.