The Shepherds were sitting on the hillside looking after their own sheep, minding their own business when an angel appeared to them. They announced the birth of Jesus. The appearance of multitude of angels praising God followed the birth announcement. So, why did the angel appear to the Shepherds first?
In order to answer this correctly, we need to step back into time. The Shepherds were inBethlehem, which was the production of wheat and barley and a place where sheep was raised. These weren’t just plain sheep, no — these were the sheep destined to be sacrificed inJerusalem at the temple. The law required that every household had to sacrifice a lamb at Passover (if they could afford to). In Exodus 12:5, we see that regulations dictated that each lamb had to be without blemish.
During the time of Jesus, there was a corrupt sacrificial system in operation that ensured theTemple as huge profit. If you brought in your our lamb to sacrifice, it had to be inspected by theTemple priests. The chances were that it would be rejected as having a blemish or two forcing you to purchase a “spotless lamb” from the Temple. These lambs naturally were high priced and you couldn’t just buy one with ordinary money. You had to exchange your money into theTemple money – with a high exchange fee. These are the moneychangers referred to in passage in Matt 21:12 and it was these types of practices which made Jesus angry!
The bottom line – during the time of Jesus, the Temple was not only the place to sacrifice the lambs but they even supplied them! But, where did the “mass production” of lambs come from? Many of them were raised in fields near Bethlehem by shepherds who, I believe, worked for theTemple in Jerusalem. But, here is the point I want to bring across… whenever a new lamb was born, it was the shepherd’s duty to immediately inspect the new-born lamb to determine if the new-born had blemishes or not. If it was deformed in anyway, it was slaughtered immediately.
I believe this is the reason the angel appeared first to the shepherds: the most important sacrificial Lamb of all had just been born, and the angel therefore sent the shepherds hastening to see the One who, thirty-some years later, at Passover time, would be lifted high on a cruel cross as the one, perfect sacrifice for their sins.
I absolutely love history since He introduced me to Mystery of History. It has given me a “new taste” of many things! The wealth of information is at our fingertips!