“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-11)
Shepherds in Bible times were not used to heavenly visitations, so it’s no wonder they were “greatly afraid”! The most excitement they would have normally encountered would have been something closer to a wolf or coyote threatening the peace of the flock. As a result, their first reaction to this angelic visitation was to expect something evil, something that would harm them.
Notice in verse eleven the next message from the spokesman angel: “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people…” The angel obviously sensed their fear, and knew they needed some reassurance of their purpose. The message they brought was “good” and filled with “joy” . . . and not just joy, but great joy!
The message didn’t stop there. In Luke 2:13-14, the host of angels continued, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!’ ”
Not only were they given “good tidings,” but also “good will”! It wasn’t bad news with a bad motive. It was all good news with the motivation and desire to bring good. It was meant to inspire joy and godly excitement, not fear and dread.
All messages that bring fear a dread come from the devil (John 10:10; 2 Timothy 1:7). We can easily define a message from him based on three things: 1) It does not match God’s written Word, 2) it is not good news, and 3) it inspires us to give up or hide. Just like the liar he is (John 8:44), he may sow seeds of fear in our hearts, even when we receive a message from God. The last thing he wants is for us to respond joyfully and in faith to a heavenly tiding. Once we do, he knows we are able to experience God’s goodness to the full. He will do whatever he can to stop it, either by sending his own message, or by distracting us from the real one.
Just like the devil’s heart motive is revealed in his message, the heart of God is always revealed in His Word. In contrast to the devil’s tiding, God’s message teaches us that His nature alone is good. “You are good, and do good …” (Psalm 119:68) “For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5) “So Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.’” (Luke 18:19) We know that any time He speaks to us, either through His written Word or through His Spirit to our hearts, it will be an accurate expression of who He is and what He desires.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Based on our lack of faith in the supernatural promises of God, our flesh may immediately recoil in fear and intimidation when receiving a big message from God. We may think it’s impossible, or feel like we aren’t good enough to receive it. When we cower at the message, the supernatural, “good will” is never seen. But God’s desire is that we recognize where that fear comes from, and choose to believe and act on that “good tiding”! If we act like the shepherds, and “come with haste” (Luke 1:16), we will see a miracle . . . one that only the God of good tidings could bring!