In their famous trip to Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary were complying with a mandate from the government. Yet, there was something bigger going on
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.Romans 13:1
Of the many truths in the story of Christ’s birth, one is the reminder that God is sovereign. He is ultimately in charge. He is bringing his purposes and plans to pass and no government or politician – no matter how evil or corrupt – will stand in His way.
What politicians and rulers often overlook is that they are in power only because God allows them to be. They are subordinate to Him, whether they acknowledge Him or not.
When Joseph and Mary made the 80-mile or so journey to Bethlehem from Nazareth (in the late stages of Mary’s pregnancy), they were complying with a law imposed by Rome. For tax purposes, every male was supposed to go to his hometown to be counted in a census.
But before we feel sorry for the young couple, we should understand that God was using this circumstance to accomplish His higher purposes. God was using the emperor’s decree to fulfil his own decree, that Christ would come into the world as promised.
Read Luke’s account of the nativity and you will notice more than one reference to King David:
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David. Luke 2:4
Is there significance to this? Yes, much. This is a subtle reference to the covenant that God made with David back in 2 Samuel 7 where God promised that He would establish the kingdom of David forever. The royal dynasty of David, per God’s guarantee, would never end. By referring to David and to Bethlehem, Luke is giving a hint that the birth of Christ had something to do with God keeping this promise.
From a human standpoint, Luke helps his readers understand that Jesus would be a descendent of David and therefore a rightful heir to David’s throne. Jesus, as it turns out, would be the One to make it all come true.
Yet, it gets confusing. God also promised David that He would discipline his descendents when necessary. And in those times, when there would be no king on the throne and the kingdom would be in shambles, it would appear that God had canceled His promise. In fact, this was the case when Jesus was born. Israel was under the thumb of a foreign emperor by the name of Caesar Augustus.
But God assured David that even in these dark and difficult times, His promise would be in tact. Through Jesus, the eternal Son of God, the covenant would be kept. And with beautiful irony, God would use the decree of a pagan ruler to see to it that the King of Kings would make His entrance in, what better place, the city of David.
Caesar was the emperor, but God was in charge.
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.Proverbs 21:1
Oh, for the politicians and rulers of our day to understand that they are only stewards of their power. We are all subject to the sovereign rule of God Almighty. As in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, His redemptive plan goes forward and even those who deny Him will He incorporate into His glorious story, just like He did with Caesar Augustus.
Have you placed your trust in Jesus, the Son of David? Have you submitted to Him as the Leader of your life? If not, what’s stopping you? He loves you and is knocking at the door of your heart but He will enter only upon your invitation. If you need further direction or have questions, feel free to reach out.
From Devotions on the Run, may God bless you and Merry Christmas!
It’s a new day with God. Run with it.