in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.Luke 2:5(NASB)
We read in Luke, that a decree was published from Caesar Augustus for a census to be taken of the entire Roman world. It was the first such registration and was carried out when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to register for this new Roman tax, in their ancestral home. Joseph who lived in Nazareth.. a town in Galilee, had to go to Bethlehem.. the city of David in Judea, because he was of the house and family of King David. So we read that "Joseph went to register, together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage, and she was pregnant."
We all know and love the Christmas story of Mary, Joseph, and the birth of baby Jesus in the little town of Bethlehem. We love to sing of the angels and the shepherds, who saw Jesus lying in a manger of hay, and wrapped by his mother in swaddling clothes. And we also like to reflect on the visit of the wise men from the east, and the star that led them to the King.
This is not some fanciful fairy-story or cultural myth. This account presents us with actual historical details, which pinpoint the time when God the Son came to earth as the Son of Man, to pay the price for the sin of the world. It helps us to identify the exact time in history when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. It arrests our attention and reminds us that this is not simply a nice little folktale, but a factual event, anchored in time and recorded in history.
Jesus was born when certain identifiable, historical characters were in positions of great power and authority. It happened during the reign of Caesar Augustus, one of the best-known Roman emperors in world history. Rome had governed the known world for centuries, and our attention is directed to a particular place in an identifiable region of the empire. Identifiable historical figures were in power, and there can be no confusion of the exact location where the Christ-child was born - in Bethlehem of Judea.
It is no coincidence that Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken at this time, for God had ordained that Christ HAD to be born in a particular place and His parents HAD to be in Bethlehem, the hometown of their ancestors. It is no coincidence that both Mary and Joseph were descendants of Judah and traced their lineage back to David - because it was prophesied that the Messiah HAD to be born in the city of David, which was in Judea. "A man may plan his way, but the Lord directs his steps."
We are even told that this was the FIRST required census, which took place during a time when Quirinius was governor of Syria, for history tells us of other enrolments and registrations in later years and under different governors. The Holy Spirit wanted to anchor the birth of Jesus at this particular point in time to a particular town in Judea, during the rulership of Caesar Augustus, when Quirinius was governing Syria.
This attention to detail also provides us with the political climate of the day, the subjugation under which the Son of God, came into the world, the subjects who would play a part in the unfolding story of redemption, the regions under their control, and their interactions with the Redeemer and His unfolding plan of redemption.
While it was Caesar Augustus who proclaimed this decree that was to impact the whole world, it was the Lord who moved this man's heart to make his proclamation, because God had decreed that His Son must be born in Bethlehem, as Micah the prophet had foretold. Whether or not Mary was required to go in person or whether this decree only related to the men is unclear, but both Joseph AND Mary took the long journey to the city of David, because the birth of the promised Messiah HAD to take place in the location and manner that God appointed. Mary HAD to be in Bethlehem.
Perhaps Mary accompanied Joseph to Bethlehem because they remembered the prophecy of Micah. Perhaps she went with him to get away from the disapproving glances and gossipy accusations from her neighbours, for Mary had become pregnant before her marriage. Perhaps every woman accompanied their menfolk in this compulsory census or perhaps it was for some other reason that Mary accompanied Joseph.. but God moved this young couple to go to Bethlehem together, to fulfil His Word and bring forth the incarnate Word of God.
Whether they remembered the prophecy or whether they wanted to get away from the disapproving comments of her unusual conception is unclear, but Mary needed to be in Bethlehem to give birth to Jesus, and so we read, "Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David in order to be registered along with Mary, his espoused wife, who was great with child."
The Bible tells us that the heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps, and this is what took place in the life of Caesar Augustus, when he decreed that all the world should be taxed, which caused Joseph and Mary to travel to their ancestral cities at the time that prophecy was to be fulfilled and Jesus was to be born. And this is no less true today.
When unbelievable decisions are made by leaders and governments that impact the lives of God's people, the Lord takes the schemes of men and blends them together with the lives of His people, and uses them for their eternal benefit and to forward His plan of redemption, which He purposed before the world began.
As the world charges forward into an increasingly uncertain future, let us recall the wonderful way God moved the heart of famous men and insignificant people to fulfil His perfect plans and purposes for the redemption of the world, and let us confidently trust Him today, and thank Him for His never-failing goodness and grace.
Heavenly Father, how we praise and thank You for the way that You blend the plans of men and the schemes of Satan to fulfil Your perfect plan of redemption for the children of men. Thank You, that there is nothing that can happen in the world today that You cannot use to perfect Your plans and purposes. Help me to keep my eyes on You and trust You in all things, knowing that when the enemy comes in like a flood, You will lift up a standard against him and use it for good. Thank You in Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.