In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 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, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
- Luke 2:1 – 5
We now come to the little town of Bethlehem. Bethlehem is the town King David was from and Mary and Joseph travel there for two reasons.
One reason was Caesar Augustus. Caesar Augustus ruled the Roman world when Jesus was born and he wanted to know the numerical size of his kingdom. So he demanded all people to travel to their hometown to be counted.
It didn’t matter how far or inconvenient the journey was, you had to go. So, since Joseph was of the house and lineage of the great King David, he and his very pregnant wife packed their bags and traveled to Bethlehem.
The other reason Mary and Joseph found themselves in Bethlehem was God. A few hundred years before Jesus’ birth God made a promise through the prophet Micah about Bethlehem being an important city in his plan of redemption. But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. (Micah 5:2)
Essentially, God said that Bethlehem, though a very small city, would be the place where the fulfillment to all of God’s promises would enter our world. It is kind of like God pulled out a map, circled Bethlehem in red, and said the Savior King will be born here.
So Mary and Joseph had to get to Bethlehem before Jesus was born. But they weren’t there. They were in Nazareth. And they weren’t moving towards Bethlehem. So something would have to get them moving in that direction.
But what would cause a man to take his very pregnant wife on a very long journey?
It’s not like God could just cause Augustus to get curious about the size of his kingdom, and create a great census, and require everyone to travel to their hometown to be counted, and pick a man from the house and lineage of the great King David to be Jesus’ earthly dad, and have all of this take place at precisely the time that Mary was about to give birth.
Actually, that’s exactly what God did. And in doing this, God is showing us that he is at work in our world. And his work is not just a general awareness of what is happening in our lives. He actually sets specific things in motion to move us to where he wants us to be.
Sure, we might not always see his hand at work, but make no mistake about it. His sovereign hand is at work in all the seemingly random things we encounter. God used a seemingly random census to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem and God uses seemingly random things to get us to where we need to be.
So today as you look at all that you experience, remind yourself of Mary and Joseph’s trip to Bethlehem and tell your soul that all that happens to you is moving you towards God’s plans and purposes for your life.