As I read again through Luke’s gospel, this text caught my eye:
“Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all the people were on their way to register for the census, each to his own city. Now 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 register along with Mary, who was betrothed to him, and was pregnant.” (Luke 2:1-5)
Joseph and Mary could not have been happy about this governmental decision. The 70-mile trek to Bethlehem from Nazareth was not high on their wish-list. After all, she was 9-months pregnant! And they weren’t traveling in the latest SUV.
No, the trip was not one to which they looked forward.
We should always return to those words, ‘But God.’ In the face of disappointments and fears and a hundred ‘what-ifs’, our sovereign God is just that – sovereign over every circumstance and every facet of creation, the rich and the powerful, and the poor and the unknown.
In the case of Joseph and Mary, it was God who orchestrated the law that sent them on that grueling trip. Why did He so orchestrate it? Because the prophecy of Micah needed fulfillment. The Savior had to be born in Bethlehem. (See Micah, 5)
The pompous Caesar Augustus likely thought it was his idea to implement the census – in much the same way as virtually all despotic political leaders in history – to this present hour – think it THEIR idea to implement whatever policies or rules they come up with.
Whether it’s a King Saul (1 Samuel), or King Cyrus (Isaiah and 2 Chronicles), or in this case, the Caesar – or any of the scores of other examples in Old and New Testament history, our utterly and eternally Sovereign God orchestrates events and people according to His unassailable will, purpose, and plan.
I memorized a text decades ago that keeps coming back to me when I consider the current events in America: The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He pleases. (Proverbs 21:1)
Life often frustrates us. Frightens us. Annoys us. Confuses us. Angers us. During such times it often feels as if God is not in control of anything.
But our God is always in control. Total, absolute control. And as He used Mary and Joseph in His grand plan in the first century, so too God uses you and me – in all our frustrating and fearful and angering circumstances – He uses us in His grand plan in the 21st century.
Joseph and Mary did not want to travel the 70 miles to Bethlehem. They wanted to remain in Nazareth among family and friends for the impending birth of her first born. But God had an eternally more valuable purpose in His mind than to provide for their comfort.
Don’t you think the same can be said about His purpose for you and me?
Christian – trust God. Things might seem to be falling apart all around us. But they are not falling apart. God is simply orchestrating them into place according to His will, purpose, and plan.