2 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town.4 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, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Accompanying Mark Driscoll sermon: Jesus' Birth
Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: Jesus' Birth in Bethlehem Part 1 and Part 2
Accompanying Matt Chandler sermon: Sovereign Over All
The sovereignty of God is simply amazing.
Micah had prophecied, hundreds of years earlier, that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. So, God had to get Mary to Bethlehem. And He does it through the Roman government. Because that's a logical leap, right? Caesar couldn't care less about Bethlehem, and he had no interest in the Word of God or fulfilling any prophecies. Yet God used him as a main player to bring this prophecy to fulfilment. God is sovereign over world leaders and nations.
The story of Caesar Augustus is fascinating. He was born Gaius Octavius and became known as Octavian. He was a grand-nephew to Julius Caesar who took a liking to him and adopted him as his son and heir. Julius Caesar was murdered and Octavian became ruler of Rome along with Mark Antony who married Octavian's sister. However, Mark Antony divorced Octavian's sister in favour of Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt, and gradually began to show more concern for Egypt than he did for Rome. This eventually led to a huge battle between Egypt and Rome with Rome emerging the victor. Mark Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide, which left Octavian to rule Rome alone. He was an amazing leader and brought in the Pax Romana to pretty much the entire world. He also built massive Roman roads, a fantastic transportation system throughout this all-encompassing empire which enabled the gospel to be spread rapidly after Jesus' resurrection. What timing! God is sovereign. (Side note: Caesar August died in 14AD and was succeeded by Caesar Tiberius, who was Caesar during Jesus' ministry.)
But while Caesar Augustus was alive, he became known as a god, and was actually proclaimed to be the saviour of the world.
MacArthur notes: At the very time a false savior of the world was riding high on the throne of his own glory the true Savior of the world was born in obscurity. The false savior was on the world stage. He dominated it in full honor and privilege. The true Savior was born without honor, without privilege in humble obscurity. The false savior was sitting on the highest pinnacle of the highest throne in the dominant city of Rome. The true Savior was born in the humble non-descript village of Bethlehem. The false savior made it clear who he was. The true Savior couldn't even speak.
Another interesting thing to note is that likely Caesar Augustus already called for this census about 6-8BC. But, due to political differences, Judea didn't comply immediately. They waited a couple years. Which actually makes a lot of sense. Eventually Caesar likely had enough, and dropped a deadline and said, get yourself counted, or else. Which would explain why Joseph and Mary are travelling in winter when she's 9 months pregnant - they suddenly had no choice. And so, Jesus' birth likely took place between 4 and 6 BC.
Now, Rome would not have required them to go back to their place of birth. But genealogy was incredibly important to the Jews, and likely that was a Jewish custom or a decree added on by Herod.
Joseph and Mary were only in Bethlehem for a matter of days when it came to this census. And God had to orchestrate the birth of Jesus to occur exactly in those few days. I mean, it's just mind boggling! God is sovereign over all!
MacArthur: There are no accidental occurrences, folks, in the realm of the Holy Spirit. Had the Emperor Augustus made his decision three months earlier, or three months later, or one month earlier or one month later, or maybe one week earlier, or one week later, Jesus wouldn't have been born in Bethlehem. But He was. God knew how long it would take to get the registration machinery in place. God knew how long Herod would resist it. God knew how long it would take for that little couple to trek those 85 to 90 miles in the winter. God knew exactly how long it would take so that they would be there for just a few days, but in those days the baby would be born. Every single detail was in the hand of Almighty God. And God still directs history and He still holds every king, every monarch, every ruler in His hand for His own purposes.
God's sovereignty is simply amazing.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 2:8-14