An Emperor, a Puppet King, and Bethlehem

Nearly everyone is familiar with Luke’s account of the Christmas story. It starts with those familiar words: “Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered…”

It was this census that brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. Right at the point in her pregnancy where nearly every MD would never recommend traveling – Let alone on the back of a donkey!

But the prophet Micah had marked Bethlehem eight centuries earlier as the birth place of the Messiah. “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,. . . from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” (Micah 5:2)

I marveled as I read those words again recently. How do you get a young woman in her final trimester to pack up and move to Bethlehem just long enough to have a baby?

God in his sovereignty accomplished that by bringing to power a Roman emperor, who because of a strained relationship with a King in Palestine, (by the name of King Herod) decreed a census. The only problem? The Romans didn’t require people to return to the towns of their ancestors for a census.

But Herod, who understood the political climate of his land, more than likely put a Jewish spin on it. If you were going to be counted anyway, best to be counted in the birthplace of your ancestors. And so Joseph, a descendent of King David, placed Mary on a donkey and headed to Bethlehem – and in so doing fulfilled an 800 year old prophecy!

Amazing! A pagan emperor ruling from a Roman throne and a self-serving king ruling in Palestine were used by God to accomplish His purposes regarding the birthplace of His Son – Jesus Christ. It gives me hope, that in these uncertain times, God is still the One sovereignly overseeing the affairs of men.

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