In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered (Luke 2:1).
What powerful truth and what precious comfort are contained in this familiar verse! Here we see that God’s purposes are perfectly and promptly completed. Did you think that kings, or presidents, or dictators make history? No! They are but instruments in the hand of the eternal and purposeful God. Hundreds of years before, God had spoken through the prophet Micah saying:
“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 coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2).
God’s promises are fulfilled, and exactly on God’s timetable. Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, not in Joseph and Mary’s home town. How? Why? Because Caesar’s tax would force them to travel to Bethlehem. Caesar Augustus unwittingly obeys God’s decree by publishing his own decree!
We play our part with joy and faith when we see that our daily life is infused with God’s eternal purposes and glory.
We also see here God’s providential care of his people. Did you think that you have no part to play in history? One of the greatest leaders of one of the greatest empires in history brought a tax to the entire empire so that one little unknown, newly-wed couple would be where God wanted them to be, doing what God wanted them to do.
If only we could see, not just Christmas Day, but every day as a day that God is ordering empires and eras for his glory! Suddenly our little Bethlehem-like town, the humble manger scenes of our life would take on infinitely greater significance. We would see ourselves, like Joseph and Mary, as small parts — perfectly placed — in the great production of God’s eternal plan.
We — like Caesar, like Joseph, like Mary — exist at the pleasure, and for the glory, of Jesus the Christ.
We play our part with joy and faith when we see that our daily life is infused with God’s eternal purposes and glory. Yet the world does not revolved around us, does it? Nor does it center on the great rulers of the day. No, this verse reminds us ultimately that all the world, and all of human history, finds its purpose and fulfillment only and always in Jesus Christ.
No doubt Caesar Augustus made many decrees that he thought were important. History tells us he was a tremendously powerful and influential ruler. But what Caesar Augustus didn’t know was that he was Caesar in order to fulfill God’s purposes for his Son.
And the same is true of every person and every nation, in every generation. We — like Caesar, like Joseph, like Mary — exist at the pleasure, and for the glory, of Jesus the Christ.