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Fact or Fiction

Luke 2:1-5
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. (NIVUK)

One of the most important questions to ask of any faith or belief-system is, ‘Is it true?’  Luke had no interest in writing fiction or generating attractive fables about a new religion.  He wanted to present an accurate account of the character, life and mission of Jesus, based on first-hand, eyewitness evidence (Luke 1:1-4).  All the events surrounding the birth of Jesus must have been so etched in Mary's memory that she could give a most detailed and personal description.  The Roman census is an important fact.  It anchors the date into history and explains why Jesus was born in Bethlehem and not Nazareth.

Although Joseph was descended from King David, in the southern tribe of Judah, he lived and worked in the north of the country, in the area allocated to the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali (Isaiah 9:1-2; Matthew 4:12-16).  But the census forced people to report to their tribal towns, which for Joseph and Mary was Bethlehem (Psalm 132:11).  

However, the main reason for the journey was that His birthplace was chosen by God.  The Old Testament prophecies told of the Messiah being a Son of David, who would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).  Neither Mary nor Joseph had planned the 90 mile (145 km) journey in late pregnancy.  It was certainly not practically convenient even if it had been theologically essential.  However, it was one of those situations in which God took a hand, using the secular government census to get His people in the right place at the right time.

Because God is always in charge of His kingdom, He can use any means He wants, to ensure that His will is done.  Even when we may think that the circumstances are working against us, God is working for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). God’s great power, combined with His foreknowledge and wisdom, will always achieve His purposes.  In retrospect it often amazes us to see how God has used apparently unrelated circumstances to place us where He wants us, and to bring mercy and grace at just the right time.  Therefore, we should not be surprised, and should trust Him, that whatever He allows is His choice to bring about whatever He desires.  Wise believers will praise when they cannot understand (1 Thessalonians 5:18); and will wait in confidence to see how the Lord will unfold His plans (Isaiah 30:18).  The unwise will try to engineer life to suit their plans or what they imagine God’s plan will be: they often suffer the consequences of resisting His perfect will.  And do not forget that the Lord may use you to strengthen another believer where you live or work by reminding them of this truth.

Ever-wise Lord. Thank You for Your ability to use every circumstance to achieve Your purpose. Please forgive me when I resist Your will or distrust Your handling of my affairs. Help me to trust that You really do know what You are doing, even in the hard times and through pain. We know that Jesus trusted You to take Him to the cross, and that His suffering has won eternal redemption for us. Because Jesus knows what injustice feels like, help me to appreciate that He understands what I am going through, and that I do not need to fear or fight, because Your will is being done. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams