“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David).”
Of the Gospel writers, Luke appears to be the most interested in showing how Jesus’ life and ministry meshed and merged with solid verifiable history. Approximately 700 years before our Savior’s birth, the LORD revealed to the prophet Micah that He would be born in Bethlehem of Judah. “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah,” wrote the prophet, “though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). Luke tells us that Jesus’ earthly parents resided in Nazareth of Galilee; they were there when the angel Gabriel visited Mary and prophesied concerning the virgin birth of our Lord (Luke 1:26-38; 2:4, 39, 51). How was it then that Christ was born in Bethlehem in accordance with Micah’s astounding prophecy centuries earlier? In today’s verse passage, Luke informs us that it was a decree from the Caesar that compelled Joseph and his young family to return to Bethlehem. The KJV says they returned to be taxed. In this context, the Greek term, Apographo, more properly refers to their being entered into the public registry. Whatever the case, Luke’s account makes it clear that the covenant-keeping God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is also the sovereign Lord of history. Though the Caesar was not a mindless puppet controlled with invisible strings from heaven, we may be very sure that the God Who governs history was back of the Caesar’s decision. God not only informed us about where the Christ child would be born, He told us when as well. The patriarch Jacob prophesied concerning the kingly tribe of Judah: “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh [an epithet for the Messiah] come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” (Genesis 49:10). At the time of our Lord’s birth, Rome was becoming the dominant power in the world; the sceptre, we may say, was nearly departed from Judah. By the time of His passion, even religious Israel was proclaiming, “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15). Their wicked faithlessness stands in stark contrast with the dependability and reliability of the omnipotent God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18). His Christ came as promised and right on schedule (Galatians 4:4). May this meditation encourage our hearts to believe all that the prophets have spoken, for He who promised is faithful indeed (Hebrews 10:23)!