Last Sunday my pastor asked a poignant question after reading the following passage:
“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.” (Luke 2:1-5)
Bro Dennis asked, “Why weren’t Joseph and Mary already in Bethlehem?!”
Immediately I realized where he was going with this question and it so intrigued me I haven’t stopped thinking about it. He said both Joseph and Mary knew they should have been in Bethlehem before Caesar Augustus made his decree. Don’t believe me?
“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’ But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.’ Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’ And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.’ Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:26-38)
“…that Holy One who is to be born will be called THE SON OF GOD.” (Emphasis added)
Mary knew that she was going to give birth to the Messiah. Okay, but what about Joseph?
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.’ So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’ Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.” (Matthew 1:18-25)
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)
Joseph would recognize Isaiah 7:14 because it was the messiah prophecy from the Prophet Isaiah.
Both Joseph and Mary knew their child would be the Messiah. Okay Bro Dave, that still doesn’t clear up why they should have been in Bethlehem. If they knew the messiah prophecy, which they did, yes wait for it…,you know its coming…they should, would have known where the baby Jesus was to be born.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” (Micah 5:2)
WOW! I thought to myself, “They should have known, they should have already been there and had a room for Mary or better yet, stayed with family!” But then Bro Dennis said something even more penetrating to my spirit.
Joseph and Mary were not where they were supposed to be because they were just like you and me.
We know where God wants us to be and yet we are hundreds if not thousands of miles away from His will, if not literally then definitely spiritually.
But Bro Dave I am unable to even discern God’s will for me! True, but you at least know that you should be deep into the Scriptures daily and in your prayer closet faithfully, spending time alone with Jesus learning about Him through which God reveals His will to us.
Or perhaps you’re supposed to go invite that neighbor to church, tell your co-worker about Jesus, help that poor family down the street by bringing them a bag of groceries and telling them Jesus loves them, or wherever you have become a Jonah.
“Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.’ But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” (Jonah 1:1-3)
So where are you Jonah? Are you on a ship to Tarshish, in the middle of a storm, in the belly of a fish, or grudgingly heading towards Nineveh? Are you in Bethlehem awaiting a great work by the Lord, or are you still in old dull Nazareth banging out a living wondering if God will ever bless you?
I’ve been on all paths that lead to nowhere, fleeing my Jesus.
I want to be where He is at, and if it is Bethlehem at the beginning, may I awaken on Christmas morn and be like the shepherds as they gazed at the little baby, realizing they were beholding the King. And will I so marvel at the good news that I leave the manger and run to tell everyone I meet? Will I awaken Christmas morn and praise and glorify my Jesus? Oh would that it be so!
“So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.” (Luke 2:15-20)
Beloved, go to your Bethlehem; be where your King is, even if it means you have to stay in a stinky, old stable.
You’ll be with Jesus!
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Copyright © 2009 David Jeffers