“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 his 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.” (Luke 2:1–4, NIV84)
Once again we are faced with the incredible detail in which Luke wrote his Gospel. He certainly proved his intent to write a thorough account of Jesus’ life. He specifically told us who was reigning where at the time of the census that Caesar Augustus initiated. But this is obviously not why I am writing a devotion on these verses today. I would like to devote our time and attention to God’s grand design, plan and promise. The Roman world is considered, even today, to be one of the most powerful kingdoms ever formed on the earth. It was this power and pride that moved Augustus to request the census. And look what he did — he forced people all over the kingdom to go to their hometowns to be counted. Can you imagine the chaos this caused? Caesar didn’t care one bit about the discomfort or chaos. His pride and arrogance were too full for that. He was exercising his power and control, and he liked it.
In that day you would have been killed if you were to accuse Augustus of being the pawn in someone else’s plan. He would have laughed at such a ridiculous claim, just before he had you beheaded. But that wouldn’t make the claim any less true. The God of the universe used this Roman ruler to do his bidding. This census was God’s idea. It was God exercising His power and control. Why? Because he needed to fulfill a little Messianic prophecy where He stated that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. God could have made it so Mary and Joseph both lived in Bethlehem. But that is not what He chose to do. He wanted us to be so certain that this was all part of His plan to save us that He exerted His power over the greatest kingdom in history so that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, and so we would be certain as to the power and will of God.
It’s texts like this that leave me in awe.