In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David (Luke 2:1-4).
O boy. I have a feeling a lot of people aren’t going to like this. A decree. A government mandate. You’re going to be counted, in your hometown, from the place where you find your ancestry. Any questions? Too bad. You better not have any questions. Get going.
From the time we can understand that someone is telling us what to do, we don’t want to do it. Somewhere around two years old we begin to rebel. “No.” “I’m not going to do what you tell me.” “You can’t tell me what to do.” We cross our arms, we walk off in the opposite direction, we assert our independence, and we claim the right to make our own decisions.
From the time we can understand that someone is telling us what to do, someone is telling us what to do. Sit here. Sit still. Eat your peas. Pick up your toys. Do your homework. Clean your room. Do your job. Don’t drive your car so fast. Get this vaccine. Don’t eat this food. Drink more water. Feel free to add your own instructions to this list here:
IKEA assembly pictures. Grandma’s favorite recipes. Directions for filing your taxes. When and how to take your medications. Shampoo and conditioner. Everything has instructions for us to follow!
Pharaoh said, “You’re not leaving.” On Mt. Sinai, God said, “Thou shall not…” Nebuchadnezzar said, “You’re going to Babylon.” Cyrus said, “You’re all moving to Jerusalem.” Jesus said, “If you love me, you’ll obey my commands.” It’s the story of God’s people. It’s the story of our faith.
The ruler of God’s people has to come from Bethlehem. That’s what the prophecy says (Micah 5:2). How are you going to get Mary, the mother of our Lord, from Nazareth to the city of David at just the right time, the moment when she goes into labor? The same God who commands the tides and waves of the oceans, who puts all the stars in their place in the sky, and has a handle on the weather can also work through the leaders of powerful nations. After all, all governing authorities get their governing authority from him (Romans 13).
Think about that for a moment. It wasn’t just coincidence or fate that made Augustus Caesar. It was no accident that Joseph was betrothed to Mary. David hailed from Bethlehem for a reason. God’s plan, from before the foundations of the world, included all these little details.
What’s God up to when our government, our laws and and our leaders tell us what we must do?
Thank you Lord, for the authorities who govern us and the laws that command us. Open our eyes to see your grace in those who rule over us. Amen.