TITLE: And It Came To Pass – Part #1
DATE: December 29, 2019
Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed.
TEXT: Luke 2 21 – ESV - - 2 And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
The first person mentioned in Luke's familiar story of Christmas was not Jewish. He is not a shepherd or a wise man. It is not Mary or Joseph or Zacharias or Elizabeth. Indeed, at first glance, it would seem that he has nothing to do with the story.
The man is the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus.
Yet, it was his decision, 1,500 miles away in Rome, which started the train of events that finally led to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. You remember, “And it came to pass in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed” Just a few days ago you heard the children say those words in their Christmas services. But most of the time those words are brushed aside so we can get to the good stuff.
Have you ever thought what those words mean? In time the ancient world was united under Rome. It came to pass that a Roman general, Pompey, 60 years before had conquered Palestine and brought that land under the sway of Roman rule. It came to pass that the country was now ruled by a local King, Herod the Great, who was a close personal friend of the Emperor. It came to pass that Anthony and Cleopatra had been destroyed and the civil wars had been put at an end.
It came to pass that Augustus, nephew to Julius Caesar became the first emperor. It came to pass that Augustus was shocked at the morality of his people and spent fortunes in restoring Roman temples. It came to pass that he needed money to pay for those temples, so he had to raise taxes. It came to pass that to raise those taxes, he had to find out how many people lived in his empire.
And thus, it came to pass in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
Any breakdown in any of these events would have led to a different ending. But it didn't happen that way. For we worship a God who uses emperors and shepherds alike to bring about His plan of salvation.
Under normal circumstances, Jesus would have been born in Nazareth, the home of Joseph and Mary. But, as Luke explains, it came to pass that Caesar ordered everybody to return to their ancestral towns. Since both Joseph and Mary were distant descendants of the much-married King David, they prepared to travel down to David's city of Bethlehem.
And it came to pass that the words of the ancient prophet were fulfilled, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, as the ancient prophets had foretold. God was in control. If Jesus had been born on the way, in any other city, it would have done us no good.
He had to be born in Bethlehem, and the Lord brought that about. Caesar Augustus didn't care whether Mary and Joseph liked the trip? He didn't care whether Mary had to endure the rigors of an eighty mile journey on the back of a jogging donkey while in a state of very advanced pregnancy. Her discomfort was unimportant to him.
So the trip was made.
And Jesus birth was heralded by angels and worshipped by shepherds. And it came to pass it was time for her to be delivered and she brought forth her first born Son, God's Son, our Savior and Lord. On the Bethlehem census rolls went three names:
Joseph, Ben Iacob, carpenter; Mary, Bath-Ioachim, his wife and Yeshua, or Jesus, their first-born son. God was in control.
He still is.
THE PRAYER: Lord, we hear of wars and rumors of wars. We see powerful men parade as if they were in control. Help everyone see that Your hand alone is all-powerful, and Your Son alone is strong enough to save us. In His holy Name I pray it. Amen.
The music which introduces and concludes our devotions was written by Guy Baumann. He along with three of his brothers perform on the album: The Baumann Brothers which may be ordered here: http://thebaumannbrothers.com/index.html