Every journey has it’s moments when you are tired and you just want to get there. Some of the longest journeys for me have been traveling to the mission field. During covid our return to PNG took us over 78 hours. That’s more than 3 full days living on airplane food and sleeping upright in a chair. It was exhausting. While i knew we would eventually get there, it really wasn’t very enjoyable, especially toward the end. I was exhausted from lack of sleep, exhausted from being on the move for 3 days straight, and just tired of traveling.
But, when we arrived, and were reminded why we do this, all the difficulties of the travel were soon forgotten.
The journey may be difficult journey, but where you are going is worth the hardship.
The Passage: Luke 2:1-7
Luke states things pretty matter of factually, without a lot of details. But, there are a lot packed into those few words. Let’s go through these verses slowly and see what God has for us to learn.
Luke 2:1-3 1In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3And all went to be registered, each to his own town.
I like AT Robertson’s short comment in regard to this, “Observe how the ruler of the civilized world is unconsciously bringing it about that the Messiah, the son of David, shall be born at Bethlehem, though his mother’s home was Nazareth.” It just shows that no matter what man thinks, God is still in charge!
This registration was intended to establish how many people were under Caesar’s rule in order to adequately tax the people. This was not an income tax, but rather a property tax.
“The law of the Roman census stated: “Whoever has property in another city must deliver his tax declaration in that city. For land taxes must be paid to the community in whose territory the land is situated.” (Pentecost)
Luke 2:4-5 4And 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, 5to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
JD Pentecost offers some interesting insights here:
“Since Joseph was the descendant of David, Joseph’s legal inheritance rested in David’s city, and since Mary in like manner was a descendant of David, her legal inheritance was in Bethlehem as well. This necessitated a difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. But in obedience to the Roman edict, they traveled to Bethlehem together. This was a clear indication that Joseph and Mary were both of the house and lineage of David, for we can be sure that the Romans would have carefully checked their credentials to make sure that they were the legal owners of property that was to be assessed for taxation. Only after they had demonstrated their right to David’s inheritance would they have been enrolled.”
The journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem would have taken at least 3 days. The most direct route (90 miles) would have been to go through Samaria. But because the Jews saw the Samaritans as unclean, they avoided going through Samaria. Which means they would have traveled around Samaria, adding about 30 miles to the journey.
Can you picture the scene. Joseph knew that the child that Mary was carrying was not his. But, even greater, he knew it was the Son of God. It didn’t matter what other people thought any more. As he walked the streets of Nazareth going about his daily tasks, the people would stare. He would hear them talking under their breath. He would see the gossipers pointing their finger and shaking their heads. They all knew the child wasn’t his. Nazareth was too small of a town to keep anything secret.
As the child grew inside Mary, and her pregnancy became more pronounced, Mary could almost feel their stares. Everywhere she went, people were talking. She couldn’t hardly leave the house without noticing the looks, and hear the muffled whispers. But, Mary chose not to allow it bother her. She knew the burden the Lord had asked her to bear. In faith, she had put her future in God’s hands and chose to rest in Him. She was grateful the Lord had given her such a gracious man to bear it with her.
Now, with the baby’s arrival imminent, they were told of the decree from Caesar. Each must go to their city of origin to register. They knew that meant a 3 day journey on foot. It was going to be a rough trip. Although they didn’t look forward to that, it was almost a relief to leave the constant stares, rumors and public criticism they constantly endured in Nazareth. I like this scene in “The Nativity” movie. As they are leaving Nazareth, on their way to Bethlehem , Joseph comments to Mary, “Mary, I am sure they are going to miss us while we are gone.”
Luke 2:6-7 6And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
While they were there… The movies make it seem like as soon as they arrived, the baby was born. But, this phrase indicates that it may not have been that way. Otherwise it would have said, “As they arrived…” or “When they arrived…” But it says “While they were there.
Why did God allow this to happen? For there to be no suitable housing… for them to have to lay Jesus in a feeding trough… The birth of the king of the universe, the savior of the world, in such humble circumstances…
(What was God doing? Why is this written?)
How confident are you in God’s sovereignty?
- We talked in lesson 8 about having the right perspective. That when we know the truth, and believe what God is doing, the circumstances don’t really matter any more.
- Lesson 7 we talked about how when I choose to live by faith, living based on what God has said in the past and as that governs what I do today, my faith will inspire others to trust and follow God too.
In the passage today, we see that God is sovereign, not only in the lives of those who follow Him, but God can even use the the selfish pursuits of a greedy king to orchestrate the fulfillment of his promise! What can we learn from that? What it challenges me with is that I should not have any doubt that God can and will keep His word.
Though the journey may be long and difficult, God is with you in the journey, and we can be absolute confident He is at work in your journey. Mary and Joseph’s journey brought the savior to the world. What was God communicating by bringing the Savior in such humble circumstances? I believe that through the difficulty and the humble surroundings, God was communicating to the world that this savior was not for the nobility and the religious elite, but he was for the poor, the forgotten, and the humblest of men.
(What can we learn from this? What is God saying to me and my life from this passage?
I want God to be free to use my life. I don’t want God to have to orchestrate things in order to use my life in spite of me, because I am selfish and proud, like this worldly king. I want to be available for God to use me in every situation in my life.
I need to learn to rest in Him and enjoy the journey. By faith believing God is at work doing something great in me, through me, and that my faith will inspire those who witness my life to trust him too.
The journey may be difficult journey, but where God is leading me is going to be worth the hardship.
The Power; Declarations of Truth:
- I choose today to rest in God’s sovereignty over my life.
- I choose to find joy in the journey because I believe by faith God is doing something great through humbling me.
- I choose to believe that where God is taking me, no matter where the journey goes, will be worth it.