But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.
God made elaborate preparations for the coming of Christ. For hundreds of years before Christ’s birth, the Old Testament prophets had prophesied the coming of the Messiah. They made dozens and dozens of prophecies about Jesus’s life, His ministry, His death, and His resurrection, but many of their prophecies had to do with His birth. Seven hundred years before the event, God pinpointed the place on the map where the Messiah was going to be born. Micah 5:2 says, “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” You cannot really appreciate this prophecy until you realize what a nothing town Bethlehem was. There was nothing spectacular about it at all. But God said that was where the Messiah would be born.
Fast-forward seven hundred years after that prophecy to the days of Mary and Joseph. Here was the problem: God had prophesied that the Messiah was going to be born in Bethlehem, but Mary and Joseph were eighty miles to the north in Nazareth. So how did God get this poor couple from Nazareth down to Bethlehem where they needed to be?
This is nothing short of amazing. Look at Luke 2:1: “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.” Half a continent away, at the center of power in the world, the Roman emperor was having a meeting with all of his counselors. The government was facing a crisis. Because of a lack of funds, they were facing a government shutdown, so the emperor and his counselors decided to raise taxes. In those days there were no computers to track people down and keep records of their income. So the government leaders had this idea to register everybody in the Roman Empire according to the city of their birth, which meant everyone had to pack a suitcase and travel to their hometown. Luke 2:3-4 says, “And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David.”
Little did Cesar Augustus know that his command to be taxed would cause a couple named Mary and Joseph to travel to a village in Judea in order to give birth to the Savior of the world. Isn’t it beyond our comprehension how God works? God’s gift of Jesus Christ was preceded by elaborate preparation.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “A Gift Beyond Description” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org