Ronald Reagan once said, “Government doesn’t solve problems, it subsidizes them.”
The government of the Roman Empire in Jesus day was a mammoth enterprise. It took chariots full of denarii to maintain roads, provide public services, enforce laws, sustain a strong military force, and line the pockets of government officials. The Roman government, like our government today, generated operating capital by bleeding its citizens with taxes. Roman governors had to periodically take a census to a) find out who lived where so they could pay taxes; and b) find Romans eligible for active, mandatory military service.
What Roman officials didn’t know, or suspect, was that Almighty God was going to use them to get Joseph back to his hometown, Bethlehem. That would fulfill Old Testament prophesy and God’s plan of redemption and salvation for His children. Micah 5:2 says, “But you, Bethlehem though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for
I first published this post December 22, 2011
me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” And in Luke 2 we read, “And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; because he was of the house and lineage of David.” Luke 2:3-6. (David was born in Bethlehem.)
God leaves me in awe and wonder when I read in His word how His plan unfolds, down to the most intricate details. I am also amazed that God will use unwitting and unsuspecting people and circumstances to accomplish His plans.
In the First Christmas story the government and its tax program helped Joseph and Mary get to Joseph’s home town. Can you imagine if the Federalies required us to get to our hometown to pay our taxes? Bethlehem is only about five miles south of Jerusalem. But for Joseph and Mary, with child, it was a taxing (no pun intended) three-day journey. I live about 1,100 miles from my hometown, Shenandoah, Iowa. It would cost me more than $1,000 I don’t have laying around the house to get back there. Where is your home town?
So thank you, Cyrenius, and thank you, Caesar Augustus and your government, for helping Joseph and Mary get to Bethlehem so my Savior could be born, even though you didn’t have a clue you were helping.
Then there was Herod. Augustus helped Christmas happen. Herod; however, wanted to destroy it. Hasn’t that been the case from the beginning? Satan’s tried everything in the book to stop the spread of Christianity and foil God’s plan. But we know where that will lead.
Herod plotted to destroy Christmas. Herod was certifiably paranoid about the tiny province he ruled. So paranoid, in fact, that he killed his mother, mother-in-law and three sons because he perceived them as a threat to his rule.
The three wise men jump-started Herod’s panic. When he heard them say they were looking for a newborn king, he panicked. He could not afford competition. He told the wise men to “Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.” Matthew 2:8. Right, Herod. You want to find him to kill him and eliminate him as a threat so you could sleep at night. Well, the wise men followed the star to Bethlehem, saw the child and worshiped him. But later that night in a dream an angel told them to go home and not return to Herod. So the wise men obeyed the angel and skipped the courtesy call on Herod. That’s why they’re called wise men.
When Herod found out the wise men duped him, He went into a rage and ordered every male child under two years old in Bethlehem slaughtered. But an angel told Joseph in a dream to take Mary and Baby Jesus into Egypt where they remained until the despicable Herod died.
God uses even people who don’t believe in Him to carry out His plan for His children. God even uses the feds, who usually botch anything they touch. He uses their greed, their perceived power, their egos, whatever it takes to work all things out for our good and His glory.
Since Herod’s days the unwitting and unbelieving have worked diligently to destroy His people and His plan. To no avail. God is still on the throne, and will be forever. We celebrate Christmas and the birth of Christ every year to remind us of that.
God wants you to be in His Family. He wants you to know the true meaning of Christmas. Jesus would like to show you all His grade and mercy and unconditional love. Would you like to know more about Jesus and the grace and salvation He offers any and everyone who will believe in Him and claim Him as Savior? If you would, just Follow this link to learn more about Jesus and discover the awesome, unconditional love He has waiting for you.
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J. Ellsworth Kalas’ book, Christmas From The Backside, © 2003, Abingdon Press, Nashville, was the inspiration for this post.