Summary: Mary & Joseph faced many obstacles before they could reach Bethlehem but God had their trip all planned out.
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Pastor James May
Journey to Bethlehem – Part 1
Luke 2:1-5, "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria) 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) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child."
The year was 29 BC and a new Emperor was now on the throne of the Roman Empire, His name was Caius Caesar Octavianus Augustus. For centuries, the emperors of Rome had ruled the civilized world with an iron fist. Their mighty legions were nearly invincible, crushing every enemy that dared to attempt to stop them. Nation after nation had feel as prey to Roman Army and one of those nations was Syria. One of the provinces of the vast area known as Syria was Judea, the home of the remnant of the Jews of the nation of Israel.
The Jews who lived in Judea were oppressed greatly. It was as though a dark cloud of sin and judgment had covered the land. This great people had disobeyed God and fallen into apostasy and idolatry. As a result, God had not spoken to his own chosen nation for 400 years. For 4 centuries, not one Prophet had appeared in Israel. No one in the land had heard the Word of God come forth as had been done during the time of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Elijah or Malachi.
There was a famine in the Land of Israel. Not a famine of food or drink, but of the Word of God and the presence of God.
In a world bound by sin and darkness, this was the midnight hour. The big government and dominating power of Rome was, once again, poised to renew its oppression of the Jews. They were slaves to Rome with little or no hope of gaining their freedom.
There is nothing like oppression through taxation without representation that will stir a people to action against those who impose unwanted and unwarranted taxes upon them.
Israel had long ago been robbed of its wealth and power. The individual citizens had been taxed heavily to support the Roman garrison and to fill the pockets of the governors and rulers that Rome had put into place without any consideration of the desires of the people.
This was the world into which Jesus was to be born.
It was a world of power and money-mad Dictators. Of big government that refused to be satisfied until every bit of wealth had been drained from the people and that passed new laws and regulations at will to see to it that none escaped its reach.
Thus we see that Caesar had ordered that all the land of Judea should be counted in a census so that none would escape the new taxation to support the lavish Roman government.
To make matters worse, every man who lived in the Land of Judea had to return to his place of birth to register for the census. This census wasn’t just to count how many people actually lived in the land; it was far more invasive and demanding.
A Roman Census consisted of 2 parts:
1) The people had to give their names, their titles or rank of any civil capacity, the name of their employer and job title, the name of their wives, children, servants and slaves and the name, location and value of their estates according to the records of the Roman assessors.
2) The amount of taxes that were to be assessed was solely dependent upon the decision of the tax assessors appointed by Rome. Each assessor was instructed to get every bit of wealth possible from each citizen, rich and poor alike. These taxes could be collected in the form of money, property and/or family members.