February 25, 2024 | Doug Sauder
Watch our most recent mid-week message here.
We're so glad you're taking a next step to get connected! Login or create your Calvary account below.
Don’t have an account? Sign up ›
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.”—Luke 2:1 (NIV)
Bear with me as I ask a few rhetorical questions. Do you ever feel like the tail being wagged by the dog? Have you found yourself being inconvenienced or displaced by “higher ups”? Can you relate to what it’s like to have your life turned upside down by those who couldn’t care less about you? Do the seats of authority ever make you feel helpless?
Again, these are rhetorical questions because we’ve all been there. You may even be there right now. It’s natural to feel frustrated when our lives bump up against the powers that be. But although this is natural, we need to look past it to something supernatural that has the power to free us from these frustrations.
It’s framed for us here in Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus. In that time, Caesar Augustus ruled over the Roman Empire, which ruled over most of the civilized world . . . including the region where Joseph and Mary lived. They weren’t even afterthoughts in the mind of Augustus. Their meager lives would never come into contact with his, separated by hundreds of miles and layers of social protocol. And yet, the decision of Augustus to take a census of the Roman empire plunged Joseph and Mary into a vortex of unbearable inconvenience.
The census required Joseph to journey from his village of Nazareth to his ancestral hometown of Bethlehem. That may not seem like a big deal until you realize Mary had to journey with him, and she happened to be on the verge of giving birth to her firstborn child! In those days and under those conditions, that would have meant a four-day journey, likely on the back of a donkey or some beast of burden.
Now I’ve never been pregnant, but I’ve been alongside my wife through labor twice. And while I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, I know that type of journey is the very last thing you want to do. When you get to that stage of pregnancy, you want to keep things as predictable as possible so you can have some sort of control when “it’s time!” I can only imagine the questions running through their minds, “Why, God? Of all times, why does this emperor have to make us do this now?”
That’s the natural view of things. But if we allow our sights to rise, above the landscape of Roman rule, and see what the God of the universe was doing, we see that this is actually serving a wonderful purpose. Augustus didn’t realize it, but his decree was fulfilling the ancient prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Joseph and Mary were on a collision course with a divinely determined destiny. Their forced journey to Bethlehem would establish their Son’s identity as the Promised One who would save the world from its sin! All was unfolding according to God’s good plan and perfect timing.
Now relate this to those questions that we began with. When your life seems at the mercy of the forces of this world, when it seems like Caesar Augustus is turning your world upside down, trust that there’s a higher authority and a greater agenda at work—and that it’s an agenda authored by your heavenly Father who brings about all things according to His perfect love and timing. It’s time . . . it’s His time!
Pause: What must be seen and understood about Augustus’ decree for a Roman census?
Practice: Think about how you can/should surrender your frustrations to the greater reality and agenda of God.
Pray: Heavenly Father, it’s so easy for us to get focused on what’s happening to us in the here and now, and to fixate on the earthly powers that frustrate us. Help us to remember that You are the One who is in ultimate control and that You are working all things that happen to us for a greater good on our behalf, because You love us more than we can fully fathom. We ask this to be made real for us by the working of Your Holy Spirit in our hearts. Amen.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.