Joseph’s difficult journey to Bethlehem is a display of great obedience and it is through acts of obedience that God brings about His purposes.
There is an old saying that there are only two things certain in this life – death and taxes, and it appears that this was as true in the ancient world as it is today.
Joseph was a tradesman from the insignificant little town of Nazareth in Galilee. Luke tells us in his gospel that Joseph had to go Bethlehem, a small town famous for its association with King David, to register for the census which had been ordered by Caesar Augustus, the Roman Emperor. The Romans were the occupying foreign power and the Emperor wanted a census to maximise his tax revenue.
The distance to Bethlehem from Nazareth is around 70 miles as the crow flies. However, Samaria lay between the two towns, and was a land to be avoided due to the hostility between the Jews and the Samaritans. Joseph probably planned to take a longer route to bypass Samaria, making the journey around 90 miles. Of course, there was an added complication as his fiancée, Mary, was very heavily pregnant with her first child.
The journey was hard. To us, 90 miles is nothing, but the journey would have taken them over rough terrain, uphill and downhill. The very best a person could make in a day would be 20 miles – and that is without a very heavily pregnant woman! The journey could have lasted at least a week, perhaps more, but eventually, they reached Bethlehem.
They couldn’t find anywhere to lodge until they were offered a cave which was part of an inn, where the animals were kept. It was there, in the filth and probably in the noise, that Mary delivered her firstborn son. They called him Jesus, according to what God had told them. This child was the Son of God, promised from as far back as the book of Genesis and given by God to be the only Saviour of the world. In all of the prophecies of the Old Testament, Bethlehem was the town where he would be born.
We may wonder, ‘What if Joseph had ignored the Roman decree?’ After all, the Romans were a Gentile occupying power. But he didn’t. He obeyed and so the plan and the purpose of God for the world was fulfilled. Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, was born where He had told the world He would be born and that birth brought new hope to a world which was held in the darkness of sin. What good news!
In Asia today, more than 2000 years after the birth of Jesus, over 2 billion people have never heard His name. They have never heard the good news that in Jesus, there is the hope of a new life that comes with the forgiveness of sin.
Could God be calling you to be part of a short–term team that will go to Asia with this good news? Will you, like Joseph, obey and be part of God’s purpose for the people of Asia and the whole world?