This article on Luke 2:1 is about God's timing in sending His Redeemer.

Source: Clarion, 2013. 2 pages.

Luke 2:1 - God’s Timetable

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world

Luke 2:1

Are the opening words of Luke's Christmas narrative ­"In those days..." — little more than a stylistic opening? And if they are more than a stylistic opening, do they indicate coincidence? Quite the contrary! The answer to those questions gives us a wonderful perspective on the event of Christmas long ago, as well as on the changeover from one year to another which we will soon mark.

So the question is: What days. With the opening words "In those days..." Luke is referring to what he has narrated in chapter 1. It refers back to Gabriel's announcement to Zechariah about the birth of John the Baptist and the subsequent birth of John. It also refers back to Gabriel's announcement to the virgin Mary about the birth of the Christ child. In other words, it refers to the fact that God was busy working out his plan of redemption, and that the time had now come for the promised Saviour to be born. This makes us think of what Paul writes:

But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of woman...Galatians 4:4

Think about that deeply: Luke is telling us that the decree of Caesar Augustus for a census was subservient to God's plan and work of redemption! The Roman Empire had supreme control of the world of that time. Caesar Augustus — whose title "Augustus" means "exalted" — was hailed as a god. Yet what Caesar did was in God's hands and according to God's timetable. As Proverbs tells us,

The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.Proverbs 21:1

God put the idea of a census in Caesar's mind so that it would serve God's purpose of salvation. God was bringing the lines of history together in the church and in the world. Caesar Augustus was revered as a god, but the one only true God controlled him.

Caesar's decree was subservient to the coming of Christ. Because of that decree, Joseph and Mary would travel to Bethlehem. There the Saviour would be born in fulfillment of Micah's words,

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.Micah 5:2

Because of Caesar's decree, the Saviour would be born in the city of David.

What a wonderful perspective on Christmas those opening words offer us! The decree of Caesar took place according to God's timetable, and Luke dates it according to God's timetable. That is revealed to us for our comfort.

Is it any different today. Also today God continues to work out his plan of redemption, and what may appear unconnected in our estimation is actually connected to God's plan of redemption. The timing of everything in this world's history is subservient to God's goal. God sets the time for all events so that they serve his eternal purpose. Everything today occurs according to God's timetable. This knowledge is tremendously comforting for us.

We know that after Christ accomplished the redeeming work for which he came to this earth, Christ ascended into heaven to rule the nations from the throne in heaven. Christ is guiding all things to his second coming. As everything was subservient to the first coming of Christ, so everything is subservient to the second coming of Christ.

We are sometimes inclined to think that church history is marginal in comparison with world history. The Christmas narrative shows us how wrong that thinking is! Church history is central to world history. Even more: world history is church history. Throughout the ages, God is working out his plan of redemption.

Let's remember this as we are about to enter a new year. The years go by and history goes on, but God is still working out his plan of redemption. Nothing happens by coincidence; everything is timed according to God's timetable. That is true for our personal lives, as well as for the world as a whole. That may be our perspective and comfort in the new year.

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