The Emperor and the King

The birth of the King of all kings is recorded by Luke: “In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered” (Luke 2.1).

Emperor Augustus was born Gaius Octavian and was the adopted son and heir of Julius Caesar. He became the sole leader of the Roman world in 27 B.C.

The name, Augustus, had religious significance. He was not designated by the Roman Senate as a god, but was revered by the people as one.

He was called “Savior,” because he brought peace, victory, liberty, and security to the Roman Empire.

The Messiah, or King of God’s government, was not born in a palace in Rome. He fulfilled the prophecy of Micah.

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
(Micah 5.2)

Augustus could command everyone in the Empire to be counted for military service and taxation.

Little did the Emperor know that the God of all heaven and earth used the census to fulfill the prophecy about the birth of the Messiah.

The Continued Story of God’s Redemption

The Bible is not a collection of timeless truths that are equal in value to those of philosophy and other religions.

The Bible is the story God, who is active in history, redeeming humans from the effects of sin and rebellion.

The details in Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth are easy to overlook, but we should pay attention to them. They identify Jesus’ birth with the larger story of God’s acts in history from the beginning.

Luke 2.2-5This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

All went to their own towns to be registered.

Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.

He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.

The story of God’s activity with people includes promise to King David that his throne will be established forever.

2 Samuel 7:12-16When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.

He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. . .

Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.

Isaiah prophesied of a time, when God would establish David’s throne.

His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.

He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
(Isaiah 9.7)

Daniel prophesied about the nature of the rule of the King/Messiah.

To him was given dominion
and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not pass away,
and his kingship is one
that shall never be destroyed.
(Daniel 7.14)

This powerful King, who fulfilled God’s activity in the world, was not born in Augustus’ palace. Instead, he was born in a lean-to where family animals were kept.

The Birth of a King

The birth of Jesus demonstrates the humility and greatness of God. The children of Augustus or Quirinius would be born in the finest palaces in the land.

The birth of the One whom Isaiah and Daniel spoke was far different.

Luke 2.6-7 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

As God was bringing to earth his “Under New Management” program, he made it clear from the start that all humans were welcome.

One of my favorite gospel songs is by the Williams Brothers. The chorus speaks to God’s love for all.

I’m just a nobody trying to tell everybody,
about somebody, who can save anybody.

The birth of Jesus reveals God’s love for “nobodies” and his willingness to be friends with “anybody.”

Today’s Prayer

For the prayer today, let’s remember Paul’s hymn that describes Jesus’ humility. Let’s worship our humble King of all kings with this hymn.

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,

But emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name . . .
(Philippians 2.5-9)

YouTube Video

Rudy Ross and I have produced a 9 minute video on this passage. Rudy adds insights to this passage that you won’t want to miss. The video can be found on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.

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