by Steve Carpenter
“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Tis’ the season when this biblical account will be read in places of worship all over the world. These scenes have been portrayed in children’s plays and reenacted in professional presentations from the stage to the silver screen for generations. These few scriptures have been the inspiration for countless songs, hymns and Christmas carols in every nation of the world.
In this brief article, I want to draw out of this passage what I believe to be some very significant parallels and prophetic insights into the times in which we are living. In doing so, my hope is that we will find the necessary traction to navigate through these challenging times. The global conditions and atmosphere of the the Savior’s first coming provide some compelling insights for those who are called to prepare the way for His second coming.
I see four significant themes in this passage: governmental decrees, territorial changes, divine timing and prophetic placement.
“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.”
Political mandates and governmental injunctions are often used to shift things in the natural to bring fulfillment to the prophetic promises of God. When these shifts and changes begin to occur, it is not a time to fear but a time to trust in the providence and sovereignty of the omniscient and omnipotent God.
“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.”
In this case, a decree went out that all the world should be registered, each in their own city. Joseph, with his betrothed wife who was with child, left Nazareth and made his way to Bethlehem. As we can now clearly see, this governmental decree was the impetus that brought forth an alignment to the purposes of God and to the fulfillment of prophecy as it was written:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” Micah 5:2
How God works in the midst of the affairs of men and nations is simply beyond our human capacity to understand. Truly, His ways are so much higher than our ways and His thoughts far above our thoughts. How God can bring forth the fullness of His purposes with pinpoint accuracy at the precise moment of time is unfathomable to the human mind, especially when factoring in the free choice of the ones He created.
God has always been faithful to bring forth the fulfillment of His purposes in every generation despite the presence of political upheaval, economic uncertainties, human deficiencies and all evil opposition. Although each individual soul and every respective nation will be held acutely accountable before the divine court for every decision made in this life, nothing can or will hinder the ultimate purposes of God from coming to pass.
In our story, the prophetic word indicated that the Ruler and Shepherd of Israel would come from Bethlehem. There was only one problem and it was a rather large one. This ‘Ruler and Shepherd’ happened to be growing in the womb of a woman living in Nazareth. Look again at the scenario that unfolded to bring this desired womb into the destined territory for its deliverance.
“A decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.”
The whole world was shifted in order to bring God’s purpose into its destined and determined place. Let that sink in for a moment. God moved on the heart of this one governmental leader named Caesar Augustus to decree a disruption that affected the entire world in order for God’s purposes to be brought into the proper place.
As you know, the pregnant womb did make its way to the prophesied place. It was a bit of a journey and there were, no doubt, some challenges, but they made it. God shifted the entire world in order to make it happen. Now that the location was resolved, it was just a matter of time.
The scripture says,
“so it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered and she brought forth her firstborn Son.”
Galatians 4:4-5 states,
“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
There are strategic places for God’s plans and purposes just as there are strategic times in which God oversees. The ancient sons of Issachar were complimented for their discernment in properly understanding the times in which they lived and their knowledge of what Israel ought to do as a result. On the other hand, the first century Israelites were sorrowfully reprimanded by the Master, because they did not know the time of their visitation and did not accurately discern the implications.
Our story reveals that, “while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.” Notice, the right territory plus the right timing puts the purposes of God right on target.
This destined family had an appointment in Bethlehem. Circumstances aligned to get them there, and while there, the fullness of time had come. They were at the right place at the right time.
It’s important to understand that location isn’t always geographical. The Lord may be calling you to a ‘place’ in Him that disrupts your current comforts and challenges all that is familiar. His time clock is ticking and He wants to position you so that His purpose in you can be birthed at the right ‘place’ at the right time. Sensitive and discerning spirits will lock into the divine rhythms of God and sync up to the heavenly cadence that keeps our stride in step with the Master’s plan.
So, they made it to Bethlehem. Heavenly angels and earthly shepherds each testified and confirmed that this was the birthing place of God’s divine purpose. At this point, our story takes a bit of an odd turn. It says, “She wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
There was no room in the Inn. When you’re pregnant with divine purpose, the Inn represents the obvious choice and the preferred place. Being in the right region doesn’t always mean you’re in the right place. The purpose of God is much more specific than that. They went to the Inn, but there was no room. The next scene is swaddling cloths and a manger - not the obvious scenario for the Savior of Israel. It seems as though the purpose of God was cradled in an obscure and prophetic place, not the obvious and preferred place.
Later on in our story, the angels actually announce to the shepherds saying, “This will be a sign to you, you will find a Babe in swaddling cloths lying in a manger.” The heavenly messengers directed the attention of the shepherds toward the obscure, not the obvious; the prophetic and not the preferred. Interesting isn’t it? God often hides His greatest secrets in the most obscure places.
I suppose the bottom line message in this incredible story is that God is profoundly faithful to perform His prophetic word just as He said He would. There may have been no room in the Inn, but when you are pregnant with divine purpose be well assured that God will faithfully guide you into your appointed place to bring it forth. This is amazing and reassuring news for all of us no matter what the contemporary landscape looks like or what may be looming on the not so distant horizon.
These are certainly transitionary times for all men and all nations. There will be more governmental decrees that will shift the entire world and the systems of this age. These decrees will cause disruptions like shock waves throughout the whole earth. These shifts will cause people to move into new territories both in the natural and in the spirit. The timing of God will confirm these adjustments, and as a result, God’s purposes will come into fuller manifestation. There will be signs and indicators in the heavens in addition to earthly witnesses who will testify of what is coming forth. Out of places of apparent obscurity will emerge the preeminent and prophetic purposes of God. Of this we can be sure.
So, do not let your heart be troubled. Our faithful God is watching over His word to perform it.