Did the Angel Visit the Wrong City?
Roughly 2014 years ago an angel was sent from God to bear a message to Mary, a young teenage girl. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (Luke 1:30-33) Within a short time, the Holy Ghost overshadowed Mary, and the only begotten Son of God began to grow within her.
The problem of the husband-to-be
Mary was engaged to be married. Understand that in that time and place people waited to have sexual relations until after they were married. Somehow she had to explain to her beau, Joseph, that she was pregnant, but still a virgin. Joseph did not believe her.
Because he was a compassionate man, instead of having her publicly humiliated, Joseph decided to end the engagement secretly. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:20-21) Hearing from the angel of the Lord was enough to convince Joseph, and he did not break his engagement to Mary.
A scandal in Nazareth
Both Joseph and Mary had enough faith to believe the angels’ messages, after all, the prophet, Isaiah, had foretold: Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14). Apparently not everybody was convinced. Even in adulthood, the rumor was still going around that Jesus was conceived out of wedlock (John 8:41).
The biggest problem with the angels’ message
The opinions of their neighbors was not the biggest one facing Joseph and Mary. You see the message that the angel had brought Mary did not seem to line up with the Bible. The Bible clearly states that the savior would be born in Bethlehem. But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. (Micah 5:2) Bethlehem is at minimum a three day journey from Nazareth. How could the Messiah be born to a young woman in Nazareth? Wouldn’t that conflict with scripture?
Enter Caesar Augustus
Caesar Augustus was possibly the most powerful man on planet earth, and yet under the influence of the mighty God he became as a pawn. God needed to get Mary to Bethlehem to fulfill the prophecy. And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed…And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. (Luke 2:1,3-6) The Lord used a heathen emperor to make sure that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, fulfilling Micah’s seven hundred year old prophecy!
God does not make mistakes
Surely many looked at Mary’s situation and doubted her claim to be with the child of God. She may have wondered herself if the message she had heard really was from God. Doubt is normal. We sometimes forget that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Time after time, he has the ability to fulfill his promise in our lives even in the face of impossible odds. He gave a teenage girl a promise, and he got a hold of the mind of the most powerful man on earth to help make sure it happened. If God has given you a promise that now seems hopeless, understand that he has not given up on you, and he will turn heaven and earth to make a promise come to pass.
The angel did not make a mistake. He came to the right city, and he found the right Mary. And in the end, it all felt right into place; the promise that Israel had waited over seven hundred years to see, burst forth in Bethlehem. Even when it seems like God doesn’t know what he’s doing, it is only because our limited minds cannot comprehend the limitless capacity of God to bring his word to pass.
Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, AK.