The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord,
as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.
Proverbs 21:1 (KJV)
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree
that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.
(This was the first census that took place
while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)
And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth
in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David,
because he belonged to the house and line of David.
He went there to register with Mary,
who was pledged to be married to him
and was expecting a child…”
Luke 2:1-5 (NIV)
“And we know that in all things
God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8:28 (NIV)
There is a special attraction to people who argue over the idea of the sovereignty of God. Just how much of life is under God’s control and how much is under our control is a fertile source of debate among Christians. Of course we are happy to leave the big things like the control of the universe, stars, galaxies, etc. all up to the Lord. But, when it comes to our personal lives, we want into the driver’s seat.
Does Scripture address the issues of our choices in life? One remarkable example on the personal level is the Pharaoh in the book of Exodus. Scripture tells us that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 9:12). Other Scripture says Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 8:15). Are you confused? Well so are many people.
Our Scripture today talks about Caesar calling for a census to be held just when Mary was pregnant with Jesus. Joseph had to register in Bethlehem because he was in the lineage of David. So, the couple travelled from their hometown of Nazareth south to Bethlehem because that was David’s hometown. Also, it was prophesied that Messiah would come from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). So, for two important reasons, Mary and Joseph needed to be in Bethlehem before our Lord was born.
What inspired Caesar to call for the census precisely when he did? Was he acting on his own will? Or was God moving him to call for the census when he did? Proverbs 21:1 gives an answer. The Lord inspired Caesar to do what he did. Yet Caesar acted freely. He felt no compulsion.
When you find your life is out of control and you see no way to recover, it is then that the sovereignty of God is a precious refuge. Whether it is a financial reversal, the untimely death of a loved one, loss of health, or other disaster, we flee into the presence of our loving, sovereign Father and sense His powerful arms around us. We may not see how our Father will sort out our issue. But that is His problem not ours.
Christian, take comfort in the promise that our Father in heaven works everything for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sov’reign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding ev’ry hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain
– William Cowper