Why did Mary and Joseph have to go to Bethlehem?


Luke 2 records for us that the Lord Jesus was born in a city called Bethlehem, the City of David. The account tells us that His earthly parents were from somewhere else and had to go there for some purpose, and His earthly mother had to give birth to Him there.

Why did Mary and Joseph, Jesus' earthly parents, have to go to Bethlehem anyway? Let's take a closer look at that.

A ruler's decree

"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." (Luke 2:1-6)

We read in the passage above that as the time drew near for Mary to give birth, Caesar Augustus, the emperor during that time, called for a census to be held.

While I will not delve into how the Romans governed and taxed the Jews or how the Jews treated their lineage and were thus very likely to participate in such a census, we see there that the Roman emperor was able to call all the Jews back to their hometowns through the use of a census. Since Joseph was a descendant of David, he had to go back to Bethlehem to comply with such a command from their ruler.

What many do not notice, though, is that this was done to fulfill a prophecy in Micah 5:2, which says:

"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."

God's hand on the move

Some may not believe it, but God caused this to happen. Since God declared that the Christ will come from Bethlehem, God would make it happen. His word will never fail:

"So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11)

And so how did God do this? By causing the emperor to decree a census. Proverbs 21:1 tells us that God can do that:

"The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes."

God caused Caesar to call for the census. Take note that the very census that caused Joseph and Mary to come to Bethlehem was the first of its kind to take place.

In closing

Friends, Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem because it was God's will for Jesus to be born there. He used earthly people and circumstances to bring about His desired result. This shows His sovereignty over everything.

"But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases." (Psalm 115:3).