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1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
A decree was promulgated from Rome, ordering the enrolment of the population of the empire with a view to taxation. This decree took every Jew for the time being to his ancestral home.
"All went to be enrolled, every one into his own city."
It thus took Joseph to Bethlehem, where lay the hereditary family connection with the soil, and where therefore, his enrolment would have to be effected. It took Mary there also, which is one of the proofs of Mary's Davidic extraction: for had she been of another house than the house of David, there would have been no need for her to go to Bethlehem, "the city of David;" and had it been unnecessary for her to attend for the purposes of the enrolment, it is inconceivable that Joseph would have subjected her to the fatigues of Syrian travel at almost the last stage of pregnancy. He would have gone alone, leaving Mary in the quietude and repose of Nazareth, exerting himself for an expeditious accomplishment of the enrolment business at Bethlehem, and a quick return to Nazareth.
But he took her "to be taxed (enrolled) with" him in "the city of David which is called Bethlehem" (Luke ii. 4, 5). He took her because it was necessary for her to go, for she also was of the house and lineage of David; and thus compliance with a legal necessity of human origin for her presence at Bethlehem at that particular time, was the providential means of bringing about conformity with that higher necessity, that the Son of God and son of David should be born at Bethlehem.
It is worth while pausing to consider this peculiar combination of circumstances. Manifestly, it was a triumph of divine supervision that secured, by the operation of natural circumstances, the presence of Mary at Bethlehem at just the short particular period during which Christ should be born in the city of David, his human ancestor. But it might seem to a certain view of the case as if it would have been a more complete and natural realisation of the divine purpose on this point if Mary had been a resident of Bethlehem, instead of a visitor; and under no need to be regulated so as to secure the right birthplace for her son.
It might plausibly be argued that such an arrangement would also have been much more likely to secure attention afterwards for Jesus, at the hands of the nation, than one that threw a veil over his Bethlehem parentage, associating him with Nazareth, and thus preventing the easy recognition of the fulfilment in him of the prophecy that Christ should be born at Bethlehem.
No doubt the residence of Mary in Bethlehem would have been effectual on these two points: but then, other points would have been interfered with. In our last chapter, we were able to recognise the need for Jesus being insulated from all human prestige -- Jewish or Gentile. He was to be rejected of the nation: and his work was to stand upon a divine basis purely -- which two things necessitated his association with an obscure Galilean village, of which no one had a good opinion. In view of this, we can see why Jesus should not be known in his lifetime in connection with the royal city.
At the same time, it was a prophetic necessity he should be born there. It is here where the providential circumstance we have looked at, appears in its true character of consummate wisdom. By a public incident, which had no apparent connection with the purpose of God, the mother of Jesus was brought to Bethlehem at the right moment for the birth of Jesus, without ceasing her connection with that other city, which had been chosen as the sphere of the Lord's mortal life till thirty years of age.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 7
4 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:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
Joseph and Mary were brought there for a short time only. A few days one way or the other would have caused a misfit; but the watchfulness of providence secured their presence in Bethlehem just at the right time, so that the scripture was fulfilled, and the angels were able to announce to the shepherds on Bethlehem's plains:
"Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour which is Christ the Lord."
Ways of Providence Ch 23
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
The beauty of order requires the surrender of some amount of individual liberty which may be irksome to mere mortals, especially to lawless mortals, of such an age as this, when the spirit of democratic insubordination is rampant. But to the multitude "redeemed from among men" because of the subjection of their will to the will of God, it will be as much a joy to respond to the organizing requirements of the Spirit of God as it is for the physical body now to respond to the lightning-like volitions of the brain.
The "army of heaven" is not a mob (Dan. 4:35). The "multitude of the heavenly host" did not sing on the plains of Bethlehem without concert and leadership (Luke 2:13). Even the simultaneous flight of a flock of migratory birds under leadership (one of the most interesting sights in nature)--is a divine work in its way--which does not mean the sacrifice of the wills of the individual birds, but their voluntary accommodation to a collective necessity in which they find pleasure.
So the movements of the saints in the perfect state to which probation is steadily taking them forward will have many glorious co-operations, in which the perfect order, which is "heaven's first law", will be the highest delight of myriads of co-operative wills. They will rejoice in the marshallings and movements of the host of the Lord as all true Israelites did in the movements of the camps during their march under Moses to the promised land.
Law of Moses Ch 33
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Thus, the principle is oracular, that, ALL nations shall come and worship before the all-powerful Yahweh Elohim;" and that "they will learn righteousness." This necessitates instructors, and a system of instruction, such as does not exist on earth at this time -- an enlightening power no less than divine.
It also requires a disposition, a child-like disposition, which exists not in the public mind, neither in the ignorant people, nor in their blind and conceited guides. To correct this fatal evil, and to break the power of ignorance, which is "the power of Satan," the angelic "pillars of fire" must march through the land; for it is written, "When the judgments of Yahweh are in the earth the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness" (Isa. xxvi. 9; Apoc. xv. 4).
And when they have learned this lesson, so difficult for individuals and nations, their lofty looks will be humbled, and their haughtiness will be bowed down, and Yahweh alone will be exalted (Isa. ii. 10,11).
British and American pride will be prostrate in the dust: and "the people the source of all power," an exploded fiction of the past. "In that day, Yahweh alone shall be exalted." Popular sovereignty will be a dead putrescent carcass; and all who derive their power and authority from it will be abased. Such a consummation as this, and so devoutly to be wished, can only be developed by Omnipotence -- by the powerful angel of the covenant.
The fate of the old world must necessarily be the fate of this whole American continent; for it is written of the Spirit, saying to the Son of David, "I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession" (Psa. ii. 8). This is certainly comprehensive of the western hemisphere. The Eternal Spirit gives this to the Rainbowed Angel in fee.
All power and authority here must, therefore, be derived from him, not from the people; and in these there will be no democracy or republicanism, but divine and imperial despotism, pure and simple; for "he shall rule the nations with a rod of iron" (Psa. ii. 9; Apoc. xix. 15; ii. 26-27); "and Yahweh shall be king over all the earth; in that day there shall be one Yahweh, and his name one" (Zech. xiv. 9). This is conclusive. No one believing the scripture can respect the traditions of Americanism. The Monroe doctrine and the millennial perpetuity of the Union, will be a derision to the cloud-invested angel, as they are now to all who have "the patience of the saints," "the commandments of the Deity, and the faith of Jesus" (Apoc. xiv. 12).
All the States of the new world will be taken possession of by them; for "the kingdom, and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole of the heavens is given to the people of the saints of the Most High Ones ... and all dominions shall serve and obey him" (Dan. vii. 27).
It is manifest, therefore, that the destiny of all colonies, and republics, and empires, upon the American arena, has long since been decreed; and that destiny is unquestionably glorious and blessed -- that of being delivered by judicial power from the debasing tyranny under which they now groan; and of becoming the flourishing and happy provinces of an imperial dominion, co-extensive with the globe, under which life, liberty, and property, will be secure;
"mercy and truth meet together, and righteousness and peace embrace each other;" and "glory will be to the Deity in the highest heavens, over the earth peace, and goodwill among men" (Psa. lxxxv. 10; Luke ii. 14). "Hitherto is the end of the matter" (Dan. vii. 28). The wars of the Angel of the Bow culminate in the conquest of a peace, which extinguishes all belligerent conflagration in the earth for a thousand years.
An universal jubilee will celebrate the admiration of mankind and their devotion to the King of all the earth. The world will no more resound with wars' alarms for a thousand years; and among the highest there will be glory to God, on the earth there will be peace and good-will among men (Luke 2:14) The mission of the Lord's Christ will have been gloriously fulfilled.
He will have raised up the tribes of Jacob, restored the preserved of Israel, and been the salvation of Yahweh to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:6). In his days there will be abundance of peace; for the nations will beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into scythes, and practise war no more.
"At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem" as the metropolis of the world; "neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil "heart " (Jer. 3:17).
The things they delight in will then be an abomination to them; for "the Gentiles shall come unto the Lord from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things in which there is no profit" (Jer. 16:19). When enlightened by the Lord this will be their judgment of the "names and denominations," pagan, mohammedan, papal, and protestant, which now as a covering vail spread over all nations (Isaiah 25:7), darken their understandings, and alienate them from the life of God.
But when the King of Israel and his Saints shall rule the world, all these superstitions will be for ever abolished, and mankind will be of one faith and practice. They will speak one religious language, and serve Yahweh with unanimity; for, says he,
"Then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord with one consent " (Zeph. 3:9).
This must, indeed, be the Lord's doings, for who among men has the wisdom, knowledge, and power to bring the nations to speak intelligibly on religious subjects, and to be of one religion! The sword only can prepare the way for this. Mankind must be made to
"lick the dust like a serpent,"
before they will consent to change their creeds for eternal truth. Judgment will bring them to reason, and they will say at length,
"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3). Under such teaching as this the work will be accomplished.
As to Israel, the Lord will have gotten them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame; and have made them a name and a praise among all the people of the earth (Zeph. 3:19,20).
"All nations shall call them blessed, for they shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts" (Mal. 3:12).
Instead of being a bye-word and a reproach, as at this day, the Gentiles will glory in their patronage; for "in those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, we will go,with you; for we have heard that God is with you" (Zech. 8:23).
Yes, the kingdom and throne of David will then be in their midst again, and Christ the Lord God, and Holy One of Israel, sitting upon it in power and great glory. The gospel of the kingdom will be no longer a matter of hope, but a reality; and those who have believed it, and submitted cheerfully and lovingly to the law of faith in the obedience it requires, and have perfected their faith by works meet for repentance, will be shining "as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars for ever and ever" (Dan. 12:3).
Elpis Israel 3.6.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
They were not long in finding Joseph and Mary, in the virtual cattle-pen at the inn.
But where was the babe? Was it nestling in it mother's bosom? Was it snugly laid in the straw by the side of its mother? It was very likely to be so. It was improbable that the babe -- especially such a babe -- would be put in a place used for the feeding of beasts. But there it was: they found the "babe lying in a manger."
This was the conclusive sign to them. What more natural than that they should at once "make known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child." This is Christ the Lord.
"All they that heard, wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds." (Luke 2:18)
It was natural it should be so. It is what would happen in any village at the present day. The people would open eyes and mouth and exclaim. The wonder would be but "a nine days' wonder," as it probably was at Bethlehem.
Intelligence rests and feeds on wisdom: ignorance gloats on the marvellous.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 7
32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
In the sense of new ideas being put into the mind with enlightening effect, apokalupsis is used in Luke 2:32, where Simeon, speaking by the Holy Spirit of the future of the child Jesus he then held in his arms, styled him "A light for an apocalypse of nations, and a glory of Yahweh's people Israel." In this text, it clearly signifies illumination. That is, that at some period of the history of the nations, Jesus would be, at one and the same time, a light and a glory to them and Israel. Moses says by the Spirit harninu, goyim, ammo, "Rejoice, ye nations, his people," but Paul, quoting from the Septuagint says, "with his people".
Either way answers to the truth; for when the nations are caused to rejoice, they will have previously become Yahweh's people (Zech. 2:11) and will also rejoice with Israel and the Saints. Now, when this shall be the order of the day, the nations will have been apocalypsed by him who will be "the glory of Israel." He will be a light in Zion in the midst of the nations, confounding the moon, and putting the sun of the former heavens to shame.
He will be "a light for an apocalypse of nations." The nature of this apocalypse may be discerned from a few testimonies of the prophets. "In Zion," says Isaiah, "shall Yahweh of armies make unto all people a feast. And in this mountain he will destroy the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and Yahweh Elohim will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for Yahweh hath spoken it" (25:6)...
33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;
John the Baptist was "filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb" (Luke i 15): how much more Jesus, the word made flesh, whose shoe latchet he was not worthy to stoop down and unloose.
But there are degrees and different forms of manifestation of the same Spirit (1 Cor. xii. 4-6). The growing babe, the obedient son, the faithful carpenter, would show the Spirit in character which was afterwards shown in works of power, and finally in the personal glory of the incorruptible "filled with all the fulness of the God-head body" (Col. ii. 9).
The health and contented disposition of the Babe Yahoshua would be no surprise to his earthly parents following on from the marvels of his conception and birth.
40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
Now, if Jesus in his infantile stage was purely and merely human, how comes it he never fell into sin? Good organisation does not explain it, because organisation of itself is neutral; good
organisation is as ready to sin as bad organisation, in the absence of knowledge and experience.
There is only one explanation to it, and that is also furnished by Luke (ii. 40), The grace of God was upon him," which is equivalent to being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Someone may say "Then there was no difference between him and John, who was also "filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb." If the begettal of Jesus is left out of account, this would follow; but with that in view, the great difference is visible: for while John was merely a natural man, acted upon from without by the Holy Spirit, Jesus was that Holy Spirit veiled in flesh, as it were, placed among men for the accomplishment of the mighty work which his Father had given him to do.
Here someone else may say, "If that be so, how can he be to us an example?"
Now, what is that question based upon? I think we shall see it is based upon a great fallacy. To manifest the fallacy of this assumption, we have only to ask, was he-even with the view of him taken by those who use such an argument-in all respects as weak as we? Had he not, even on their theory, a higher moral and intellectual energy? Do they not admit that in his conception of the Holy Spirit, he received a start that we never receive; and that, during his public career, in which his example alone is manifest, he had a power we never have, even the power of the Holy Spirit without measure?
These things are without dispute, and, therefore, the fallacy of the objection is demonstrated. Jesus was our example, in the sense of being a character for us to copy, but for the production of such a character, the Father himself had to interfere by the Spirit. He saw there was no man: therefore, His own arm brought salvation.
This is the great aspect in which Jesus is to be contemplated-the doing for us, by Almighty power, that which we could not do for ourselves, that the excellency might be of God, and not of man-that salvation might not be by works which we have done, but by the grace or favour of Eternal Wisdom, that no flesh should glory in His sight. On this principle, the man Christ
Jesus is "counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house: for every house is builded by some man, but he that built all things is God. (Hebrews 3:3.")
The relation between the Father in heaven and the Spirit Universal is inscrutable, and, for that
reason, there is in Jesus, who was inhabited by the Spirit, an element that is inscrutable. We
perceive the evidence of it in the fact that those who heard him speak, strove about the meaning of what he said. He said "I came from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me."
It cannot be said of any of us that we came down from heaven. And because those who heard
the statement were ignorant of the nature of Jesus, they did not see how it could be said of him: "He that cometh from above," "Ye are from beneath," he said at another time: "I am from above;" which is the contrast that Paul draws in saying "The first man is of the earth; earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven."
THE OPERATIONS OF THE DEITY
The Christadelphian, May 1870. p143-151
48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?
The superior wisdom and grace with which Jesus was endowed even in childhood, led his heart to yearn toward his Father's business.
Yahweh Elohim Ch 3.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
He had nothing in common with men beyond the infirmity of a mortal nature derived through his mother, from a common stock. His tastes lay where the human mind has no affinity.
His intellectual interest -- his mental affection -- intensely centred on God, from whom man is naturally alien (Rom. viii. 7). Even at twelve years of age, he showed this powerful bias which distinguished him from all men: "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business" (Luke ii. 49); and "always" it is his own testimony concerning himself, "he did those things that were pleasing to the Father" (Jno. viii. 29).
His case, with reference to his own age, is only fitly classified in his own language; "Ye are from beneath: I am from above; ye are of this world: I am not of this world" (Jno. viii. 23).
NAZARETH REVISITED CH 2