3 Kings and the providence of God, Jesus is Born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-7).
Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Friday, December 24, Christmas Eve
3 Kings and the providence of God.
I like to play chess. I like the game of chess a lot. I do not play it much, but I really like the game. My dad taught me to play chess when I was in elementary school. Correction, my dad taught my older brother, then my older brother taught me. I like chess, it is a game of strategy.
J. Oswald Sanders reports that years ago, Paul Morphy was the world’s champion chess player when he was invited by a friend to look at a valuable painting titled, “The Chess Player.” In the painting, Satan was represented as playing chess with a young man, the stake being the young man’s soul. The game had reached the stage where it was the young man’s move; but he was checkmated. There was no move he could make which would not mean defeat for him and so the strong feature of the picture was the look of utter despair on the young man’s face as he realized that his soul was lost.
Morphy, who knew more about chess than the artist, studied the picture for a time, then called for a chessboard and pieces. Placing them in exactly the same position as they were in the painting, he said, “I’ll take the young man’s place and make the move.” Then he made the move which would have set the young man free.
That is a powerful illustration about God’s love, but also God’s providence. God is the ultimate chess player.
Do you believe in coincidence? I do not believe in coincidence. I believe in the providence of God. God is sovereign, this means that He has total control. Further, God uses His control to arrange things the way He needs them to carry out His will. Somehow, God can bring together our freewill with His sovereign will and plan. Further, God can bring together our freewill with His plan.
My theme today is:
The providence of God in Jesus’ birth.
In Luke 2:1-7 we see the birth of Jesus.
- Read with me Luke 2:1-2: Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
- Isn’t this interesting. It was prophesied in Micah 5:2 that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. This was hundreds of years before Jesus. God is working out the details.
- R.C. Sproul has called this passage “Three Kings.” We have God the Father, Jesus, and Caesar.
- Caesar orders a census, but in reality this is God’s control.
- Look at verse 3: And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.
- So, everyone is traveling. Now, verses 4-5: Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.
- As a consequence of the census Joseph and Mary must travel to Bethlehem.
- Mary and Joseph are engaged to be married. We know from Luke 1 and Matthew chapter 1 that Mary is already pregnant with Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior.
- Now, look at Luke 2:6-7: While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
- Here they are in Bethlehem and the baby is to be born.
- Do you think they knew Jesus would be born in Bethlehem?
- Obviously, they knew 9 months and things like that, but a year before they did not know anything about this. A few months before they did not know they were going to have to travel.
- Here is Mary, obviously pregnant, and in God’s sovereign plan, in His providence, He brings Mary and Joseph to the right location for birth.
- 3 kings: God, the Father, Caesar, and now Jesus. Jesus is born in a barn and laid in a feeding trough.
- Jesus came in humility.
- God is in charge, this is how God wanted the Messiah to enter the world.
You would think that if God so rules the world as to use an empire-wide census to bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, he surely could have seen to it that a room was available in the inn.
Yes, he could have. He absolutely could have! And Jesus could have been born into a wealthy family. He could have turned stone into bread in the wilderness. He could have called 10,000 angels to his aid in Gethsemane. He could have come down from the cross and saved himself. The question is not what God could do, but what he willed to do.
God’s will was that though Christ was rich, yet for your sake he became poor. The “No Vacancy” signs over all the motels in Bethlehem were for your sake. “For your sake he became poor” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
God rules all things — even hotel capacities and available Airbnbs — for the sake of his children. The Calvary road begins with a “No Vacancy” sign in Bethlehem and ends with the spitting and scoffing of the cross in Jerusalem.
And we must not forget that he said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross” (Luke 9:23).
We join him on the Calvary road and hear him say, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).
To the one who calls out enthusiastically, “I will follow you wherever you go!” Jesus responds, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:57–58).
Yes, God could have seen to it that Jesus have a room at his birth. But that would have been a detour off the Calvary road.
Jesus came for you.
God is the Master chess player because He knows all things (omniscient). Further, He is all powerful (omnipotent), further He is present everywhere (omnipresent), further, He wants a relationship with you.
What is Christmas all about?
In a nutshell Christmas is all about Jesus’ birth. God became a human being so that He could die for our sins. God brought events involving kings, common people, and shepherds in order to bring His Son into the world. Jesus lived among us for 33 years and then died in our place. He died for our sins. Do you believe that? I want to ask you a personal question: have you come to a point in your life where you have accepted Jesus into your heart for forgiveness of your sins. Jesus didn’t come to earth just to live with us; He came to instruct us and to die in our place.
The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The Bible says that the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). The Bible says that Jesus is the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except by Him (John 14:6). The Bible teaches that sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). The Bible says that God will not let the guilty go unpunished (2 Thess 1:8-9). Yet, the Bible teaches that God loves the people of the world (John 3:16). That is a dilemma. God can’t tell a lie, or He wouldn’t be God (Numbers 23:19). God doesn’t change His mind (1 Sam 15:29). That is why God sent Jesus. The guilty must be punished. Jesus took our punishment on the cross. The penalty of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life (Romans 6:23 and John 14:6).
One of the most exciting things that you can do while celebrating Jesus’ birthday is to make it your spiritual birthday as well. You can accept Jesus’ free gift of salvation right now.
Pray with me and if you would like to believe in Christ today. This prayer is not a magical formula. It is just telling Jesus what you are doing.
Dear Jesus, I know that I have sinned. I know that you died to forgive me for my sins. I know that you rose again. Today, I confess that I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I believe in You, that You died in my place to take care of my sin, and that You rose again. I am committing my life to You, and trusting in You as Lord and Savior. Today, I am firmly making the decision to be with You, in order to become like You, to learn and do all that You say, and arrange my affairs around You. Please come into my life, and help me to live for you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.