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Checkmate

• Greg Boyd

The telling of the birth of Jesus is the ultimate example of how God brings about His Kingdom into the world by bringing about salvation (God’s plan) within a context of human power (man’s plan).The savior of the world came into the world very different than a worldly king would have entered. As we look at our world today, it may look like the Caesars of the world (rulers, principalities, powers) are in control. Yet, it is important to remember that God is ultimately in control. God is always at work in all situations, subversively bringing to pass his own plans and purposes and bringing redemption.

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The telling of the birth of Jesus is the ultimate example of how God brings about His Kingdom into the world by bringing about salvation (God’s plan) within a context of human power (man’s plan).

During the time of Christ’s birth, Caesar Augustus was considered the most powerful man in the world, and some scholars consider him the most powerful man to that point in history. In 27 BC he had consolidated all power under him and had turned a republic into an Empire. It is from this power that a decree was issued for a census to be taken. This was a way for Caesar to ensure the collection of taxes and have enough people for military service.

Joseph was from Bethlehem, which was called “The City of David”. This was important because the messiah had to be from the lineage of David. Joseph was indeed from this lineage and this gave legal status to Jesus being the messiah. Also, the place of Bethlehem fulfills ancient prophecy that had taken place almost 800 years prior (8th century B.C.)

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins (going forth) are from of old, from ancient (or eternal) times”. Micah 5:2.

This passage mentions two important points: The messiah would be from Bethlehem, and that the messiah would be both human and divine. God used this moment in history to bring about His-Story.

Another aspect of the passage is the manner in which the Messiah was introduced within the world. Jesus was not born with all the “pomp and circumstance” that a child of Augustus would have received. It is mentioned that Jesus was born and placed in a manger, an animal feeding trough. He was placed there because there was no room for them to stay. Jesus was also wrapped in ordinary swaddling cloths. The savior of the world came into the world very differently than a worldly king would have entered.

As we look at our world today, it may look like the Caesars of the world (rulers, principalities, powers) are in control. Yet, it is important to remember that God is ultimately in control. He has other plans that are much different than the ways of the world. While it may look like the ways of the world are dominating (self-interest, power games, violence, injustice, racism, etc.), God is doing something completely different that checkmates any of these moves. God is always at work in all situations, subversively bringing to pass his own plans and purposes and bringing redemption (see Isaiah 40:13-15).

In the passage, Augustus was setting forth a decree, but it was God who was using this instance to bring about His plan of salvation to the human race.

What are some implications for us to understand today from the passage?

First of all, be still and know that God is God and that he is in control. In all situations, even when it seems dire, know that God is there and is bringing about His purposes. He is faithful. Nothing catches Him by surprise. His plans will succeed.

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” Isaiah 37:7

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

Second, be a person that is asking God for “the Wisdom from above”.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5.

God is always present and bringing out His plans in every situation, including past failures. Look to God for wisdom in all situations and circumstances. God can bring good out of any situation. Allow Him to use your past to bring good through it.

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Topics: Power, Salvation


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Focus Scripture:

  • Luke 2:1-7

    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. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

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