The prophet Zechariah said: “And it shall come to pass that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.”—Zechariah 14:16,17.
These prophecies, while relating in a measure to the birth of Jesus, had only a partial fulfillment at that time. Their far greater fulfillment is yet future, as we shall see.
The birth of Jesus, the greatest event in the world’s history, was about to be enacted. Two thousand years had passed since God had made the promise to Abraham of the coming of the mighty One through whom all the families of the earth should be blessed. During that time Jehovah was executing his preconceived plan, renewing his promise to keep it fresh in the minds of the faithful, and shaping the course of those who should participate in this great transaction. And now, as the day drew near, the stage was being set.
The place selected was Bethlehem, situated on an elevation south of Jerusalem. It was once the home of Boaz, whose fields the beautiful Moabitish woman Ruth had gleaned whom Boaz redeemed and afterward took as his wife. Here Jehovah had used Boaz as a type of Christ Jesus and Ruth as a type of the church, his bride, foreshadowing things yet to come.
Later Bethlehem was the home of Jesse and of David his son. The name David implies ‘beloved one’; and it was here that he was anointed to be king over Israel, from which time he typified Jesus, the mighty Son of God. Jehovah had selected this as the birthplace of Jesus; hence here the birth must take place.—Matthew 2:5,6; Micah 5:2.
Away to the north in Galilee stood the humble and despised city of Nazareth. It was the home of Joseph the carpenter, a meek, little-known, yet honest, man. He was espoused to Mary. We should expect that Jehovah would time everything exactly; and so he did. The scepter had departed from Judah; the Romans were in control of Palestine, and the time for the birth of the mighty One was due. Exercising his perfect wisdom and power, Jehovah was overruling all things to the accomplishment of his purpose. Augustus Caesar, then the emperor and ruler over all Palestine, issued a decree that all the people should be taxed. Every one must go