Almost 2,000 years before Joseph and Mary journeyed to Bethlehem, Jacob and Rachel, another expectant couple, traveled the same road.
Rachel gave birth to Benjamin, but she died after delivery, and Jacob buried her near Bethlehem (see Gen. 35:19). Rachel’s death foreshadowed the devastation that the territory of Benjamin would suffer in Jeremiah’s time: “Rachel is weeping for her children . . . because they are no more” (Jer. 31:15; see also Matt. 2:17-18).
Yet the prophecy found its final fulfillment in Jesus’ day, when Herod the Great slaughtered all baby boys in Bethlehem. So, at God’s direction, Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt to live until Herod’s death (Matt. 2:13-23).
Each movement of Jesus’ family finds its cause in God’s revelation to Joseph—fleeing Bethlehem to Egypt, returning from Egypt to Israel, avoiding Judea to settle in Galilee. God’s purposes for these moves lay first in the protection of His Son, but Matthew notes that each directive also fulfilled Scripture. Doubtless anyone but God saw beforehand the murky prophecies fulfilled by these geographic moves. But in hindsight, they become clear.
As we strain to see tomorrow with all its uncertainties, we can take comfort that our God sees the future as clearly as the past. He seldom gives us all we need in order to understand, but He always gives us all we need to obey. Eventually, we discover that in our simple obedience to God’s Word, He has guided us along paths far too complex for us to see at the time.
He leads us with His wise—but often unusual—directives, always rooted in Scripture, for our good and for His glory.
By application, consider this prayer:
Lord, tomorrow is unknown, but You are already there. While I often don’t understand Your leading, I honestly don’t want to go anywhere else. As with all years past, I know that You will provide, You will guide, and I will follow.
Adapted from Wayne Stiles, Going Places with God: A Devotional Journey Through the Lands of the Bible (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2006), p. 24. Used by permission. Bethlehem photo courtesy of BiblePlaces.com.