Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Simeon: A man of faith, a man of prophecy

During Christmas-time, there are so many wonderful verses to dwell on. Of course, the Annunciation, when Gabriel revealed to Virgin Mary that she was going to be with the Messiah child is a great set of verses to meditate on. Mary's Magnificat, her prayerful praise to God after hearing the news, brings tears to my eyes. I also love the moment when Mary visited Elizabeth, and John the Baptist leapt in Elizabeth's womb. The still, cold evening when the angels sang over the field of shepherds at the birth of Jesus is also beautiful. There are many. Luke1-2 is a good place to start.

But the moment in the temple after Jesus was born is often overlooked. Joseph and Mary came to the temple to fulfill their duties to God for having been gifted with a son. They were to make a sacrifice. As they entered, the following happened:

"And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law,  then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,

“Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”

"And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:25-35)

Simeon. There are so many scriptural riches to be plumbed here. First, he was a righteous man. He had great faith, so great, the Lord blessed him. What was the reason for his faith? He was looking for the "consolation of Israel", in other words, the Messiah. The Old Testament people had faith that the promised Messiah would come. The New Testament people (us) have faith that He has come. It is the same faith, just different timing.

The knowledge that Simeon had laid eyes on Messiah must have been a great moment of grace for Simeon. The promise that had come by the Spirit that Simeon would live to see Him had been fulfilled! What a great testament to the surety of the Lord's promises! And Simeon showed us by his prayer asking to now be released from this life, having had set eyes on the 'consolation of Israel', tells us what a great man of faith that Simeon was. He literally lived for the coming of the Savior!

Notice Simeon's prayer. It is all about Jesus and God's plan for His people. Simeon was not looking for the Messiah just for himself. I heard a snippet of a sermon this week about the manger. In it, the person preaching the Lord's coming talked of the manger and the poverty and humility of our Lord being born there. The person speaking these things then went on to make the scriptures be about us, our "manger moments", our poverty, our disappointments. Be aware of that kind of preaching. Taking what is supposed to be about Jesus and making it about us. Simeon's prayer is a wonderful, refreshing, proper prayer- because it is about Jesus in praise and devotion.

Then Simeon gives an oft-overlooked prophecy. He said that the opposition to Jesus would be for a sign. That many would rise and fall, and that Mary's own heart would be pierced to the soul. And finally, that the thoughts of many would be revealed. That is what LIGHT does, it reveals. Jesus the Light was coming in His ministry to seek and save the lost. One of the things he was seeking and saving the lost from is the gross, outward displays of religiosity, in order to renew the personal relationship God wanted to have with His people and making an inward change toward repentance and growth in Jesus.

Now Simeon's prophecy about opposition and swords and piercing must have been troubling to Mary and Joseph, to say the least. They knew they were carrying the Messiah, Gabriel told Mary, the other angel told Joseph, Elizabeth confirmed it. Zacharias confirmed it, and now Simeon and then Anna. But swords? Trouble? Piercing? Very stomach-clenching indeed.

Jesus said in Luke 12:49-53 that He comes to divide. That is what truth does, Jesus is so precise His truth can separate spirit from soul. "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12).

Simeon was living in apostate times. The Pharisees and Saducees and Scribes had made God into a terrible thing with their perversion of the Law to their own glory. Romans were oppressing the people, it was difficult to practice their faith in truth because truth was hard to find. But Simeon persevered in devoutness and righteousness. That means Simeon had been declared by God to be righteous, a person doesn't achieve that for themselves. So Simeon was living in the deepest of the dark times just before Jesus began to preach 30 years later. Yet he had faith.

We are living in dark times now too. Our faith is perverted by false doctrines, we are surrounded by falsity. Many of us look up to see if our Redemption draws nigh. Simeon was a special man to have been told that he would not die before he had seen the coming One. Are we the generation that was told we will not pass away before all these things come to pass? (Mt 24:34). May it be so.

Let Jesus divide out the falsity in you and let His pureness and goodness remain. Let you be on the rise and not on the fall, having your heart presented to Him who judges its thoughts, and be declared righteous because of your faith in the Consolation of Israel - who is also the Consolation of the world!

2 comments:

  1. thanks, that was a blessing to read!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This was a wonderful read and really needed to hear it. God bless you Elizabeth.

    ReplyDelete

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