Thursday, June 4, 2015

When Simeon is not Simeon

Last night I was reading Acts 15. The Jerusalem Council is meeting. Why? At issue, how people are saved. The Judaizers had been going around telling people "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1b). This has upset many and there was no small amount of dissension. (Acts 15:2)

This is a critical issue, because getting the answer wrong damns men's souls. So Barnabas and Paul were sent up to Jerusalem to meet with Peter and James and others. Peter spoke first, then James. James said,

Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name (Acts 15:14)

Simeon? The same Simeon who prophesied in the temple when the Babe arrived with Mary and Joseph? I like that scene, I ponder it a lot. Simeon and Anna in the temple that Luke told us about (Luke 2)... Wouldn't it be sweet to think that Simeon had waited for the Consolation of Israel, was blessed with a glimpse of the God in Flesh, and then continued to proclaim for a bit afterwards.

But no, alas, it is not that Simeon from Luke 2 mentioned in the verse from Acts.

Gill's Exposition says,
Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles,.... James begins with taking notice of Peter's speech, and agrees to it, and confirms it; for by Simeon is not meant, as some have thought, the Simeon that took Christ in his arms, Luke 2:25 who had been dead long ago; but Simon Peter, who had spoken before. Simon and Simeon are one and the same name; the former is only a contraction of the latter in the Syriac language; Simeon was his pure Hebrew name, and James speaking to an assembly of Hebrews, uses it.

I still love those small moments, of import but a one-shot nonetheless, where the Spirit reveals something like Simeon, this intriguing man in the temple of whom the Spirit speaks most tenderly but of which we know little. Or do we? Calvin says:
As to his condition in life we are not informed: he may have been a person of humble rank and of no reputation. Though Simeon had no distinction of public office, he was adorned with eminent gifts, -- with piety, with a blameless life, with faith and prophecy. ... Luke bestows on him the commendation of being just and devout; and adds, that he had the gift of prophecy: for the Holy Spirit was upon him. Devotion and Righteousness related to the two tables of the law, and are the two parts of which an upright life consists. It was a proof of his being a devout man, that he waited for the consolation of Israel: for no true worship of God can exist without the hope of salvation, which depends on the faith of his promises, and particularly on the restoration promised through Christ. ...

Now, since an expectation of this sort is commended in Simeon as an uncommon attainment, we may conclude, that there were few in that age, who actually cherished in their hearts the hope of redemption. All had on their lips the name of the Messiah, and of prosperity under the reign of David: but hardly any one was to be found, who patiently endured present afflictions, relying on the consolatory assurance, that the redemption of the Church was at hand. As the eminence of Simeon's piety was manifested by its supporting his mind in the hope of the promised salvation, so those who wish to prove themselves the children of God, will breathe out unceasing prayers for the promised redemption. For we, "have need of patience" (Hebrews 10:36) till the last coming of Christ.
... Simeon appears to denote expressly the bodily appearance of Christ, as if he had said, that he now has the Son of God present in the flesh, on whom the eyes of his mind had been previously fixed.


Leave it to Calvin to deduce and elicit so much from that small moment in scripture. There was a lot more, too, of course. Though I enjoy the Spirit's sprinkling of these good and faithful people thru the Bible who pop up and then disappear from scripture, (Pilate's Wife, anyone?) and I always want to know more, He has given us just enough in order to be edified, hasn't He.

Prayer:

Lord, help me take the example of Simeon, always fixing the eyes of my mind on You in hopes of the promise of future consolation of seeing You in the flesh at the rapture. Lord, help me take the example of Simeon/Simon/Peter, always contending for purity of faith so men's souls will hear the Gospel truly.


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