If you are expecting a guest to arrive what do you find yourself doing as the time of arrival draws near? Do you pace around the house? Do you check that you did tidy the kitchen? Do you vacuum the lounge…again? Do you check your phone constantly in case there is a message of ‘Sorry but we’re running a bit late’? Do you change your online status to ‘Waiting for friends to arrive…’ just so whole world knows? Do you simply sit down with a cup of tea & wait for doorbell to ring?
This is what I do: once I’ve ensured that the house is relatively tidy I sit down with a book. However, I usually can’t concentrate and so position myself so I can see out of the front window and basically just glance at the page, glance out of the window, glance at the page, glance out of the window, and so on. After about 10 minutes I realise that I’ve only read one sentence and I can’t even remember what that was and so I give up and wander aimlessly around the house, making sure that I check out of the window at regular intervals in case the guests are arriving!
The story of Simeon is the story of someone who waited. He waited for a long time. But the way he waited is an example to us all.
Jesus had been born. This was a miraculous and world-altering event! The Jewish law said that male children had to be circumcised on the 8th day and named at that point (see Leviticus 12 for more details). This had happened to Jesus (v21). Then after another 33 days the mother had to bring offering to priest for her purification after childbirth. She was required to bring a lamb for a burnt offering and pigeon or dove for sin offering. The law allowed that if the mother couldn’t afford the lamb for the burnt offering then she could opt to bring a second pigeon or dove. It is this second option that Mary and Joseph brought (v24). Also, if the child was a firstborn male then he was presented to the Lord (vv22,23).
Simeon enters the story as Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem for the purification offering.
‘Looking for the consolation of Israel’
Simeon was ‘looking for the consolation of Israel’ (v25). He was waiting for the comfort that would come to Israel as had been promised by the prophets (for example see Isaiah 40:1-3). This would include salvation for mankind and see peace, justice and righteousness to invade the land and restore the nation back to its former glory by establishing Godly rule. These promises, though, were tied up in the appearance of a saviour. It would be he who would be called ‘Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6). It would be he who would have a government of peace-without-end (Isaiah 9:7). It would be he who would be of the line of David and would sit on that throne and establish the kingdom with justice and righteousness forever (Isaiah 9:7).
But Simeon was not just waiting for the ‘big’ event to happen. He wasn’t just hopeful of seeing these huge Old Testament promises about the re-establishment of Israel, salvation, defeat of enemies and freedom for all come to pass. No! He was holding onto a personal promise. He knew God’s word to him: ‘It had been revealed to him that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.’ (v26)
Just pause and take note of that. Simeon had been promised by God – directly from Him – that he would see the Saviour. Incredible! No wonder he was looking for the consolation of Israel.
I think that this means that Simeon had two things in view at the same time. On the one hand, like any godly Israelite, he was waiting for the kingdom to break out, for the invasion of God’s rule & reign, for a shift in the way things were and for God to once again champion His people. And on the other hand, he was holding tightly to the personal promise that he would see the Messiah. He was on the lookout for the One who would usher in the new era.
So what promises are you living with at the moment? It might be big-picture stuff like wanting to see the gospel preached across world so that every tribe, tongue, people group will be able to worship like the glorious picture in Revelation 7:9,10. Or it might be promises that God has spoken to you as an individual or as a family. Promises that have been whispered to you and yet speak of something to come.
The challenge Simeon lays down for us is: you may remember these promises but are you looking for their fulfilment? Are they in the forefront of your mind? Are you actively looking for them? Or have you waited for so long that their memory has faded? Is it a case that the hope of them being fulfilled once burned brightly but now the glow has ebbed away and the promises are no longer recalled, no longer clutched tightly, no longer pursued or prayed about?
Waiting in the Spirit
When we read the Old Testament we see the Holy Spirit coming on particular people at particular times for particular purposes. Examples would include people like Samson, Bezalel, Gideon and Saul to name a few. Following the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus we see at Pentecost the fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…sons & daughters…young men & old men…slaves’ (see Acts 2:14ff). There was a change at this point and we now live in the light of this. It means that we can know the ongoing filling and empowering of the Holy Spirit and are encouraged to ‘walk by the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:16) and ‘be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18).
Simeon, though, lived in the pre-Pentecost era and so I find it amazing that he is described with the phrase ‘the Holy Spirit was upon him’ (v25). This wasn’t just a man who was ‘righteous and devout’ (v25) which would indicate someone who was godly, living an upright and moral life and seeking God. There was something different about Simeon: the Holy Spirit was upon him.
In addition, though, he also knew communion with the Holy Spirit. We have already looked at the fact the Holy Spirit had given him a promise and had revealed to him that he wouldn’t die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ – the anointed one, the Messiah (v26). However, there is even more! Simeon spent his days in tune with the Holy Spirit. Verse 27 tells us that ‘he came in the Spirit to the Temple’. Simeon was led by the Spirit into the Temple on that day, at that moment, in order that the promise to him would be fulfilled. Simeon was a man who had the Holy Spirit on him, guiding him and speaking to him. It was this sensitivity to the Holy Spirit that meant that Simeon saw the fulfilment of his promise.
So Simeon, godly, Spirit-filled man that he was, was led by the Holy Spirit into the temple courts. He would have been in the Court of Women and there, amongst the hustle and bustle of many people moving around the area, were Mary and Joseph with the baby Jesus. He could have said to himself that this was enough because he had ‘seen the Lord’s Christ’ (v26). But he wanted more! He made a beeline for the small family unit and took Jesus into his arms (v28). What a moment! What a thrill it must have been as he then lifted his voice and praised God. He knew that at that moment the Saviour of the World lay in his arms!! Simeon was holding the King!
Simeon saw the fulfilment of his personal promise and the beginnings of the much bigger promises coming to pass. But he only saw these by being in tune with the Holy Spirit, living with the expectation of seeing the promise fulfilled and being prepared to step out in faith and, quite literally, lay hold of the promise.
This post is based on material that originally formed a sermon preached at Jubilee Church Solihull and which can be found here: Simeon sermon