There is a spirit of anticipation among the people of God at the time of the birth of Christ. It is recognized in the words of Zacharias and Elizabeth, and in the song of Mary. They saw in the coming of Jesus a fulfillment of the promise of the Messiah who would be King and Savior. It was the coming of the kingdom promised in the covenant of God. We heard the angel’s message: “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32–33). Mary sang: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. …He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever” (Luke 1:46–47, 54–55).
On the fortieth day after the birth of Jesus, “when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses was accomplished,” Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to Jerusalem. There they presented Him to the Lord, according to the law of the Lord that “Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.” At this time the sacrament of circumcision was executed. There was a man in Jerusalem, “whose name was Simeon, and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel.” Simeon was part of that remnant of which Paul spoke of: “a remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5). Simeon was revealed by Scripture to be just (a man who does right, who lived by God’s standard), “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17). To be just also means to be devout (a careful worshiper, lest he offend his Lord). He waits for the “consolation of Israel.” The word ‘consolation’ speaks of the encouragement of God, of Scripture itself, for the purpose of comforting, strengthening, and helping the church, the body of Christ. Paul wrote, “For whatever things were written before time were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). The prophet wrote of our consolation, our comfort in Him who is our Savior: “For the Lord shall comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody” (Is. 51:3).
The Holy Spirit is our comforter, our paraklete, one who called to our side. Israel’s salvation has come. Simeon was waiting for that which would deliver Israel, would encourage the people of God. Luke wrote about the church being “edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, were multiplied” (Acts 9:31). Simeon was a prophet. He was one to whom the Lord revealed heavenly mysteries. “It was revealed to (Simeon) by the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ (Messiah).”
The Holy Spirit was effectively active in the birth of the Son of God. It is the Holy Spirit who directs the chosen saints, revealing to them the fulfillment of God’s promise as He taught them through His Word. Augustine pointed out that while we read “in the gospel concerning the Lord Himself newly born,” it is “by the Holy Spirit” that Simeon recognized Him; “that Anna the widow, a prophetess, also recognized Him; that John, who baptized Him, recognized Him; that Zacharias, being filled with the Holy Spirit, said many things; that Mary herself received the Holy Spirit to conceive the Lord.” It is the Holy Spirit who leads us into all things about Christ through His Word. Simeon is brought into the temple by the Holy Spirit, finding Joseph and Mary bringing the child, Jesus, to “offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord.”
Simeon took Jesus into his arms, and blessed God. Simeon began to bless God, to eulogize Him, to speak well of Him. ‘Blessed’ comes from the Greek word, ‘Eulogeo,’ to bless. When Paul spoke of “The cup of blessing which we bless” (1 Cor. 10:16), he was calling upon us to speak well of God, to eulogize, to declare His glory and righteousness. Thus he asked, “is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” In the sacraments we declare who God is and what He has done in Christ Jesus.
Simeon’s eulogy began with the words, “Lord, now let thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word.” He blessed his Lord, giving thanks for those words of prophecy of the coming Messiah that the Spirit wrote upon his heart. It is according the Word of the Lord that his eyes had seen the salvation of the Lord. This salvation is that which the Lord God has “prepared before the face of all people.” It is the King of kings who calls His people to His side, saying, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the Lord” (Matt. 25:34).
Simeon praised his Lord, telling us of that salvation which is in the person of Christ alone, in Him whom he is holding in his arms, who is “A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” He is of whom the apostle spoke, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). John Calvin spoke of Simeon’s witness that “if Simeon, when holding a little child in his arms, could stretch his mind to the utmost boundaries of the world, and acknowledge the power of Christ to be everywhere present, how much more magnificent ought our conceptions regarding him to be now that he has been set up as a ‘standard to the people’ (Isa. 49:22), and has revealed himself to the whole world.”
Joseph and Mary marveled at the words of Simeon. Simeon blessed the parents, saying, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also;) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Christ Jesus is God’s preparation for His people Israel. He has been anointed, divinely appointed as the One through whom His people would be saved, redeemed. “Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will lift up My hand to the Gentiles, and set up My standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders” (Isa. 49:22). Mary’s heart would be pierced to see her son raised upon the cross of Calvary. However, by the grace of God, the work of Christ upon the cross shall save many. His judgment also comes from the cross upon those who transgress His law.
Anna, a prophetess of Israel, of the tribe of Asher, also testified of the Christ who is called ‘Jehovah is Salvation!” She served God “with fastings and prayers night and day.” When she saw Jesus, she instantly “gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”
Your salvation and mine is in the hand of the Lord from before the foundation of the world. Paul spoke of being brought close to God our Creator and Father: “That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus you, who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:12–13).
The lesson for all of us is that the Gospel will bring many into the kingdom, but many will turn against their Creator and therefore His people. Let us be admonished by Paul, who wrote, “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death to death, and to the other the aroma of life to life” (2 Cor. 2:15–16). Are we a fragrance of Christ in our worship and witness, in our homes and at work?
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