25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him.
No doubt there were many in Jerusalem longing for the consolation of Israel. How long would Israel have to suffer occupation?
Now Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the town of David. Not far from Jerusalem… could there have been some stirring, some rumors, of some shepherds who were tending their flocks by night (Lk 2:8)? I’m thinking that there indeed were many a report, and that the temple was quite a buzz. Given Herod’s paranoia, I imagine the temple courts were filled with a sort of hushed excitement. No doubt teachers and scribes were searching the prophets…
Isaiah 9:2-7 (NIV)
2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.
4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.
5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
Those who looked to the Prophet Isaiah likely focused on the underlined portion above. Israel was hurting, a shadow of the kingdom it once was. Isaiah also Prophesied that the divided kingdoms that threatened Judah would be laid to waste and then Judah would be handed over to Assyria (Is 7:14-17). There were many who looked to rebellion/insurgency to fight for Israel’s freedom from occupation… perhaps looking for God to follow the redemption of the past when He would raise up a mighty man who would serve as Judge? But Israel rejected God’s Judges, and rejected His rule and asked for a king. There were others who sought political power and favor with Rome to secure for Israel a sense of freedom, to preserve their ways (while historical accounts outside the Bible attest to this, such a mentality is revealed in the Sanhedren in John 11:45-53). Herod took it upon himself to appoint his own High Priest. It was not long before the birth of Jesus that the Temple was defiled and desecrated. All this is simply to say that since the descendents of Jacob had long stopped going to God for their answers (a rebuke against Israel and Judah in Is 8:19-20) they would become a people stumbling in the darkness (leading into Is 9). The Pharisees and Sadducees were the closest thing to leadership Israel had left. No Judges, no kings, and the prophets have been silent for nearly 400 years. Yet the religious leaders of the day were not in right standing with God. God chose to reveal the announcement of the fulfillment of Is 9:6 to Shepherds rather than the Priests, scholars, and scribes. Even the Magi from the east knew to how to identify the fulfillment of the prophecy in Micah 5:2, that out of Bethlehem would be born the ruler over Israel, “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times”. But not everyone was in the dark… and Luke kept a record of 2 who were eagerly awaiting the promise of God… the Messiah.
A man called Simeon
Luke 2:21-35 (NIV)
21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Simeon knew who he saw brought into the Temple courts that day. He knew what was prophesied of Him who would bring salvation. He knew this Jesus was the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. And Simeon was ready to be laid to rest… in peace. But Simeon was not alone, Praise God. Just as Simeon had finished Praising God, and speaking blessing over Mary and Joseph, there came another who was waiting faithfully upon the Lord…
A prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel
Luke 2:36-38 (NIV)
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
How cool is God? A man and a woman of God were waiting in the Temple Courts to see the redemption of Jerusalem, the consolation of Israel, the Revelation to the Gentiles… the Salvation of Man. I’m sure they both spread the word, as did the shepherds. So what happened? How could this young family have had any peace? Well, if you’ll remember the account in Matthew 2, the Magi came to Jerusalem looking for the one who is born King of the Jews. We don’t know exactly how old Jesus was when the Magi found Him, we just know that they were no longer in the manger; rather, they were now in a house. God sends warning to Joseph to flee to Egypt, and warns the Magi to avoid returning to Herod. So what squashed what would have been the biggest news in Israel? It was not yet Jesus’ time.
Remember Herod? No doubt between the news of what happened in the Temple Courts (the expansion of which was one of Herod’s projects), the visit of the Magi (and subsequent disappearance), and the rumors of Shepherds seeing the Heavenly Hosts… Herod was paranoid of losing his power over the Jews, and his authority under Rome. So, to make a point, he has all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity 2 yrs and younger killed. God hid Jesus in Egypt until Herod’s death (Matt 2:13-20). But when they returned home, it wasn’t to Bethlehem or Jerusalem, but to Nazareth in the north. And so, we have the context of Christmas… the Birth of a Savior.
Luke 2:40 (NIV)
40 And the Child grew and became strong; He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on Him.
I pray you remember the Gift of God this Christmas. Don’t let earthly rituals and mammon distract you from the Message of the Birth of a Savior, who was sent to redeem all of Mankind.
- Context of Christmas: Magi from the east… (faithfulstewardship.wordpress.com)
- Context of Christmas: from kings to the King of kings (faithfulstewardship.wordpress.com)
- Simeon and Anna: Blessed to see Jesus (theroadreport.wordpress.com)