While working on a new super secret writing project this evening, I found myself reading through Luke’s gospel. My intent was to read it in it’s entirety…but I didn’t get very far. I got about halfway through chapter 2 before I got sidetracked on the story of Simeon. I was blessed and challenged by this short narrative, and I write this post in hopes that the reader might find the same blessing and challenge.
Luke chapter 2 begins by recounting the census and Jesus’ birth (verses 1-7) and visitation of the shepherds who proclaimed that the child was the Christ, the promised one of Israel (verses 8-20). After 8 days, in keeping with the Jewish customs, Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple to set Him apart for God (cf. v. 23, Exodus 13:2,12). We then find that at the same time, Simeon, a “righteous and devout man in Jerusalem” (v. 25) was being led to the very same temple by the Holy Spirit (v. 27). Simeon knew, by revelation of the Holy Spirit, that at some point in his life before he died, he would see “the Lord’s Christ” (v 26), and that promise is fulfilled in verses 28-32 –
28 then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,
29 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
According to Your word;
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 A Light of revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”
A simple story on its face, however, I want to key in on two important observations.
Simeon was a Man Steeped in the Scriptures
We see the intimate knowledge Simeon had of the Old Testament scriptures in one simple statement Luke makes – that Simeon was “looking for the consolation of Israel” (v. 25). The greek verb, here translated as “looking”, is translated elsewhere in the New Testament as “waiting”, or even “anxiously waiting”, and consolation can be translated as “comfort” or “encouragement”. The key idea is that Simeon knew that at some point, Israel’s restoration and comfort was coming, and he was anxiously waiting and searching for it. How did he know this? Through the careful reading and meditation on the Old Testament. Simeon was looking for:
The restoration of the nation of Israel to their promised land forever (Amos 9:11-15)
The pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the inhabitants of Israel (Ezekiel 36, Jeremiah 31, Zechariah 12:10)
The righteous and peaceful reign of the eternal Ruler (2 Samuel 7, Micah 5:2-5)
Furthermore, Simeon was able to identify that this baby Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah who would be the Restorer and Comforter of Israel. Isaiah 7:14 reveals that “a virgin will be with child and bear a son”, which Matthew’s gospel helps us to understand was a prophecy of the Christ (Matthew 1:23). Not only that, but Micah 5:2 tells us that that virgin-born King would be born in Bethlehem. Simeon knew that this 8 day old baby was to be the Savior of Israel, and also of the nations (Isaiah 42, 49). Luke doesn’t say this in as many words, but I think that the combination of “According to your word” in verse 29 and the quotation of Isaiah in verse 32 means that, at the very least, Simeon was cognizant of the relevant prophecies of the promised One I cite above. He certainly had the help of the Spirit in this endeavor (v. 25-27), but Simeon was fully aware that this young child was to be the great Comforter of Israel exactly as promised in the Old Testament, because he saturated his mind with these scriptures.
God’s Promises are Sure
The Holy Spirit promises Simeon in verse 26 “that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ”. And Luke records immediately following that the Spirit not only follows up on that promise, but causes it to happen. On the very same day and at the very same time that Joseph and Mary went to the temple, the Spirit led Simeon to that very same temple, and fulfilled His promise. Simeon even acknowledges the fulfillment of the promise by saying “You are releasing your bond-servant to depart in peace”. The idea here is that he realizes his death is now imminent, since the Spirit told him that he would not die until he saw the Messiah (v. 26). And Simeon would die “in peace” because his anxious waiting for the consolation of Israel was over.
Simeon also acknowledges that this baby Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises, bringing salvation (v 30) to both Jews and Gentiles (v 32). Alas, we know that salvation indeed came to both Jews and Gentiles as recorded in the gospels and the acts of the apostles, evidencing God’s faithfulness to His promises still more.
The application I draw is two-fold. First, do I believe in the testimony of God as told in scripture? Do I believe that every human is a sinner who stands to receive the full punishment of their sin (Rom 3:10, Rom 6:23)? Do I believe that God has sent a perfect Lamb to absorb the wrath of God for my sin if I would have faith (1 Pet 2:24, Acts 16:31, Ephesians 2:8-9)? Do I believe that God is causing all the events of my life to sovereignly work together for my good, that is, my sanctification (Rom 8:28-30)? Do I believe that God will not allow me to be tempted beyond what I am able to resist (1 Corinthians 10:13)? Am I anxiously awaiting the (second) coming of Christ like Simeon was (Acts 1:6-7,11)?
Second, I take charge to learn the scriptures in the same way that Simeon did. May I be like the blessed man of righteousness of Psalm 1 who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night. May I keep my way pure by keeping it according to His word (Psalm 119:9). May I treasure His word in my heart that I may not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11). May my life be transformed by the renewing of my mind by the study of the scriptures (Rom 12:2). I pray that my mind would be so steeped in the scriptures that I, like Simeon, might be considered a righteous and devout man of God.