“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” -Isaiah 9:2
Entering into the season God has been bringing to our minds the topic of the anticipation of Christ again and again. Simeon in Luke 2 specifically has come up. Despite Anne and I not giving him too much thought in the past. He has a few lessons we need to learn for our situation today.
Simeon and Consolation
Luke tells us an old Hebrew man named Simeon was righteous and devout. Importantly he had his eyes set on “waiting for the consolation of Israel” (v 25). Consolation means comfort to one who is suffering or to one who is disappointed. As Isaiah points out in the verse above this certainly described Israel!
They were walking in darkness the prophet says and by this, he primarily means two things: a lack of spiritual leadership and a lack of living out the sort of life God desires among Israel. These are his themes again and again throughout the book of Isaiah. In Simeon’s day, the people of Israel were still in captivity. This took place as predicted by prophets like Isaiah and Jerimiah if the people would not turn back to God. The exile pointed out to devote men like Simeon that in fact, Israel was still not on the sort of path they ought to be. Simeon also knew that God was going to send a Messiah who would lead the people and bring them back to be the sort of nation and people they ought to be (Isaiah 53 is a good example of this full promise).
Today America is a lot like Israel in Simeon’s day. We are really living as God calls us to live not from the spiritual leaders oftentimes to the individual people. We have formulas in place of pursuing God. We draw sides and put up our guards rather than discussing important political and religious topics outright. We effectively live a life cut off from the source of really living before God today. Discipleship, the center of Jesus’ instruction for His church (Matt 28:!9-20), is not happening in churches (see discipleship.org’s studies on the matter). Can there be hope in this time of division and darkness?
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.” – Luke 2:30-32
Simeon found his consolation when Mary and Joseph brought him into the temple. He immediately recognized this child was the one God was sending to bring the light to Israel. Think about it, he so confidently trusted God to fulfill promises that he stayed attended day in and day out to God’s voice. We can imagine him asking “Is this the one?” again and again as children are brought in. Finally, he receives confirmation that this is the one and his heart jumps with rejoicing.
Although, he likely does not see the child grow up because God promised this would happen before he died. However, just seeing the child is enough for Him. He knows God will now work out a plan through this child to restore his nation. In the same way, our hope for God’s restoration in this world is based on His promise to come and bring reconciliation. It is also a hope based on His promise to “make us fishers of men” (Matt 4:19) to be with us as we make disciples (Matt 28:20) to truly work through us to fulfill all that He has called us to. We start with confident Hope that the radical mission God has called us to do is doable with Him.
The Holy Spirit and Closeness to God
The second lesson from Simeon is that he was in touch with the Holy Spirit:
The Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit…– Luke 2:25-26
Simeon drew near to God regularly so much so that he heard this promise from the Spirit Himself. Now, this kind of radically hearing God does not come from a one-time point your finger at a random verse and see what God is thinking kind of experience. It comes from continual time abiding with God and His word. As Jesus says “If you abide in my word then you are truly my disciples” (John 8:31) and “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). If we abide in His word, if we really seek to know, love, and obey Him in our daily lives Jesus will manifest or show up in our daily life.
How does one do this? Simply by starting with the Hope that God has communicated Himself clearly then moving on to take steps to be with Him and live according to His heart.
God cares for His creation, He cares so much that He sent His Son to die for you. I am surprised by how many people say they believe this but then think that God either doesn’t care enough or isn’t powerful enough to have communicated Himself clearly in scripture. So the first step is to agree with God that you can understand His word yourself then begin to get to know it. Spend time reading the books of the Bible, read in large portions to get to know what those books say, why they were written what is the human author, and then the Divine Author trying to say? Also, read in small portions and spend time meditating on how you can apply specific truths in scripture to your life and ask God to really help you do it!
Finally make it a habit to spend some relational time with Him, get to know God, talk to Him, and take time to listen. It sounds simple because it is. If we as a people (Christians in the country) seek out God truly by being with Him and by taking up the mission on His heart discipleship and responsibility loving our neighbor as a disciple, a family member, and a citizen then we will truly see a change and radical reconciliation. If we rely on the broken promises of a particular leader, political party, or movement (Even a Christian one) then we will miss what God is calling us to.