Volume 29 : Numbers 6
"Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel." Apostle Paul - Philippians 1:15 - 17
Apostle John opens his account of the gospel of Christ by identifying Jesus as the Word. " . . . the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." 1 He closes his account declaring that there were so many things that the Word did during His earthly ministry that " . . if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written." 2 John 1 and John 21 are like two bookends. Between the two of them is the earthly-ministry history of Jesus as recorded by him. Beginning that earthly-ministry history was the arrival of God, the Son, on this earth - the miraculous incarnation of God, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
Matthew and Luke also had something to say about the arrival of God on this planet earth. Matthew wrote, "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit." 3 Luke recorded the event by saying, "And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger . . . " 4
A principle of Divine Law that is written in both the Old and the New Testaments is this: for an event to be established as being truthful, it had to have been witnessed by two or three persons. For example, in Deuteronomy 17:6 the Law said, "Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness." When solving church disputes between individual brethren, Jesus said in Matthew 18:16, " . take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established." And, Hebrews 10:28 cites the principle thusly: "Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses."
Of the incarnation of Jesus, there were more than "two or three witnesses." There was the Holy Spirit Himself Who Luke says came "upon" Mary.5 He not only did that but also He prophesied the incarnation in the Old Testament 6 and recorded the facts of it on the pages of the New Testament. Mary, His mother, and Joseph, His earthly non-biological father, also were witnesses, of course. To each of these persons we could add the angels of heaven, the shepherds who kept "watch over their flock by night," 7 and later the wise men from the east. But at this time we give our attention to two particular people who were witnesses of the incarnation soon after the fact - forty days after the fact to be exact. 8
The first person to whom we refer was a man named . . .
The role that he played in the events involving the birth of Christ is recorded in Luke 2:25 - 35.
There are several Simeon's in the Bible. One of the twelve sons of Jacob was named Simeon and had one of the twelve tribes of Israel named after him. Jesus had an ancestor named Simeon.9 Peter's Hebrew name was Simeon.10 The church in Antioch had a teacher named Simeon.11
Not much is known about this Simeon of Luke 2. Some believe that he may have been one of the priests who ministered at the temple. Reading verses 26 and 29 it appears that he was an old man. Verse 26 says that it had been "revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ"; in verse 29 he told the "Lord," " . . . now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word."
What is noteworthy about this man is his godliness. His godliness is highlighted at the very beginning of the mention of his name.
"25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 28 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ."
He was "just" -a man declared by God to be righteous because of how he lived and how he treated his fellow man; he was "devout" -reverent and pious toward God; he was anticipating the coming of the Messiah Who would be "the Consolation of Israel" -the One Who would deliver Israel both from sin and from Roman oppression; and, "the Holy Spirit was upon him" -a special, unique hand of providence was "upon him," the kind of providence that was associated with the Old Testament prophets.
This is the kind of man that any congregation would treasure to have as one of its members: "just," "devout," looking for the return of Christ at any time, and having the Holy Spirit in him and upon him. Men like this are desperately needed in the Lord's church today; men who give stability and sound guidance to the Lord's work. Men who have been ordained as shepherds of the flock surely are to be like Simeon of Luke 2. The writer of Hebrews advised the church to "Remember those who rule over [us], who have spoken the word of God to [us], whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct." 12 And again, "obey those who rule over [us], and be submissive, for they watch out for [our] souls, as those who must give account." 13 Sheep who have shepherds in the mold of Simeon are indeed blessed.
It had been forty days since Jesus had been born and Mary and Joseph, "according to the law of Moses," had come to the temple "to present [Jesus] to the Lord." It is written that Simeon " . . . came by the Spirit into the temple . . " at this same time.
"27 So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, 28 he took Him up in his arms and blessed God . .
This was not an accidental meeting; it was providential. It was God's intention that the paths of Simeon and He Who was "the Consolation of Israel" intersect. God had told Simeon that he would not die until "he had seen the Lord's Christ" and now he would.
We are reminded by this that God's Word is always true even in its most minor detail. When God says something is going to take place, it will take place whether it be soon or eventual. God says that Jesus is coming again and He will. God says that Jesus will judge the world and He will. God says the lost "will go away into everlasting punishment" and the saved will go "into eternal life" and they will. 14 Each of these events will happen just as Jesus said they will. Whether they happen soon or eventually is not for us to know. What we do know for certain is one of the immutable attributes of God is that He cannot lie. 15
This was not Simeon's first visit to the temple. He had been there many times before and had seen many children during those visits. But this "Child" was not like the other children; He was different. When he saw Jesus " . . . he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: . ."
"29 Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word, 30 for my eyes have seen Your salvation 31 which You have prepared before the face of all peoples. 32 a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel."
This "Child" was like no other child. This "Child" was for Simeon's salvation and the salvation of his kinsmen, Israel. This "Child" was for the salvation of "all peoples," even Gentiles. This "Child" was to be "a light", "a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of [God's chosen] people Israel." Simeon knew and understood things that others did not know or understand - perhaps not even Mary nor Joseph could grasp what Simeon was saying about their "Child" -because "the Holy Spirit was upon him [Simeon]."
"33 And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him."
"This 'Child' is going to be a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles? Wait! The Gentiles cannot be saved can they?"
After the "devil left Him" in Matthew 3 when he could not defeat Him in the "wilderness" following His baptism, Jesus left Nazareth and "dwelt in Capemaum." Matthew says that Jesus fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy about Him in Isaiah 9: "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned." 16
It would take several years before this revelation of Simeon would be fully understood. Jesus said in John 8:12, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life"; but, even His Apostles couldn't grasp this truth. Following the resurrection of Christ, the Apostles weren't thinking of the salvation of Gentiles; they were thinking of when and how the Kingdom of Israel would be restored when they would finally rule over the Gentiles. But eventually this truth sank in and was preached by these Apostles. Paul preached in Acts 26:23 what "the prophets and Moses said would come - that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles."
The most well-known sculpture of Jesus being held by someone is probably the Pieta by Michelangelo. Today it is on display in the Vatican in Rome. It is the sculpture of the body of Jesus resting and being held on the lap of His mother, Mary, after He was taken down from the cross and before He was buried. But here in Luke 2:28 we are given a word sculpture of an old man holding the Christ "Child" "in his arms" forty days after the child's birth singing what is a thought but it is an interesting one: during Christ's ministry, He too would hold children in His arms.17 Today, those who are members of His church, Christians, are held safely in His hand where "no one is able to snatch them." 18
But here Simeon was holding his salvation "in his arms." He was holding "the Consolation of Israel" "in his arms" and he knew he was. How could he not break out into his song of praise - his "Nunc Dimittis," "Now dismiss me Lord"? The question might also be asked how can we who are saved by the blood of the Christ "Child" not break out into our songs of praise when we come together and hear His blessed word preached and taught and when we come around the Lord's Table in remembrance of Him?
Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus our blessed 'Redeemer! Sing, 0 Earth, As wonderful love proclaim! Hail Him Hail Him! highest archangels in glory; Strength and honor give to aiis holy name! Like a shepherd. Jesus will guard His children; In His arms He carries them all day long:
Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus our blessed 'Redeemer! for our sins 4* suffered, and bled and died; He, our 'Rock, our hope of eternal salvation; Hail Him! Hail Him! Jesus the Crucified! Sound His praises! Jesus Who bore our sorrows. Love unbounded wonderful, deep and strong.
Has the church heard the gospel for so long that she, like King David once did, has lost the joy of her salvation? Could the church be the reason why the world has such little interest in being held in the hand of Christ our Savior? God forbid! Old Simeon could not restrain himself from singing his solo of praise in the presence of the parents of the Christ "Child." But on the heels of his song of joy and praise came words of darkness and warning.
" 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, 'Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and the rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against. 35 (Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
This moment of happiness in the temple was tempered with a prophecy that those who oversaw and visited this temple would one day "pierce" Mary's "soul" with a "sword" by rejecting her "Child" Who now rested "in the arms" of this old man but Who some day would be nailed to an old rugged cross.
Simeon directed his words to Mary. She would be the one who would witness her "Child's" rejection. Joseph would be dead and gone. His rejection and her pain and heartache would come to a crescendo at the cross. So she must be braced for the reality that her "Child's" fate was sealed. The shadow of the cross had already fallen across the "manger" in which He had been laid. He would be "despised and rejected." 19 It had already been decided " . . . by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God" that He would be "taken by lawless hands. . . crucified, and put to death." 20 Because of Him some in Israel would "fall" and some would rise. He would be a "stone of stumbling" for some. There would be those who would not accept Him as being the Messiah. For others He would be the "chief cornerstone." 21 They would rise out of darkness, sin, and death. They would believe that He was Who He proclaimed to be. They would build their life on the foundation of this Christ "Child." Mary's "Child" would reveal "the thoughts of many hearts." Some "hearts" would have no room for Christ while other "hearts" would. And so it continues to this present day.
The gospel of Christ is welcomed by some; it is rejected by many others. Those who welcome it obey it by being immersed into His death for the remission of sins; others, like the inns of Bethlehem at the time of His birth, have no room or time for it in their life and go to their death with no assurance of hope of any kind. Simeon went to his death having seen with his own "eyes" the salvation of the Lord that the Lord had "prepared before the face of all peoples." From the time that Luke 2 was written, Simeon has given his testimony concerning the incarnation of Christ. His testimony will forever remain on the pages of God's holy, sacred, and eternal writ and will never change.
There was another person at the temple with Simeon. It was a woman. She wasn't Simeon's wife but she was there when he was there. Her name was . . .
Her name means "favor" or "grace." It is the same name that is translated in the Old Testament Hebrew book of I Samuel as "Hannah."
"36 Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity: 37 and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day."
The facts about her are these: she was a "prophetess"; she was "the daughter of Phanuel"; she was a woman "of a great age"; she had been married for only "seven years"; she was now a "widow of eighty-four years"; she lived at the "temple"; and, she was a servant of God who fasted and prayed "night and day." Like Simeon, this woman was righteous and devoted to her God.
There are several things that one can say about another person when talking about that person. It is interesting to ponder what the Holy Spirit chose to say about this woman. The first thing that is said of her was that she was a "prophetess." God had not raised up a prophet for some 300 years but He raised up Anna - a woman no less - in time to be at the temple when Jesus was presented. She had a special gift from God to speak forth God's message. She knew God's Word, including Isaiah 7:14 - "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." When she entered the area of the temple where Mary and Joseph and Simeon were, she witnessed the fulfillment of that prophecy. Simeon saw "the Consolation of Israel"; Anna saw "Immanuel."
It is also said of her that she was "of a great age." Was she eighty-four years old or had she been a widow for eighty-four years? However you figure it, she was "of a great age." 22 She could have remarried but it appears that she chose not to do so. Instead, she married herself to the service of her Lord. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:39 that if a wife loses her husband by death "she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord." Then he added this: "But she is happier if she remains as she is, according to my judgment - and I think I also have the Spirit of God." 23
Not everyone is able to remain a widow; some choose to remarry and there is nothing wrong with that as long as when a Christian woman remarries it is to a Christian man. But Paul says if you are able, it is better to remain a widow. Anna chose to be a widow giving herself to her God Who would fill the vacant spot in her heart left by her husband. For a very long time she had been looking for the Messiah Who would come and deliver her from her sins.
It is also said that she departed not "from the temple." Evidently a room, like an apartment, had been given to her. She lived there all the rest of her life. She surrounded herself with the things and the ministries of God. She truly loved the Lord with all of her heart. As much as the church needs men like Simeon, the church also needs women like
Paul wrote to Titus and said that "the older women [in the church are to] admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, home-makers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed." 24 There is a great need in the church for "older women" to use their gifts, talents, and experiences in helping young women who are under greater pressure and stress today than perhaps at any other time in history to conform to the world. Certainly young girls need good counsel and guidance concerning how to dress, how to speak, and how to conduct themselves as virtuous ladies in a crass, rude, and uncivilized culture.
Anna served her God "with fastings and prayers night and day." Again, Paul, writing to Timothy said, "Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day." 25 That is a phenomenal statement. She wasn't glued to watching soap operas. She wasn't addicted to social media. She wasn't buried under a mountain of romance novels. She wasn't spending her time on the gossip line. She was devoted to making known God's Word. We can only imagine how many women developed into Godly women because of Anna's influence.
God was working in her life as much as He was in Simeon's.
" 38 And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem."
As Simeon and Joseph and Mary were huddled around the "Child," it is written that "in that instant" she came into the temple place where they were and began to give "thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem" -again, not an accidental entrance but one orchestrated by providence. She recognized the "Child" as being the One through Whom "redemption" would come and she did not hesitate to tell "all" she could that their Messiah had arrived. Like the heavenly "angel" and the "shepherds" on the night of His birth, Anna heralded the incarnation of God's Son. She was "of a great age" but she was not too old to be a missionary. She was old but not too old to be excited. She was old but not too old to praise the Lord. She was old but she wasn't dead; she was still alive.
Simeon and Anna are two people to whom Jesus was first introduced who have names. He had been introduced to the "angels" and to the "shepherds" some forty days before this but they have no names as far as what is recorded in the Word. Both Simeon, a man who was not ready to "depart in peace," and Anna, a widow "of a great age" living in the temple, were waiting for the Messiah to come, and when He came they both praised and thanked God that they had lived long enough to be blessed to see the One Who for centuries had been prophesied.
Our story is different. We have never seen Him though we have read His story for at least as long as we have been Christians. We have been cleansed by His blood but have never looked upon Him with our own eyes or heard Him with our own ears. But in spite of this, like those two old servants of God in Luke 2, we wait for Him. We wait for Him to come again. We wait for our "Consolation" and our Redeemer. The writer of Hebrews wrote, "To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation." 26 As much as Simeon and Anna believed that He would come the first time, we believe He will come the second time. "Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" 27
" am appointed for the defense of the gospel." (Philippians 1:17)
1 John 1:14
2 John 21:25
3 Matthew 1:18
4 Luke 2:7
5 Luke 1:35
6 Isaiah 7:14
7 Luke 2:8
8 Leviticus 12:2 - 4, 6
9 Luke 3:30
10 Acts 15:14
11 Acts 13:1
13 Hebrews 13:17
14 Matthew 25:46
15 Hebrews 6:18
16 Matthew 4:15-16
17 mark 9:36 and 10:16
18 John 10:28-29
19 Isaiah 53:3
20 Acts 2:23
21 Matthew 21:42
22 Just for the record, this preacher believes that she was over one-hundred years old. If she had married at the age of thirteen or fourteen, which was the custom for girls at that time, and had lived with her husband for seven years, this would have made her to be at least one hundred and four years old.
23 verse 40
24 Titus 2:4-5
25 1 Timothy 5:5
26 Hebrews 9:28
27 Revelation 22:21