Summary: The example of Simeon calls us to be righteous, devout, moved by the Spirit, and patient
The location was the Jewish Temple (2:27) in Jerusalem (2:22). It was later destroyed by the Roman Army around 70 AD and today all that remains is one enormous wall, known as the Wailing Wall, or the Western Wall. It is an incredibly moving place to visit, as I did in January 2009; and it is where Israeli-Jews in particular go to express gratitude to Almighty God and to plead for mercy. Some Jews today will tear their clothes in sorrow when they approach the wall to pray.
The event was the presentation of Jesus to the Lord (2:22-23). He had previously been circumcised and named Yeshua (in English, Jesus) - when he was 8 days old. Now, aged 40 days, he was to be formally presented to God in the Temple.
When we bring our children into the House of God either for baptism or for a service of thanksgiving, we are attempting to follow this pattern of naming them and dedicating them to God’s service.
God was working out his plan. Joseph and Mary were entirely obedient both to the Jewish law and to tradition in every way. They had Jesus Circumcised on Day 8, they brought him to the temple on Day 40, and they offered a sacrifice of a pair of doves, or (it pains me to say) two young pigeons (Leviticus 12:8) which was the sacrifice offered to God by the poor.
Joseph and Mary were obedient parents. They brought Jesus up faithfully as a Jew. They did their very best as parents and even though being a parent can at times be incredibly difficult, the Bible gives us plenty of advice and direction for our parenting; but perhaps that is for a talk for another day.
I want to focus briefly on Simeon. Like Joseph and Mary he was obedient to God. The scriptures say that Simeon ‘was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel and the Holy Spirit was upon him’ (2:25). Here was a man who walked, lived and acted very closely in line with the will of God.
How much like Simeon are we?
To what degree are we righteous? To be righteous is to do the right things and to say the right things and to believe the right things in the sight of God.
The Holy Spirit was upon Simeon. ‘It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ [the Jewish Messiah]. Moved by the Spirit he went into the Temple Courts’ (2:26-27).
Simeon was highly aware of God’s activity in his life – even though it had meant a lot of patient waiting. We don’t know how long he had been waiting but today was the day for the fulfilment of his patience.
What are you waiting for? What has God promised to you and is yet to be fulfilled? Are you waiting patiently?
When our waiting is guided by God’s Holy Spirit His timing will be at work. God-incidences will regularly occur when our spiritual eyes and ears are attentive to what God is doing and saying; and it is important to remember that Simeon was righteous and devout.
God is at work amongst all people, obedient and rebellious, Christian, atheist and people of other faiths; but the example of Simeon is an example the Bible calls us to follow. He was righteous, devout, patient, moved by the Spirit. I want us this next year to become much more righteous, devout, patient, and moved by the Spirit. As Pete Fisher correctly said a few weeks ago when he preached; “Things are going to change around here.” Things will change according to the will of God, and moved and prompted by the Spirit of God as we become more righteous, devout, and patient. Simeon held the child Jesus in his arms and began to praise God. Years later his words became known by the Latin ‘Nunc Dimittis’; ‘You now dismiss’; “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people” (2:29-31).
Jesus is for all people. As we surrender ourselves to his will we will become increasingly righteous, devout, and patient.