Summary: Simeon is easily overlooked in the account of Christ’s birth. This should not be, as he was the first person to die in the Faith.
“There was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 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. And he came in 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, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
“‘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.’”
God attends the death of His saint; the child of God is not deserted at death. Holy angels await the Master’s call to transport His child into His eternal presence. This truth is emphasised throughout the Word. I have spoken on numerous occasions to weary saints as they neared the time of their exodus. Frequently I have heard believers speak of their longing to be finished with their trials; I have witnessed their peace at the prospect of their soon-to-be transition. The Psalmist spoke a comforting truth in these words:
“Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.”
Multiplied thousands of saints have died in the Faith; thousands more may yet die before Christ the Lord returns. These will not die in defeat, but in victory. The message today is a study of the first person to die in the Faith of Christ the Lord. It focuses on a man who appears as a minor character in the drama of redemption. Yet, Simeon is the first person to die in the Faith. He appears but once in the Word of God, and that at the very beginning of Jesus’ life. I recommend that a study of God’s revealed Word will encourage us and equip us to be more effective in our service to Christ.
THE CHARACTER OF THE FIRST PERSON TO DIE IN THE FAITH —I want to know what makes an individual “tick.” What motivates people to act as they do? This is a serious question to my mind. I want to know of the character of those I read about in the Word of God. We know something of the character of Simeon; the text describes him as “righteous and devout” and as “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” Anyone whom God identifies as righteous and devout merits our careful attention.
In preparing for the study I came across a snippet of information concerning a man named Simeon who lived in Jerusalem at about this time. Here, in brief, is the account of that man.
[Simeon] dwelt now in Jerusalem, and was eminent for his piety and communion with God. Some learned men, who have been conversant with the Jewish writers, find that there was at this time one Simeon, a man of great note in Jerusalem, the son of Hillel, and the first to whom they gave the title of Rabban, the highest title that they gave to their doctors, and which was never given but to seven of them. He succeeded his father Hillel, as president of the college which his father founded, and of the great Sanhedrin. The Jews say that he was endued with a prophetical spirit, and that he was turned out of his place because he witnessed against the common opinion of the Jews concerning the temporal kingdom of the Messiah; and they likewise observe that there is no mention of him in their Mishna, or book of traditions, which intimates that he was no patron of those fooleries.
Perhaps it is not the same man; but then again, perhaps it is. There are objections and there are strong points of similarity. What is certain is that Luke, guided by the Holy Spirit, likely received his information during interviews with Mary. Regardless of the identity of this Simeon, we know of his character, and this knowledge can serve to encourage each of us in our own desire to honour God.
Simeon was “righteous and devout.” The words employed are not at all rare, but the combination is suggestive of a character trait that should mark each individual looking for the revelation of the Son of God and seeking to honour God. The two terms, bound in such close connection to one another, speak of obedience to God and the outward expression of that obedience. In short, Simeon was “righteous” towards men and “devout” towards God. Righteousness and devotion seem always to go together. We cannot serve God without the impact of our service being witnessed by those about us.