Monday, October 11, 2010

In Joy and Peace I Now Depart

For my eyes have seen Your salvation. Luke 2:30

After my 3-year old nephew quoted this verse to me, I couldn't stop thinking about the story of Simeon. Simeon is a man we read very little about in the Bible. Even though his appearance is brief, it gives us a lot to think about.

The story starts as we find out about Simeon's character.

And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. Luke 2:25

Simeon was righteous, devout and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And he was on the lookout - for the long-awaited Messiah, the consolation of Israel. The consolation was the comforter as prophesied in Isaiah:

"Comfort, O comfort My people," says your God. Speak kindly to Jerusalem; and call out to her, that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity has been removed, that she has received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins." Isaiah 40:1-2

It had been 77 generations since God had promised that He would send a redeemer (see Genesis 3:15). That's a LONG time. Can you imagine hearing the stories from your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents about this Messiah who is coming to deliver? And they would have heard it from their parents and grandparents so on and so forth, for 77 generations. But Simeon knew that it was close at hand!

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. Luke 2:26

Simeon was going to live to see this Redeemer - the One that had been promised for so long. He was going to see Him! Can you imagine the anticipation? He's heard the Messiah talked about by his many ancestors and now Simeon will see Him before he dies.

And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,
"Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
according to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, and the glory of Your people Israel."
Luke 2:27-32

Simeon didn't get to merely see Jesus, he held him! When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple, Simeon took him and held him, and blessed God. He knew that God had kept His promise, sending His salvation, and Simeon had seen (and held!) Him!

I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; and My salvation will not delay. And I will grant salvation in Zion, and My glory for Israel. Isaiah 46:13

The Jewish people had been waiting for God to provide this Deliverer. Now that He had appeared, Simeon knew that he could die in peace. God was faithful in keeping His promise to Simeon, and to the Jews.

I love seeing the humanity in this story, too. Look at what Mary and Joseph's reaction was.

And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. Luke 2:33

They were probably having a difficult time wrapping their heads around what it meant to be parents of the Messiah. Not only had the Messiah come, but He was their child! They probably also wondered who this was, saying these things, and how he knew! Simeon blessed them and then prophecied about Jesus' future:

And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed-- and a sword will pierce even your own soul--to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."
Luke 2:34-35

Jesus' appearance on this Earth forced all people to make a decision - follow Him or not. Even Mary and Joseph would have to make that decision, a decision that will reveal the heart of each person. This "sword" that pierces the soul is referenced later in the letter to the Hebrews:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

Jesus, in His ministry, tells His followers that indeed He is a sign to be opposed.

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. Matthew 10:34

The "sword" of Jesus continues to divide, even in our modern times. Every person must make a decision to follow Him or not. Just as Mary and Joseph decided, and Simeon too (for he said that now that he has seen the Messiah, he can die!) each one of us must make that decision.

Jesus is Israel's praise and bliss, joy, reward and glory; and the Gentile's too! He is the Light of the World.

Have you made that decision for yourself? If not, I invite you to come to Jesus, so that you may say, along with Simeon "release me to die in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation."

In Joy and Peace I Now Depart
Words by Martin Luther

In peace and joy I now depart
At God’s disposing;
For full of comfort is my heart,
Soft reposing.
So the Lord hath promised me,
And death is but a slumber.

’Tis Christ that wrought this work for me,
My faithful Savior,
Whom Thou hast made mine eyes to see
By Thy favor.
Now I know He is my Life,
My Help in need and dying.

Him Thou hast unto all set forth
Their great Salvation
And to His kingdom called the earth,
Every nation,
By Thy dear and wholesome Word,
In every place resounding.

He is the Hope and saving Light
Of lands benighted;
By Him are they who dwelt in night
Fed and lighted.
He is Israel’s Praise and Bliss,
Their Joy, Reward, and Glory.

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