For people of great or low stature, there tends to be a drive for their lives to matter. Some people have moments that encapsulate that sense of meaning that their interaction with this world has meaning above themselves. For some, they peak early. Others have that moment much later.
One man who had a sense of meaning later was a man named Simeon. Here is his story and how it connects to where a God-given hope comes in.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
“Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”
a man—- Typically when someone thinks of Bible characters they think of pomp and circumstance as kings, fighters or wise people. The first key here is that God wants to use normal people. “A man” like him shows that, “normal people” can have an encounter with the divine. God does not have an agenda for special ones only in humanity but all of humanity.
righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him—- This is also loaded in meaning. He had that low burn in keeping and seeking a relationship with God and engaging his faith into God’s restorative but mysterious agenda for Israel. He was a patient man. With the amount of revelation he had he was faithful to the salvation theme of the Old Testament. The key point is that he centered on God’s agenda beyond his own interests. Upon a heart that is disposed that way, the Holy Spirit was on him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit— this was key in the sense that such a life met with the wholeness of God to be known in a personal presence. The Old Testament was pointing to an anointing by the Holy Spirit that would write God’s law in people’s hearts. The Messiah to come would bring it all together relationally and this day he would be known rightly by this man.
He came in the Spirit into the temple… he took him into his arms and blessed God— Simeon, because he is guided by the Holy Spirit, is able to recognize Jesus for who he is because he engaged in his understanding in the ways of God as matter of spirit. Much later Jesus explained to a racially marginalized woman that the coming true worshippers would worship the Father in spirit and truth. Guided by the Holy Spirit we can lay hold of truth as the collective people of God.
he took him into his arms and blessed God—Although it was a point of contact with what he prayed for, the beauty of Simeon’s response was a true worship of God.
Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace…light of the Gentiles— Simeon finds that his greatest treasure to attain is that favor from heaven would be realized on earth before he leaves it. Somehow Simeon knows that this grace of God in the Messiah is for the world beyond Israel. I can only guess that Simeon, true to the Hebrew meaning of his name, was “one who hears”. In hearing God through a lens of sustaining grace it is made known to him that the true light has come.
It is worth noting that Simeon does not see that the universal application of the Messiah is at the detriment of Israel. Simeon may likely have known that the successive covenants of the Old Testament increased in the number of people they effected (Adamic- couple, Noah and Abrahamic- family, Davidic- nation/kingdom). Simeon saw the day of Jesus meaning salvation to the Gentiles and he embraced it.
One more thing I see in this passage is that in addition to Simeon seeing God’s grace beyond bigotry was that he turns in a moment to the next generation. The vision God brings to his people is not for his generation but the next. He is ready to die in peace and pass something on in joy to Joseph, Mary and the newborn Jesus. In other words we see that Simeon was “a man” who, like a personified twilight of the Old Testament, grew old gracefully making room for the new.
As I write this I ponder that I am a 48-year old man. I am not at the end of my life as far as I know but I pray that I can cherish Jesus in all he is and pass on the knowledge of him in any way I can to my next generation. What is stopping you or I from being “ righteous and devout” by the merits of Christ? It is only our own self-centeredness which we can leave anytime we want to.