by Mike Ratliff
Now 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.” (Luke 2:25-32 ESV)
Genuine (saving) faith is not well understood by most professing Christians. I grew up as a Southern Baptist and was one until 2005. However, I now prefer to think of myself as simply a Christian. I have learned that God saved me. I was not saved because I decided anything. Those whom God saves are given the faith to believe. When He does this they believe and are saved. Jesus said in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Who is saved? Only those who believe are saved. How are they saved?
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV)
All in Christ are saved by God’s grace through the faith that He gave them. This faith is a gift from God, not a result of works. Genuine faith is supernatural. Those who have it are spiritually alive while those who do not have it are spiritually dead. Those who are alive in Christ, all genuine believers, are able to hear God. They hear the Lord’s voice and follow Him. The more they mature in grace by becoming more and more Spirit-filled, the more they hear the truth spoken to their spirit by God as He fills their sails with the Holy Spirit moving them into God’s will.
The name Simeon is the Hebrew word that is translated as “hearing.” The man Simeon that Joseph and Mary encountered in the Temple during their purification was a prophet. He “heard” God’s voice. He had been given a promise by God that he would not die until He had seen the Lord’s Christ. He feared God and awaited the consolation of Israel. What does that mean? The “Consolation of Israel” is actually a messianic title. (Isaiah 25:9; 40:1.2; 66:1-11)
It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” (Isaiah 25:9 ESV)
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1-2 ESV)
Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. “He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck; he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig’s blood; he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol. These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations; I also will choose harsh treatment for them and bring their fears upon them, because when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, they did not listen; but they did what was evil in my eyes and chose that in which I did not delight.”
Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at his word: “Your brothers who hate you and cast you out for my name’s sake have said, ‘Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy’; but it is they who shall be put to shame. “The sound of an uproar from the city! A sound from the temple! The sound of the LORD, rendering recompense to his enemies!
“Before she was in labor she gave birth; before her pain came upon her she delivered a son. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment? For as soon as Zion was in labor she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the point of birth and not cause to bring forth?” says the LORD; “shall I, who cause to bring forth, shut the womb?” says your God. “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her; that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance.” (Isaiah 66:1-11 ESV)
In other words, Simeon feared God and awaited the justification of the righteous by God in the face of apostasy and oppression by God’s enemies. Simeon awaited the Messiah who was the Consolation of Israel (all true believers.)
Notice also that God had revealed to him the significance of Jesus birth. God revealed the truth of our Lord’s coming as the Messiah and the Saviour of all who believe to only a few people. These ‘few” were given the truth by God. They did not deduce it. They did not decide to believe it. They were told the truth by God and their Genuine faith believed it. How did Simeon come into the presence of Mary of Joseph and their newborn son? The ESV says, “And he came in the Spirit into the temple.” My Geneva Bible says, “And he came “by the motions of [the] Spirit in to the Temple.” The Greek structure of this phrase indicates that Simeon was led by the Spirit to meet Mary and Joseph and take into his arms the babe. He may not have know that that was what was going on until He saw our Lord, but when he did see Him, he took him up into his arms and prophesied, “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.” Simeon did indeed have spiritual “hearing.” He may not have expected to see our Lord that day, but when he did his spirit bore witness with the Holy Spirit that he had beheld the Lord’s Christ.
Simeon’s psalm above is known as the Nunc Dimittis. This title comes from the first two words of the Latin translation. Simeon had extraordinary faith. What we must ask ourselves is how healthy our own faith is. Are we led by the Spirit as Simeon was? Are our hearts tender towards God so that we can hear His voice clearly as we obey Him as we delight in Him? Simeon declared himself to die willingly since he had seen the Messiah. How willing are we to deny ourselves (our flesh and our pride) in order to be in obedience to our Lord in all things?
What does it look like for us to live as Simeon did? It is probably easier to declare what it does not look like. This type of faithful, tenderhearted obedience will be marked by a lack of selfishness. It will joyfully not demand its rights. Self-righteousness will be absent. Service will be marked by a total focus on God’s will instead of numbers, or power, or even visible results. Circumstances will be viewed in light of eternity rather than the temporal. The fruit of the Spirit will dominate this life while the fruits of the flesh will be in the process of being killed, annihilated, and done away with.
All believers should be in process of becoming pure and holy and Simeon-like. Sadly, it seems that only a few do so. Let us pray that we will learn to fear God and await the fulfillment of our Lord’s Kingdom in the power of the Holy Spirit. Those who do this will never be the popular or part of the “in crowd.” They are in the process of being transformed by the renewing of their minds and thereby not being conformed to this world. Therefore, the world will hate them just as our Lord said.