************ Sermon on Luke 2:25 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 19, 2014
"Jesus Meets Simeon"
I The Consolation of Israel
A Out text tells us Simeon was "righteous and devout ... and the Holy Spirit was upon him" (Lk 2:25). Since Scripture is the very Word of God, this is God speaking; this is God's assessment of His servant. Simeon was a very God-centered person.
As someone righteous, devout, and Spirit-filled, Simeon was waiting for "the consolation of Israel" (Lk 2:25).
What is the "Consolation of Israel"? The "Consolation of Israel" is a name for the Messiah in common use among the Jews at the time of Jesus. Another acceptable translation is "Comforter." Simeon was waiting for the "Comforter of Israel."
"May I see the consolation of Israel!" was a traditional Jewish prayer. This certainly was Simeon's prayer. Young Jewish children were taught to pray this even as we teach our children and grandchildren to pray the Lord's Prayer. Devout and pious Jews were looking, waiting, praying for the Messiah to come and console and comfort His people.
It had been revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ or, as our text puts it, the "Consolation of Israel" (Lk 2:26). This is a big thing, a huge thing. The equivalent, for you and me, is that the Spirit reveals we will not die before the Lord Jesus comes again. Imagine if Harold Kamping was told this before he made his predictions about the date of Christ's return. So, I can well imagine Simeon waking up every morning and saying to himself, "Is this the day? Is this the day I meet the Christ? Is this the day I see the Consolation of Israel?" This was his life's dream. This was the deepest and fondest wish of his heart. This was his prayer: "May I see the consolation of Israel!" That prayer was answered when he was prompted by the Spirit to meet Jesus in the Temple. He was a man who was led by the Spirit of God, taught by the Word of God, and obedient to the will of God; and therefore he was privileged to see the "Consolation of Israel."
Because of his devotion and piety and readiness to die, Simeon is usually pictured as a very old man, but nothing in Scripture supports this. It is entirely possible he was an especially devout and pious young man – looking, waiting, praying for the "Consolation of Israel."
Do you see yourself in Simeon? I hope so. I pray so. Do you look, wait, pray for the return of Christ? When you get up each morning do you think to yourself, "Is this the day? Is this the day I meet the Christ? Is this the day I see the Consolation of Israel?" Is this your life's dream? Is this the deepest and fondest wish of your heart?
B The prayers for the "Consolation of Israel" must have reached a crescendo at the time of Jesus. At that time the nation of Israel was miserably harassed and oppressed in a time of darkness. Evil King Herod was on the throne. The Jewish religious leaders mostly went along with the wishes of Rome. Religion was reduced to tradition. Taxes were high. An independent Jewish nation was a thing of the past. Foreign soldiers were stationed on Jewish soil. More than once the Temple had been desecrated. The office of high priest went to the man who best served the wishes of the ruling authorities and frequently changed hands. Greek culture, philosophy, religion, and language were being imposed upon the people and some of the Jewish religious authorities actually supported this "modernization."
It was a dark time, a miserable time – especially if you were a devout Jew. It was a time of distress and anxiety. It was a time of mourning. Circumstances were severe and depressing. Oh, how the people needed consoling. Oh, how the people needed comfort. Oh, how the people needed sympathy and empathy.
But don't we need the same comfort and consolation? Is our time any better than the days of Simeon? Isn't it true to say we also live in dark days? Think of how Jesus describes our time:
(Mk 13:7-8,12-13) ... wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen ... (8) Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines ... (12) Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. (13) All men will hate you because of me ...We have learned we can't trust the politicians, we can't trust the media, we can't trust the bankers, we can't trust big business. For instance, I was sent an email this past week on the news people working for Fox. Now Fox news supposedly stands for family values; yet, many of their newscasters support gay marriage and homosexual practice. It isn't principles that drive them; it is money and ratings and advertisers. Like the children of Israel, we need comfort and consolation.
C Why was Simeon – and other devout Jews – looking, waiting, and praying for the "Consolation of Israel"? To understand the intensity of their longing, we need to take a trip back in Scripture. We start with the Garden of Eden and the account of man's fall into sin. At that time God declared that the Seed of the woman would crush the head of Satan (Gen 3:15). Imagine a time when sin and evil and Satan are no more.
Our next stop through history is Abraham. God promised Abraham to make his name great and that all peoples on earth will be blessed through him (Gen 12:2-3).
Still later God told Moses that one day a great prophet would come who would be unlike any other prophet in declaring the Word of the Lord (Deut 18:15-22). His will be words of life and healing.
God promised David a son who would reign on his throne forever (2 Sam 7:12-16).
There are many more promises I can mention but let me add one from Isaiah the prophet:
(Isa 40:1-2) Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. (2) Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins.
For generations the promises were repeated – from father to son, from mother to daughter, from family to family, from the older to the younger. And they were all told these promises would be fulfilled when the "Consolation of Israel" appears. So, no wonder they prayed, "May I see the consolation of Israel!" No wonder they were looking, waiting, and praying for the Messiah to come. As the Christmas song puts it, "The hopes and fears of all the years Are met in thee tonight" (from "O Little Town of Bethlehem").
Of course, we should repeat the promises of God to our children and grandchildren too. The promises of God need to be repeated – from father to son, from mother to daughter, from family to family, from the older to the younger. We need to tell the next generation the "Consolation of Israel" is coming. We need to tell the next generation Jesus is coming again. We need to tell the next generation the time is coming when all that is wrong with our world will be set right. We need to tell the next generation a time of permanent righteousness and justice is coming. We need to hold before them a desire and a longing for the Kingdom in all its fulness and glory and perfection.
In the promises we are being reminded that ultimately our comfort and our hope lies not in man but in God. Think of poor Job. His friends came to console him and they did more harm than good. Job calls them "miserable comforters" as all that they offer him are long-winded speeches (Job 16:2-3). What Job needed and what Job longed for was the consolation and comfort that only God in Christ can give.
II The Consolation Song
A Simeon "was waiting for the consolation of Israel." So, what is his response when he meets Jesus? Our Bible reading tells us that Simeon breaks forth into song.
This is a reoccurring theme in the Gospel of Luke: the coming of Jesus produces song; that is why songs are such a big and important part of the Christmas season. Elizabeth broke out into song when a pregnant Mary came to her home (Lk 1:42-45). Mary broke out into song after being greeted by Elizabeth and baby John (Lk 1:46-55). Zechariah broke out into song after the birth of John the Baptist (Lk 1:67-79). The Christmas angels break out into song when they announce the Savior's birth (Lk 2:13-14). And now Simeon breaks out into song when he meets the "Consolation of Israel."
B We see that Simeon's song is a song of worship. We are told Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God (Lk 1:28). The coming of the "Consolation of Israel" results in praise to God. His coming makes us want to "Come and worship. Come and worship." We worship God because He has fulfilled His promises by sending the Messiah. We worship God because ours is the joy of knowing the Christ. We worship God because ours is the privilege of being joined to Him who died for our sins and was raised to life for our justification (Rom 4:25). We worship God because our Comfort and our Consolation has come.
C We also notice that Simeon's song is focused on salvation: "my eyes have seen your salvation" (Lk 2:30). Salvation from God's judgment and its punishment, eternal death. And, salvation to glory, even the glory of God.
"My eyes have seen your salvation" (Lk 2:30). Simeon sings this as he holds baby Jesus. Isn't this amazing? By the leading of the Spirit Simeon recognizes that the baby in his arms is the "Consolation of Israel." He is the Messiah, the Redeemer, the Mediator.
D Next, Simeon sings, "Dismiss your servant in peace ... for my eyes have seen your salvation" (Lk 2:29-30). Do you hear what Simeon is singing? "Let me die," he sings, "because I have met the Consolation of Israel." Ruth has an aunt in Seal Beach, CA. Once a year she reminds us where her important papers are kept: her will, life insurance, bank statements, funeral plans, and so on. She has dealt with too many financial and other messes when someone dies and is determined this will not happen to her. But this aunt recognizes that the most important part of getting ready for death is meeting and knowing Jesus. We buried Walt Visser this past week; he knew the same thing as Ruth's aunt: that the most important part of getting ready for death is meeting and knowing Jesus.
I want to tell you and remind you, congregation, that unless you know and meet Jesus, you are not ready for death. Because it is only in Jesus that you have salvation from judgment and hell and eternal torment. How important it is for God's people to see God's salvation before they see death. Those who have the consolation and comfort of Christ are ready to meet anything – including death itself.
"Dismiss your servant in peace," sings Simeon (Lk 2:29). The word "dismiss" in the Greek has several meanings, and each of them tells us something about the death of a Christian. It means to release a prisoner, to untie a ship and set sail, to take down a tent, and to free a beast of burden. God's people are not afraid of death because it frees them from the burdens of this life and leads into the blessings of the next life.
E Simeon's song is all about the "Consolation of Israel." Which makes the last stanza of his song so surprising: "a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel" (Lk 2:32). The "Consolation of Israel" is NOT for Israel alone. He is also, thank God, for the Gentiles – which includes you and me. Isn't this what was promised to Abraham when God said, "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Gen 12:3)? Isn't this what was prophesied by Isaiah: "I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth" (Is 49:6)? Isn't this what was said by the angel of Christmas Day: "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people" (Lk 2:10)?
Simeon is a devout Jew. Simeon is standing in the middle of the Temple. Yet, filled with the Spirit, he turns his song into a missionary hymn. This is his version of, "We've a Story to Tell to the Nations."
Here is a reminder that the "Consolation of Israel" is also the Consolation of Rome and Greece and Egypt and Babylon. He is the Consolation of Washington, Sacramento, Visalia, London, and Paris. He is the Consolation of every tribe and language and people and nation. He is the Consolation of the whole wide world. So all the world is called to come to Him and recognize in Him what is needed for comfort and peace.
III The Consolation Prophecy
A Now, let us end by listening to the prophecy said by Simeon about the "Consolation of Israel":
(Lk 2:34-35) "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, (35) so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."Simeon ends with three important images: the stone, the sign, and the sword.
The first image is that of a stone. We know that for many the Messiah is a rock of offense; many in Israel would stumble over Him and His cross and grave. But for others He is the chief cornerstone on whom they stand; Jesus is their Rock and their Redeemer.
The second image is that of a sign. Sign here means "miracle." Think of His many miracles. They reveal Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you have life in His name. Yet, many were offended and said what He did was done in the power of Satan. They questioned His character, they slandered His death, and they lied about His resurrection. "What do you think about the Christ?" (Mt 22:42) is still the most important question for anybody to answer.
The third image is that of a sword. This image is reserved for Mary alone. It speaks of her suffering and sorrow as the mother of the Messiah. The Greek word means a large sword such as Goliath used. And the verb suggests that she will experience a constant piercing as she watches her own family, her own village, her own leaders reject Jesus and despise Jesus. Especially, though, we know Simeon is talking about the pain of Mary as she stands by the cross and the grave and watches Jesus suffer and die.
B These three images, aren't they surprising? After all, Simeon is still talking about the "Consolation of Israel." "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem ..." (Is 40:1-2). Comfort, tenderness, and mercy is what is expected with the coming of the "Consolation of Israel." Yet, Simeon's closing words about a stone, a sign, and a sword aren't words of comfort at all. They remind us there is a always a two-fold response to the Gospel. They remind us that what is of comfort to some ends up being judgment to others.
I asked earlier if you look, wait, pray for the return of Christ? When you get up each morning do you think to yourself, "Is this the day? Is this the day I meet the Christ? Is this the day I see the Consolation of Israel?" Is this your life's dream? Is this the deepest and fondest wish of your heart?
Your answer depends upon the stone, the sign, and the sword. Your answer depends upon your personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Is He your rock of salvation? Do you believe He is the Christ, the Son of God and therefore have life in His name? Do you believe he died and rose for you? If so, then the "Consolation of Israel" wants to comfort and console you.
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