Somehow he knew today was going to be a day like no other. The air seemed fresher, the sun brighter, and oh, how the stones of the city walls gleamed as the sun rose! No wonder they called her Jerusalem the Golden. As the old man went up the temple steps, a spontaneous thought came to mind - “There he is!” as he caught a glimpse of a young couple carrying a baby. Simeon was overjoyed! Though his eyes were fading, he saw clearly the light for Gentiles and the glory of His people Israel. God had kept his promise to his people and a personal one to him. Now he could go in peace. He had seen the anointed one.
Simeon, in the most natural way, took the child in his arms and blessed him. Then he began to prophesy about a rise and fall of many in Israel on account of this child. Then, looking at Mary, he continued, saying that a sword would pierce her heart, that the hearts of many would be revealed.
Mary and Joseph marveled. They had no idea this was going to happen. They were simply following the word of God and presenting their baby to the Lord.
A moment later, Anna walked in and began to praise the Lord. She had lived in the temple for 84 years and had never witnessed anything of this sort. And so she continued to tell everyone who looked for the redemption of Israel.
Simeon’s name means “one who hears.” He was devout, and like most Jews, looking for the Messiah to come and relieve them from their distress. God had given him a personal promise: not only that the Messiah would come, but that he would get to see Him. When we examine Simeon’s reaction as he encounters Jesus, we understand that Simeon must have been waiting with such longing in his heart that the fulfillment was met with profound rest! “Now I can die in peace!”
We feel that way sometimes. We wait for an answer to prayer. We long for God to fulfill a promise (perhaps about the salvation or the restoration of a loved one). And just we know that the answer will come as such a relief, that we could die in peace.
If this is you, “Be of good courage and He will strengthen your heart all you who hope in the Lord” (Psalms 31:24). And “. . . hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). He fulfilled his promise to Simeon, he will fulfill his promise to you.
Mary and Joseph
This couple had witnessed God’s divine intervention in their lives. Mary received an angelic visitation and Joseph a dream. The courses of their lives had been changed. She was a virgin who conceived and Joseph took on a protective role. I’ll bet they were wondering what was coming next. But instead of sitting around waiting to find out, they did what the revealed will of God told them to do. They stayed in the area. On the eighth day they circumcised the baby and named him Jesus. When the 40 days of her purification were accomplished, they brought the baby to the temple to present him to the Lord. In their ordinary acts of obedience, God connected them with his plan. They fulfilled that which was written in Malachi 3:1, “Then suddenly the Lord 3 you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant,4 whom you desire,5 will come."
At times we have unique encounters with the Lord, and if we are not careful, we fall into a trap of looking for special revelation instead of simply doing the next thing, the right thing. As we walk in obedience (the revealed will of God to us through his word) he connects us to his plan as well as the stories of others. He has determined our appointed times and he places us for a purpose (Acts 17:26). We learn from Mary and Joseph that His word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Ps 119:105).
Anna was married just seven years when the life she thought she would have changed drastically. As a young widow (perhaps in her 20’s) Anna made a decision to spend the rest of her life in the temple. I don’t know about you, but I used to hear the verse “Oh, that I could dwell in the house of the Lord forever” and wonder why would anyone would want to live at church! And so it is important to remember that at the time of the birth of Christ, worship was centralized - the Holy Spirit had not yet come to the believer. Consequently, to come to the temple was to come to into the presence of the Lord.
Anna did what most Jewish girls were expected to do. She got married. But when circumstances entered her into a new season, she chose to live the rest of her life in the presence of the Lord. We have those seasons of life too. Often in transition we find ourselves wanting more, more than what is simply expected of us. Perhaps what we are really longing for is His presence.
The baby in the story was the promise fulfilled. Jesus has given us access to the Father. Now the believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to go to Jerusalem, or a building to enjoy His manifest presence. He is here. His presence is real. We simply need to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). And we too can spend the rest of our lives in the presence of the Lord! He is Immanuel, God with us.
Merilyn Lauffer was an international worker with the Alliance in Israel for 16 years. After illness changed their location, she to Colorado Springs to serve in the National Office. Merilyn works part time in donor relations, but is passionate about soul care and teaches Deeper Life classes at Clayhouse Alliance Church.