Consolation for all Israel

A month has past since the world celebrated the birth of Christ. But the birth of any child is but a moment. What was the purpose of the coming of Jesus into this sin-cursed world? Two moments after the birth of Jesus set the course for his life's work. The first was his circumcision eight days after his birth. At that time, his name was confirmed by a priest to be "Jesus" (Gr. Yesou, Heb. Yeshuah), which means "The LORD saves". The name was familiar to all Jews as the hero who lead the people in conquering Canaan, the land promised to Abraham. It was a name given to countless boys in hopes that they would grow up to be the one to deliver them from tyrannical empire builders like the Caesars of Rome. On the eighth day a new week begins.  How appropriate that the eighth day of Christmas is our secular "New Year's Day". 

The second moment, required by the Law, was the sacrifice at the temple on behalf of the child when its mother became ceremonially clean. For a boy, this was on the fortieth day. As January comes to a close, we come close to the "fortieth" day of Christmas (February 2). On the traditional Church calendar this is "The Feast of the Presentation." Whether December 25th was the actual date of the Savior's birth or not, the observation of the dates surrounding it are appropriately typological. Christmas Day falls near the longest night of the year, and the celebration of the Presentation in the Temple falls in the middle of the winter. With this in mind, let us consider the message of Luke 2:25-32.

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. 

 

At the time of Jesus' birth, the "consolation of Israel" had been on the minds of many who saw what was going wrong around them. Good people, like Simeon, suffered under the same threats that we do. Evil never takes a vacation. They needed someone to help them through the hard times. In the providence of God, help was on the way. Simeon, a faithful Levite who served God in the Temple, got a special dispensation: a revelation by the Holy Spirit that he would indeed see this come to pass. 

The trinitarian nature of this  communion with God is clearly seen in this text. The One Who would console the people of God had come in the person of an infant, who was the "Immanuel" prophesied by Isaiah (Isa 7:14; Matt 1:22). That is, being translated, "God with us"(Matt. 1:21-23). The Messiah had come, and after serving His people, he would send "Another Comforter" in the person of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16 KJV). 

God kept His promise to Simeon, keeping him safe into old age so that he would be the one to offer a blessing to God on the occasion of Mary's firstborn meeting the requirements of the Law. Taking up the infant Jesus, Simeon offered this  prayer to God:

"Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to 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." 

In alluding to the writings of Isaiah (Isa 9:2), Simeon reminds those present of the prophecies of the Messiah, God's anointed. First, is the fact that God's people need a Savior (Isa 43:3, 11; 45:21; Hos 13:4; Matt 1:21; Luke 2:11; John 4:42; Acts 13:23). Though under a covenant with God, the people were hopeless if He didn't rescue them from their own folly. In the most "Jewish" of all places, the aging Levite alludes to the most remarkable fact overlooked by the "special" people once called out of darkness in the person of Abram of Ur (Gen 12:1-7): the Messiah would be for the "nations" outside of the promised land (Isa 42:6)! 

The Evangelist Luke was the only Gentile to write to the people of God. By the time of writing, were assembled in every province of the Roman Empire. This was likely not lost on the Roman Theophilos (Luke 1:1). The Apostle John would reveal more fully the  nature of this light -- the Messiah Himself was the true light to the world (John 1:9). Simeon understood the prophet Isaiah very well. The comfort of his beloved people would extend beyond the boundaries of the nation, and beyond those descended from Abraham. The full meaning of the Christmas story reaches all around the world to all people and nations.

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