And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him …. And there was one Anna. a prophetess …. which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and dayLuk 2:25, Luk 2:36, Luk 2:37
Age and Infancy Meet
No more beautiful scene could be imagined than this meeting of age and infancy in the Temple. As we read the story of the life of Jesus, we find Him surrounded on all hands by hypocrisy, until we begin to wonder if there was any religion left in those who haunted these sacred courts. But here, for a moment, the curtain is drawn aside. We get a glimpse of a Jewish man and woman. And we find them living holy and separated lives, and longing for the advent of Messiah. On a gravestone erected over certain soldiers in Virginia there are these words, “Who they were, no one knows; what they were, everyone knows,” and we might use these words of Simeon and Anna. Who Simeon was we shall never learn; Luke is at no pains to tell us that; but what he was in his daily life and walk, in his inmost desire, and in the sight of God, everyone knows who has read this Gospel chapter. Simeon and Anna, then, entered the Temple when the infant Savior was there, and to them the glory of the child was shown.
Never Give Up Hoping
First, then, we learn that we should never give up hoping. When Alexander the Great crossed into Asia he gave away almost all his belongings to his friends. One of his captains asked him, “Sir, what do you keep for yourself?” And the answer of the king was, “I keep hope.” Now we do not read that Simeon was an old man, though it has been universally believed that he was (see Luk 2:29). But through all his years Simeon was like Alexander: he had parted with much, but he had held fast to hope. The days were very dark days for Israel; no John the Baptist had sounded his trumpet note; everything seemed hopeless for the Jews, and some of the noblest of them had taken refuge in despair. But this brave soul “waited for the consolation of Israel,” and we know now that his waiting was not vain. Do you see the roots of that heart-hopefulness of his? It ran down to justice and devotion (Luk 2:25). it would have withered long since if it had not been rooted in an upright life and in fellowship with God. Dishonest conduct and forgetfulness of God are always visited with the withering of hope, for hope hangs like a fruit on the first two great commandments. Let us all keep hoping, then, as Simeon did; let us be expectant and on the outlook to the end; and let us remember that a glad and helpful temper is only possible when we are just and devout.
God’s Performance Greater Than His Promise
Next we see that God’s performance is greater than His promise. There is an old legend that Simeon had stumbled over the words in Isa 7:14. And as he prayed and wrestled with his doubts, it was revealed to him that with his own eyes he would see the virgin’s Son. All that he dared to hope for was a glimpse—”a brief glimpse” and “a passing word” would have sufficed him. He lived in expectation of the hour when someone would say to him, “Behold Messiah!” Now the expected moment has arrived—and is it merely a glimpse of Messiah that he wins?—he takes the child of all his hopes up in his arms (Luk 2:28). No wonder that he broke forth into such glorious praise; he had got more than he could ask or think. God’s promise had buoyed him through many a weary day; but the performance was greater than the promise. We should all remember that in entering a New Year, and when we speak about the promise of the year. God has a royal way of doing things, and His cups have a happy art of running over. The devil is a most lavish and tireless Promiser, but how the promise is performed let our own past days tell us. God’s promises are very many and very great; but to a living and prayerful faith as Simeon’s was, the performance is greater than the promise.
Simeon and Anna Saw Jesus in the Temple
Again we remark that Simeon and Anna saw Jesus in the Temple. The shepherds had seen Him lying in the manger; there, too, the wise men from the East had seen Him. But it was not in the manger that He was seen by these two devout souls; it was in the House of God. Now there is a sense in which we all must find Christ in the manger, we must discover Him under life’s lowly roofs. In places which were never consecrated, but where the daily drudgery is done, there must we waken to the presence of Jesus. But on the other hand it is equally true, that we shall miss Him if we do not go to church; and we must never enter a place of worship without the prayer, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” Columba got his Gaelic name, “Colum of the churches,” says an old Irishman, because as a boy he was so devoted to church-worship; like Simeon, he saw Jesus in the Temple.
Till We Have Seen Jesus We Are Not Ready to Die
Lastly, we learn that till we have seen Jesus we are not ready to die (Luk 2:29-32). Children do not dwell much upon death; God did not intend that they should do so. But sometimes, even to children, comes the thought, “When is a person ready to die?” Well, length of years has little to do with it, although all young people think that it has. We are not ready to die when we are seventy; we are ready when we have seen Christ as our Savior. Have the children of the family seen Him so? Are the fathers and mothers praying for that end? A little girl dearly loves to hold the baby. Get it from Simeon’s arms, and give it her.